How to Eliminate Public Toilet Anxiety

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Have you ever experienced toilet anxiety? You know the feeling when you feel pressured to “go” in public, or when there are other people waiting? This is an issue for many people.

Toilet phobia/anxiety can affect anyone at any time and ranges from a minor distraction through to a significant disruption to daily life.

What is toilet anxiety? describe this as being:

“Toilet anxiety, or toilet phobia, is a term used to describe a number of issues related to using the toilet.

It is a type of anxiety condition where the sufferer may experience concerns and fears about one or more of the following:

  •          Being unable to urinate or defecate
  •          Using a public toilet
  •          Being too far from a toilet
  •          Having an accident in public
  •          Other people being able to hear or see you use the toilet
  •          The cleanliness of public toilets
  •          Being confined in a small space”

All the above can be related to other phobias, such as Mysophobia (a fear of germs), Claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), and Emetophobia (fear of vomit). So, you can see it can be a complex situation.

Here are some possible solutions:

Fear of being too far from a toilet or having an accident in public.

When you are outside there is nothing worse than not knowing where the nearest toilet is.

Planning ahead is a way to minimise any anxieties and calming the mind before travelling to any location.  As part of a routine it could become a great coping strategy for some cases of toilet phobia.

There is a major decline in Australia of council run public toilets. This is where planning ahead of time is critical.

A great resource is the Australian Government website, which is a great site to find all toilets in Australia.

This website shows over 19,000 publicly available toilets across Australia, including accessibility, opening hours and facilities, such as showers & baby change.

Fear of other people being able to hear or see you use the toilet

This can lead to not actually being able to go to the toilet when you need to because there are too many people around. 

When you need to urinate but can’t it’s called “shy bladder” or technically, paruresis. Over 20 million Americans suffer from it, so if you have experienced, you’re not alone. Although again, the degree of severity varies in each person.

The other issue, is the inability to defecate when others are around. This is called “shy bowel” or parcopresis.

The Japanese have this covered, catering for embarrassing noises that can happen from cubicals.  Toilets that have a button to press which creates a flushing sound were originally designed with for female users. The idea is that a flushing sound can be heard outside the cubical to hide any bodily function noises.

Schools in Sweden have been lobbied to install music in toilet facilities. This is certainly one way that a facility could help alleviate anxieties by adding some covering sound.

Another solution is to install hand dryers. Even the quiet varieties create enough noise to cover up “other” noises.

In male toilets, the urinal area can be a place of anxiety. The bathroom designer would be well advised to always add partitions between them.  This may well be advisable to include single urinals rather than the trough urinals you get in places, to consider those with a toilet phobia.


Fear of the cleanliness of public toilets

If you are providing a public toilet then you must provide a high standard of cleanliness.

The state of your bathroom facilities can give the overall impression that you either run a very clean and healthy building, or the extreme opposite. 

This could be a major factor in how people judge you and whether they will return.

Regular checks should be made on the basics such as toilet rolls being stocked up, clean toilet, floor clear of mess etc. We wrote a different blog for those interested in how to improve the cleanliness of washrooms on Freeway and Motorway Service Stations. 

If you have anything to add, please do not hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below.



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