Psychological or emotional problems may not play any role in the onset or continuation of your incontinence, although psychologically- minded women may search for such problems. However, once incontinence is chronically present in your life, it is very difficult not to be affected psychologically and socially. Incontinence limits your activities, your planning for the future and your sense of yourself. I have known many women (and men) who organize their careers and their lives around their need to be close to a bathroom at all times.
Socializing and, especially, intimacy often suffer. You are out of control of your bladder and this may lead you to feel out of control of your life. Some women suffer extreme embarrassment and keep their incontinence a secret from everyone, perhaps even their doctor. Older women, especially, fear that revealing their incontinence will cause others to think that they have become cognitively impaired. Sadly, this is sometimes the response they get – quite mistakenly. The truly impaired person is usually not overly concerned about her incontinence. The tragedy is that staying silent keeps people from getting the help that is out there.
In some women and men, psychological issues may play a role in the origin of their incontinence. This is more frequently the case in pelvic pain, but can sometimes be the case in incontinence. Keeping pelvic muscles chronically tense can occur after a trauma involving the pelvic area. The trauma may be past sexual abuse or some other trauma or pain affecting the pelvic area. Holding tension in these muscles is a protective mechanism that has become unconscious and outlives its usefulness. Because of the high tension level in the muscles, the small sensations that indicate that the bladder is full cannot be perceived. Only when these sensations are extreme and very urgent can the person take note of them. By then, it may be too late to reach a toilet.
Even when overly tense muscles are identified as the problem, it may be difficult to release the tension without becoming frightened. After all, tension has become a way of feeling protected and safe or of warding off unwelcome sensations. It is important for the person treating you to understand this and to allow you to change at your own pace.
Whether psychological concerns play a major role or only a secondary and minor role in your incontinence, seek professional help from someone who is not only knowledgeable about treatment, but is empathic, supportive and nonjudgmental. You need to feel comfortable talking with this person and sharing the information needed to help you.
Incontinence, involuntary discharge of urine or feces.
More than 19 million North American adults have some form of incontinence. It is not necessarily part of growing older, nor is it something that should be accepted after childbirth. Incontinence is always a symptom of some other health problem. Many bladder control problems can be cured and all can be managed.
In many cases, a team of health care professionals including your doctor, nurse and nurse practitioner will work with you to diagnose and offer treatment options. Together, you will choose the appropriate course of action. Remember, the first step is to see your health professional. He or she is best able to offer you specific advice related to your situation.
Help is Available
Incontinence may be a symptom of an underlying disorder that warrants medical attention, or simply a side effect of certain medications.
Health care professionals are well qualified to assess incontinence and offer numerous treatment options including muscle strengthening exercises, dietary modification, medication or surgery.
Today, clinics and treatment centers throughout the nation are helping people to manage and treat incontinence. Increased awareness has helped promote a greater understanding of incontinence in today's society. People with incontinence lead full, active lives doing the same things they have enjoyed for years.
Watch Your Diet
Drink enough fluids -- at least 50 ounces (about 6 1/2 cups) per day. Limiting daily fluid intake can actually worsen incontinence or lead to serious illness. Avoid beverages that can cause excessive urine production such as caffeine and alcohol, as well as beverages that can irritate the bladder-such as grapefruit juice and tomato-based products. Constipation can also contribute to bladder control problems. Eat foods that are high in fiber to help you stay regular.
Watch Your Weight
Even a few pounds can make a difference. A five to ten percent weight loss can help improve bladder control by reducing intra-abdominal pressure.
As with many medical conditions, doctors are recognizing the importance of a positive attitude in managing incontinence. Remain active and stay involved with family and friends so you'll feel good about yourself.