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Gotta Go Right Now? Urinary Incontinence Could Impact Mental Health

By HERWriter
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gotta go from urinary incontinence? mental health may be impacted Lifestock/PhotoSpin

Women might be embarrassed to admit it, but many of us have had occasional issues with controlling our bladders. Perhaps after hearing a hilarious joke or while being tickled you let a few drops go on accident.

But some women have to deal with a condition called urinary incontinence (UI), where leakage is not always just a rare occurrence. In fact, some women might not be able to keep urine from leaking out at all, which obviously has a major impact on day-to-day living.

The condition impacts around 35 percent of women, according to an article on Medical Xpress. And the condition is not only limited to elderly women.

In fact, a new study from the University of Adelaide sheds light on urinary incontinence and its mental health impact on younger women. Researchers found that middle-aged women (43-65 years old) with UI were more likely to suffer from depression than older women.

Researchers believe this is because the UI condition can lower self-esteem due to the constraints it may put on activities, sexual relationships and general family life.

Dr. Dion Metzger, a board-certified adult psychiatrist, is not surprised by the study results, and has personally had patients who suffer from both depression and urinary incontinence.

“I have found that the lowered self-esteem, social limitations and anxiety associated with the fear of embarrassment all contribute to the development of depression,” Metzger said in an email.

She said the following symptoms could be signs of depression:

1) “Feelings of hopelessness”

2) “Less enjoyment of social activities”

3) “Problems concentrating”

“Younger women may become more depressed because they may experience more of the social limiting factors,” Metzger said. “Younger women are more likely to be active in sports and leisure activities such as dancing, going out shopping or simply taking a walk.”

“Another reason younger women may become more depressed is due to seeing their UI symptoms as a sign of premature aging,” she added. “They may feel that they're at too young of an age to be experiencing these symptoms, and have feelings of melancholy about their best years being behind them.”

Fortunately urinary incontinence is a treatable condition, although many women are too ashamed to tell their doctors about their bladder problems.

In order to find treatment options, she suggests going to the doctor and asking as many questions as possible about the UI condition, as well as exercising and going to support groups in order to cope with the condition.

“Speaking with other women about the common symptoms will not only let them feel like they're not alone, but may be helpful in getting pointers on how to handle the symptoms,” Metzger said.

She said that treatment options include:

1) “Kegel exercises to tighten the pelvic muscles”

2) “Repair surgery”

3) “Medications to reduce symptoms”

“Behavioral therapy has shown to be effective in improving UI in younger women,” she added.

“This therapy includes training the bladder and prompting women of when to go to the bathroom. It is basically women learn to urinate according to a schedule rather than when their body signals an urge. It helps to lessen the chances of those dreaded accidents.”

Jenni Gabelsberg, the owner and director of physical therapy at Women’s Advantage in California, is a women’s health physical therapist who specializes in urinary incontinence and pelvic pain. She said in an email that she works with many new mothers who suffer from urinary incontinence. She added that vaginal births and just pregnancy alone are top risk factors for UI.

“I think younger women attribute incontinence to something that elderly women have, not something that a new mom in their 20's or 30's would have, and that the concern of having to deal with this condition for a lifetime can be very overwhelming,” Gabelsberg said.

“We also treat teenagers (typically who do high impact sports like gymnastics or basketball) who leak when participating in their sports, and they are mortified that this is happening when they feel they are the only ones who have this problem and are very alone in their fear.”

She said that simply by doing pelvic floor muscle and core muscle exercises, many women can get rid of their symptoms. She suggested finding a women’s health physical therapist to assist with recovery.

Gabelsberg also has a DVD to help women with urinary incontinence called “Eight Weeks to Empowerment: Taking Charge of Urinary Incontinence.”


National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Urinary Incontinence in Women. Web. June 19, 2013.

Medical Xpress. Incontinence takes mental toll on younger women. Web. June 19, 2013.

Metzger, Dion. Email interview. June 18, 2013.

Gabelsberg, Jenni. Email interview. June 19, 2013.
http://www.womens-advantage.com/jennifer; http://hermanwallace.com/faculty/gabelsberg

Reviewed June 20, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.