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Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Stress and anxiety are two medical concerns that can negatively impact your physical and mental health. On top of their many well-known effects, you can also add their influence on the bladder and your need to pee.
While it might seem unusual, both stress and anxiety can cause you to experience excessive urination and an urge to pee even when your bladder is not full. Continue reading to learn more about this phenomenon and what you can do to manage it.
Table of Contents
- Can Stress Make You Pee More?
- Can Anxiety Cause Frequent Urination?
- How Can Stress Affect Your Bladder?
- What Effect Can Anxiety Have On Your Bladder?
- Could Your Frequent Urination Be a Sign of Something Else?
- How to Stop Anxiety Urination?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
Can Stress Make You Pee More?
While it might seem a coincidence that whenever you are stressed about something, you feel the need to pee, the truth is that there is a connection between these two factors.
When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones into the body to help you deal with the stressful situation. These stress hormones travel through the bloodstream until they reach their intended target, where they then incite psychological, physical, and emotional changes that are most often known as your fight-or-flight response.
However, beyond this, there are other ways that the body responds to stress, such as a tightening of the muscles to protect from the potential threat. Anyone who has ever experienced a tension headache can understand just how stress causes the muscles to contract, and this can occur throughout the body. When the abdominal muscles tighten, they may push onto the bladder, increasing the need to urinate.
Furthermore, muscles that have tightened because of the stress response may experience control issues that make voluntary muscle control difficult. For example, stress may cause control issues in the muscles in charge of urination, which is why there is an urge to use the restroom. In some cases, this inability to control the muscles may even result in an accident from being unable to reach the bathroom in time.
Can Anxiety Cause Frequent Urination?
Studies have found that many people with incontinence, or difficulty controlling their bladder, also have anxiety, suggesting a connection between these two things.
There are many speculations regarding how anxiety may cause frequent urination. The most likely cause is that anxiety, like stress, causes your muscles to tense, which can place pressure on your bladder and make you feel as though you need to urinate.
Anxiety may also alter your body chemistry, changing how you process nutrients. Because of this, more water may pass through your body, resulting in a greater need to urinate.
However, the effects of anxiety and stress can also differ, with anxiety more likely to cause an urge to urinate but not an actual need. While you may need to go to the bathroom when stressed, anxiety might make you feel like you have to, but if you visit the bathroom, you don’t pass much urine at all.
How Can Stress Affect Your Bladder?
There are some theories regarding evolutionary reasons for how stress can affect the bladder. These hinge around the knowledge that stress places the body in a fight-or-flight mode, despite current stressful situations not needing this response. Nevertheless, when you feel stressed, your body becomes flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone that helps the body prioritize certain bodily functions and puts others on the back burner.
One theory is that when your body is in a state of stress, it would be advantageous to be lighter, which can quickly be accomplished by urinating. This might be why the body reacts to stressful situations with a need to urinate.
What Effect Can Anxiety Have On Your Bladder?
Some signs that your bladder issue may be from anxiety include:
- accidental leakage of urine
- being unable to reach the toilet in time
- having to go to the bathroom during the night
- releasing a small amount of urine when visiting the bathroom
- difficulty controlling an urge to urinate
In children, these problems may manifest as bedwetting, which is especially apparent when it had not been a prior concern.
While anxiety may cause problems with your bladder, experiencing incontinence may then cause concerns about having a urinary issue in public or limiting your lifestyle because of the fear of incontinence incidents. In this way, bladder issues may cause more anxiety, perpetuating the problem.
In general, these bladder problems, when related to anxiety, occur alongside an increase in other anxiety symptoms, such as:
- being easily fatigued
- being irritable
- feeling restless or on-edge
- heaving headaches or muscle aches
- difficulty concentrating
- sleep problems
- difficulty controlling feelings of worry
Could Your Frequent Urination Be a Sign of Something Else?
Frequent urination is defined as using the bathroom more than usual within a 24-hour period, with some people finding that anxiety may send them to the bathroom 6-7 times per day.
There are many other potential causes behind your frequent need to urinate, though, such as:
Men are susceptible to an enlarged prostate, which naturally occurs with age and is generally considered harmless. The primary symptom of an enlarged prostate, though, is a more frequent and urgent need to urinate, although little urine may come out. This occurs because the prostate, as it grows in size, may press against the bladder, increasing the need to urinate.
This is one cause of frequent urination that follows men throughout the night, too, causing them to wake up during the night to visit the restroom.
Yet another condition with frequent urination as a symptom is a urinary tract infection (UTI), which most often results from bacterial infection of the bladder. Along with frequent urination, those with a UTI often notice a burning sensation or pain when urinating.
Pregnant women are often the first to joke about needing to use the restroom again and again. The reason for this is similar to men with an enlarged prostate and stems around the growing life inside their uterus.
As the fetus grows, it can push against the organs surrounding it, including the bladder. When this happens those who are pregnant may suddenly need to visit the bathroom, all because their baby is pushing around inside them.
How to Stop Anxiety Urination?
While problems with urination related to anxiety can be frustrating, the good news is that there is a solution that does not involve you needing to remain at home near a bathroom at all times.
Bladder training is one solution, which is a type of behavior therapy that increases how long you can go between emptying your bladder and how much urine your bladder can hold. With bladder training, you will be given a fixed schedule to follow regarding when to visit the bathroom, which must be followed even if you feel a need to go to the bathroom.
Bladder training also offers a solution for when you feel the urge to go to the bathroom with relaxation and Kegel exercises. Through training you can continue increasing the amount of time between bathroom visits until you can remain comfortable for three or four hours.
Yet another treatment for anxiety urination is addressing your anxiety itself, which can be done through talk therapy, medication, or a combination.
Talk therapy gives you a safe space to discuss your difficulties and challenges resulting in anxiety. There are two types of therapy: applied relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Your doctor can help you find which one best fits your needs.
Medications for anxiety may include antidepressants, which are among the most common medications prescribed for anxiety. There is also medication available that can help with your incontinence, which includes anticholinergics.
When to See a Doctor?
While issues with urination, especially regarding incontinence, can be embarrassing, discussing these issues with a healthcare professional can help you receive the help you need to manage your anxiety and regain control of your bladder.
If you ever feel overly stressed or anxious, it’s always recommended to talk to a doctor to find a solution that helps you lower your worries and feel mentally better.
Can Anxiety Cause an Overactive Bladder?
Yes, anxiety can cause an overactive bladder. This is likely because anxiety can cause the muscles to tense, which may result in them pressing on the bladder. However, anxiety can also change your body chemistry, making more water pass through your body and resulting in more frequent urination.
Is Peeing a Lot a Sign of Anxiety?
While frequent urination is a potential symptom of anxiety, other possible causes exist, such as an enlarged prostate, a UTI, or pregnancy. To narrow down the cause of your frequent urination as anxiety-based, look for additional symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, muscle aches, constant feelings of worry, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Does Stress Make You Pee More?
Stress can make you pee more because it causes your muscles to tighten, which may cause them to press on your bladder. Additionally, stress may redirect control to other bodily functions, making voluntary control of your bladder more difficult and potentially resulting in incontinence.
Stress and anxiety are physical and mental health concerns that can negatively affect your health and well-being, but they might also cause you to visit the bathroom more often.
Both stress and anxiety cause your muscles to become tenser, which may result in them pressing on your bladder and sending you searching for a restroom. However, for those with anxiety, this need to frequently urinate may bring another set of anxiety regarding needing a bathroom nearby, which can limit excursion possibilities.
To improve your well-being, the best way to treat urinary problems from anxiety is by managing your anxiety through talk therapy or medication. However, there are other potential causes for your frequent urination, such as an enlarged prostate, UTI, or pregnancy. An online doctor such as DrHouse can help you determine the cause of your frequent urination and what treatment will help you regain control of your bladder.
- Perry, S., McGrother, C. W., Turner, K., & Leicestershire MRC Incontinence Study Group (2006). An investigation of the relationship between anxiety and depression and urge incontinence in women: development of a psychological model. British journal of health psychology, 11(Pt 3), 463–482. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910705X60742
- Lai, H., Rawal, A., Shen, B., & Vetter, J. (2016). The Relationship Between Anxiety and Overactive Bladder or Urinary Incontinence Symptoms in the Clinical Population. Urology, 98, 50-57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.urology.2016.07.013
- Bogner, H., O’Donnell, A., de Vries, H., Northington, G., & Joo, J. (2011). The temporal relationship between anxiety disorders and urinary incontinence among community-dwelling adults. Journal Of Anxiety Disorders, 25(2), 203-208. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.09.003
- Felde, G., Bjelland, I., & Hunskaar, S. (2011). Anxiety and depression associated with incontinence in middle-aged women: a large Norwegian cross-sectional study. International Urogynecology Journal, 23(3), 299-306. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-011-1564-3
- Cheng, S., Lin, D., Hu, T., Cao, L., Liao, H., Mou, X., Zhang, Q., Liu, J., & Wu, T. (2020). Association of urinary incontinence and depression or anxiety: a meta-analysis. The Journal of international medical research, 48(6), 300060520931348. https://doi.org/10.1177/0300060520931348
- Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., & Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 93–107. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow
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