Stressed Out - Defining Stress Incontinence

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • When discussing incontinence, I'm always quick to define "stress incontinence" as a physical stress endured by your body, such as sneezing or coughing, which causes spontaneous leakage of urine. In this SharePost, however, I'd like to discuss the causes and effects of emotional stress when living with all kinds of both urinary and fecal incontinence.


    Living with incontinence can be incredibly emotionally stressful. There's the stress of trying to hide a stigmatized medical condition from the public; the stress of worrying about being close enough to a restroom at the right time; the stress of sharing this "secret" with those closest to you; the stress of finding or maintaining a romantic relationship while living with this condition; the stress of searching for a cure; the stress of experimenting with different treatments. Yep, it's stressful.

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    Unfortunately, in addition to simply feeling stressed-out, stress can have other adverse physical effects on the body. Common initial symptoms of stress can include trouble sleeping, headaches, and stomach problems. In some cases, stress can cause weight gain and constipation and/or diarrhea - all conditions that can affect or worsen incontinence!


    Aside from potentially worsening your incontinence, too much stress is simply unhealthy overall. Emotionally, stress can lead to anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, and poor decision-making. Physically, in addition to the symptoms listed above, stress can also trigger or worsen heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, skin problems and rashes, and back and neck problems. In fact, this page from the American Diabetes Association ( gives a very interesting explanation of how stress can affect diabetes, showing that emotional stress most certainly can and does take a physical toll on the body.


    If you find yourself feeling stressed out because of incontinence (or really any other reason), there are some techniques you can try to help alleviate that stress. Take time each day to simply relax by reading a favorite entertaining book, taking a bath, doing yoga or meditation, going for a walk in a favorite place, or watching a comedy. If you're feeling the physical toll stress can take on your body, make sure you get checked out by your physician - staying on top of any developing medical concerns can help prevent future stress from developing. If your stress is leading to emotional distress, seek the help of a qualified mental-health professional, such as a counselor or therapist - at the very least, confide in a good friend.


    We all deal with bouts of stress in life, but when that "bout" becomes something more chronic, emotionally unmanageable, or physically harmful; it's time to take some proactive steps.

Published On: March 17, 2008