Anxiety's Influence on the Bladder

Woman looking stressed

Key Takeaways:

  • Anxiety aggravates urinary incontinence by increasing pelvic muscle tension, leading to urinary urgency and leakage.
  • Effective management requires addressing anxiety alongside urinary issues through therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 30% of adults nationwide.

This condition leads to side effects like panic attacks, depression, and many other emotional and physical symptoms that can take a severe toll on your quality of life.

Anxiety can also cause bladder problems, and bladder problems can lead to anxiety. This vicious cycle can be challenging to deal with, but with the help of our Medical Advisor, Aleece Fosnight, you can manage and resolve your symptoms. 

Jump To:

Can Anxiety Cause Urinary Incontinence?

How to Treat Anxiety & Urinary Incontinence

How to Get Bladder Control Products Through Insurance

INCONTINENCE PRODUCTS THROUGH INSURANCE:

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Can Anxiety Cause Urinary Incontinence?

Anxiety is often a contributing factor to urinary incontinence (UI) (loss of bladder control resulting in urinary leakage). Several studies have shown anxiety to be linked to over 50% of people experiencing UI.

When you have anxiety, you go into a “fight or flight response.” This stress response affects your sympathetic nervous system, increasing muscle tension throughout the body, including in the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that hold up your bladder and other organs). All of this increased pelvic floor muscle tension places extra pressure on your bladder, leading to UI.

Urge Incontinence

Anxiety can also cause you to hold your breath or decrease your breathing, both of which limit the mobility of your diaphragm. This causes the pelvic floor muscles to engage and elevate, leading to increased pressure in the pelvis and pelvic organs, like the bladder.

These physiological side effects of anxiety can lead to UI— specifically, urinary urgency and urge incontinence. The main symptom of urinary urgency and urge incontinence is feeling the sudden and intense urge to void your bladder, which often results in leakage.

Stress Urinary Incontinence

While urinary urgency and urge incontinence are the most common types of UI related to anxiety, prolonged anxiety can weaken your pelvic floor muscles over time, leading to urination problems. 

Because weak pelvic floor muscles cannot support pelvic pressure when increased abdominal pressure is placed on the pelvis, the muscles are not able to support the urethra, allowing urine leakage. This leads to stress urinary incontinence, which symptoms include leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, bending over, lifting heavy objects, or exercising.

Anxiety can cause UI, and it can also exacerbate existing incontinence symptoms. The more tension the pelvic floor muscles have on them, the more these overlapping urinary symptoms will occur.

Anxiety and urinary incontinence will continue to perpetuate one another. If you have anxiety, you may develop urinary incontinence, and then the urinary incontinence will increase your anxiety, leading to a vicious cycle, worsening both the anxiety and the incontinence. 

How to Treat Anxiety & Urinary Incontinence

Treating anxiety can be a long-term task, but with the proper resources, there is hope! In the meantime, directly treating symptoms of UI can be simple with the help of a healthcare professional.

1. Speak With a Healthcare Professional

It is essential to treat the root cause of your UI (anxiety and stress), which is why it is so important to seek medical advice from your provider (physician, psychologist, therapist, etc.) about your mental health anytime you have concerns with your mental health or UI.

If you have anxiety and UI, work with a healthcare provider and a mental health therapist who both understand urological concerns and the overlap of mental health concerns. Providers like this can be challenging to find. However, they are out there!

If you experience anxiety when leaving your home, you may be able to schedule a telehealth visit with your provider.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can be beneficial for anxiety. However, everyone’s needs are unique, and finding the right therapy is vital to assessing and managing your anxiety.

2. Use Relaxation Techniques

There are certain coping strategies you can try that will help you manage both symptoms of anxiety and UI simultaneously.

Finding the right doctor illustrationFinding the right doctor illustration
  • Belly breathing: Belly (diaphragmatic) breathing can be beneficial. By engaging the diaphragm with deep breathing, the vagus nerve (one of the most powerful parasympathetic nervous system nerves) turns on. This can decrease your feelings of anxiety. Belly breathing also relieves the pelvic floor muscles of tension, releasing extra tension on the bladder.
  • Meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can be very effective therapies in decreasing anxiety and, therefore, decreasing UI. Mindfulness has been shown to help reduce the stressors of anxiety, allowing you to become aware of the present moment and eliminating the effects of the stressors on the body. Mindfulness addresses anxiety as a trigger for urinary incontinence.
  • Yoga: Yoga can incorporate pelvic floor exercises with deep breathing, which is great for relaxation and your pelvic health.

3. See a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

Sometimes, the pelvic floor muscles will not relax despite anxiety coping strategies. In these situations, seeking the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist can be very useful to help decrease UI symptoms.

4. Make Lifestyle Adjustments

Simple lifestyle adjustments can help decrease your UI symptoms, such as:

5. Explore Medication-Based Treatments

There are several medications used to treat anxiety. Most of these medications don’t also treat UI at the same time.

Woman drinking a glass of waterWoman drinking a glass of water

However, a medication called Duloxetine (commonly known as Cymbalta) is an SNRI that has been shown to help decrease pelvic floor and bladder muscle tension, aiding in the treatment of urge incontinence.

6. Wear Bladder Control Products

Highly absorbent adult briefs, adult pull-ons, and bladder control pads can help you discreetly manage your urinary symptoms, which can reduce any anxiety that may be developing from leaving your home out of fear of having accidents in public.

If your healthcare provider has diagnosed you with anxiety-related urinary incontinence, you may qualify to receive free bladder control products with Aeroflow Urology!

The best part is that once you’re a patient of Aeroflow, we’ll send you free monthly shipments of incontinence products in unmarked boxes, so you won’t need to leave home. Your supplies will continue to be free every month as long as you have an updated prescription from your healthcare provider.

Submit our Eligibility Form to start receiving your free products if you qualify.

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Remember that it is not normal to have UI. Seeking a medical professional can help to isolate the cause and offer solutions to improve your quality of life. No one should have to suffer in silence. It may not be easy to speak up, but try to find a provider who will listen to your concerns and offer suggestions for treatment options.

Call and talk to the front office at a healthcare provider’s office. They will know if the provider you’re seeking treatment from takes time with their patients and listens. There is hope!


Aleece Fosnight

Aleece Fosnight, MSPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, HAES is a Medical Advisor and Writer for Aeroflow Urology and a board-certified physician assistant specializing in sexual medicine, women’s health, and urology. In 2019, she opened up her own private practice, the Fosnight Center for Sexual Health, and implemented the sexual health grand rounds curriculum at her local hospital and residency program.

Aleece is also the founder of the Fosnight Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of professionals in the sexual health field and providing funding for access to healthcare services in her local community.


About the Author

Marlee Septak is the Senior Content Specialist at Aeroflow Urology. She brings a deep understanding of incontinence and health conditions associated with it to her writing. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago and holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Marlee has contributed to various magazines and blogs, including Borgen Magazine, Echo Magazine, Chicago Ideas Week, Assuaged, and Peaceful Dumpling. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and just sitting down with a good book.


References:

Booth, J. (2023, October 19). Anxiety Statistics And Facts. Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/anxiety-statistics/#:~:text=Nationally%3A%20Over%2040%20million%20adults 

Disclaimer

Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.

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