Holding in Your Pee? Here’s What Psychology & Science Have to Say

What is going on inside your body when you withhold a toilet break, willingly or not - anxiety, physical damage?

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Fit
4 min read
What is really going on inside your body when you withhold a toilet break, willingly or not?
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When was the last time you sat on something you shouldn’t have? Instead of taking a quick bathroom break, you simply watched five more minutes of a TV show, completed one more turn of a board game, passed on more pillows to your partner or simply watched more paint peel off the wall.

You could have just as easily walked to the bathroom door right next to you and relieved your bladder, couldn’t you now? No?

Oh, maybe you were travelling, maybe there was no toilet nearby, maybe the public toilet was too dirty to step in?

But what is really going on inside your body when you withhold such a toilet break, willingly or not?

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story here:

What’s Going on Inside Your Body?

The bladder wall is lined with small receptors which inform the body when it has reached its full capacity. An average, adult human is capable of holding half a litre of urine before it alerts the brain that it needs to be emptied.

The bladder wall is lined with small receptors which inform the body when its reached its full capacity.
The bladder wall is lined with small receptors which inform the body when its reached its full capacity.
(Photo: iStockPhoto)

So far so good.

Now, if you tell your body that you won’t be emptying it just yet, the smaller, cylindrical structures in the bladder shut tightly to ensure no unwanted contents spill out. If you’re in the habit of holding it in, in the long run it might lead to weakened bladder which in some cases might lead to incontinence.

Yes, an adult bladder has a capacity of holding half a litre. Holding it in will not weaken the bladder, but if it’s done over a period of time, more than 700-800 ml over many years, it might lead to weakening of the bladder.
Dr Samit Chaturvedi, Urologist, Max Hospital, New Delhi

Dr Chaturvedi also points out some short-term effects including recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI), swelling of the kidneys, and more kidney damage if the habit is not ended.

If you’re worried about the habit eventually becoming life threatening, then you should be. The doctor affirms that in some cases it might even become fatal.

Does Psychology Have a Role to Play Here?

According to a study led by a Danish team, and quoted by The Guardian, we tend to make our best decisions on a full bladder. Researcher Mirjam Tuk and her team won an Ig Nobel prize in medicine for their study on the effects of a full bladder on our bodies and this conclusion.

The prize has been around for over two decades and is given to studies and research which, as pointed out by The Guardian, "first makes people laugh and then makes them think".

After making the participants drink a large amount of water, they were asked to perform different tasks. In one, they were shown a word - a name of the colour - and then asked to identify the colour of the ink it was written in. For instance the word blue would be written in green ink and the correct answer would be green. Those on fuller bladder got more correct answers.

The<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/choke/201104/got-go-wait-youll-do-your-best-thinking"> researchers concluded</a> that the more badly people wanted to urinate, the better they were at controlling their impulses.
The researchers concluded that the more badly people wanted to urinate, the better they were at controlling their impulses.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

In another task they were made to choose between a smaller amount of money which would be given to them immediately, or a larger amount to be paid to them 30 days later. Once again, those with whom the urge to urinate was stronger, chose the long-term, more beneficial option.

The researchers concluded that the more badly people wanted to urinate, the better they were at controlling their impulses.

But there’s more...

If you’re deliberately keeping yourself from urinating, it might suggest a specific kind of personality, according to Dr Sameer Malhotra, a psychiatrist at Max Hospital. He says that it could point to an obsessive personality or one where self-control is of relevance.

A similar idea finds echo in Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Body. Bladder problems, according to the book, are related to anxiety, holding on to old ideas and a fear of letting go.

 Listen to the doctors and head for the loo when your body asks you to.
Listen to the doctors and head for the loo when your body asks you to.
(Photo: iStockPhoto)

It goes ahead to add that anger, emotions related to toxic relationships and an inability to move on from the past are all connected to UTIs and kidney stones.

While some people are convinced of the potency of psychosomatic disorders, Hay is not a doctor, so her views are open to discussion.

Whether or not holding your urine has a psychological origin, it is not the best practice for your body, as concluded by medical science. Listen to the doctors and head for the loo when your body asks you to.

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(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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