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Help: Terrified of Bathrooms!


thesocialmoth
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For some reason I have been terrified of bathrooms my whole life. Public bathrooms, other people's bathrooms, my own bathroom. It doesn't matter. I'm terrified of them.

I've been places where I really had to go, so I went to the restroom (public) and stood there for about 2 minutes before I went in. once I go in, and I realize that no one else was in there, I make it maybe half way to the stalls before I turn around and ran out as fast as I can. Safe to say I don't get to go to the bathroom. I even have rituals. I different one for restrooms (public) and one for bathrooms (mine and others)

My restroom ritual is:


  1. check for people,
  2. check for last stall[only use last stall, i can't have openings on all sides],
  3. look around to see if anything is suspicious and could be a camera,
  4. wipe the seat 3 times with 3 separate wads of toilet paper,
  5. duck down to check all the other stalls
  6. lock the door
  7. wipe down the seat one last time
  8. flush the toilet with my foot

There've been times that there were actually people in there and I get in the stall, and still have to run out because I'm just too scared. I've run out of my own bathroom.

I can't close my eyes in the shower. Ever.Ever Ever Ever. I've tried 1 or 2 times within the last year and almost hyperventilated. there are sometimes that the water feels so good that my eyes unknowingly slide shut...and then I realize..and panic....I completely flip out.

I can't even go into my own bathroom without checking the whole place out and then locking the door. Same with other peoples bathrooms.

My bathroom ritual is:

  1. wipe down the toilet,
  2. check under the sink and then the bathtub/shower,
  3. if there's a closet I look there,
  4. look at the vents for cameras or something.
  5. look in the mirror to see if there's anyone I can't see normally
  6. lock the door
  7. wipe the toilet again

No matter how bad I have to go...

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Thesocialmoth,

Wow, that is both interesting and, also, terrible for you and must make you feel really awful.

Do you remember if anything ever happened to you in a bathroom, something that was terrifying, perhaps as a child?

Have you gotten psychological help for this? Of course, this is an anxiety disorder and a phobia. Cognitive behavioral therapy would be best for this.

Allan

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I can relate in a small way to what you are dealing with. But, my fears are limited to public bathrooms. I do not go in them unless there is no other choice. That is usually only because my kids need to go! I do not go in public restrooms for myself at all! I carry seat covers, my own TP and lots and lots of germ wipes or Lysol spray in case my kids have to use the bathroom. I am not sure where my issues began, but I can remember avoiding public bathrooms as far back as adolescence.

Having just that small portion of what you deal with is hard enough. I simply can't imagine how difficult it must be to live with such an invasive fear on a daily basis. I do not have issues in my own bathroom or in friend's bathroom's.

I hope you will take Allan's advice and seek treatment for this. It definitely sounds like this is taking a huge toll on you and therapy would be helpful.

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Hey there,

I don't know if you know this, but anxiety is largely about fear of losing control, or being out of control, or being vulnerable. Using the bathroom is a VERY vulnerable activity if you think about it. You are naked, helpless, exposed in a very real way and you don't have access to your typical "escape routes" once you've committed to the act! It makes perfect sense to feel panicky in that situation. Same goes with the shower. You are naked, exposed and so on... on top of that, in the shower you have the constant audio stimulus of the running water which keeps you from being able to sense anything around you. No wonder it scares you!

Are you aware of the physiological aspects of anxiety/OCD/panic? If not, you should take a look at one of my favorite web sites regarding panic and anxiety. It's at paniccure.com, and as I've told others on this site, I don't work for the site so this isn't a plug, and it is completely free! It is just the best site for gaining a basic understanding of what's happening to you during panic.

I have been dealing with panic and anxiety since I was 7 years old and have learned so many different ways of dealing with it. I have "recovered" to the point that I was able to have a career navigating Ballistic Missile Submarines for the US Navy. I point that out only to illustrate what is possible once you decide to do something about getting over panic and anxiety. When I was 20 I was totally unable to function. I couldn't even leave my room without falling apart, much less my apartment. While in my room, I was in a constant state of anticipatory anxiety. So, to go from that, to being able to sail the seven seas, underwater, really says something about how fully you can get beyond fear...

Check out that site... let me know what you think, and if you have any questions about what to do next, just let me know...

I'll keep checking in to see how you're doing.

-Jimmyfay2

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Jimmyfaye2,

For sure, panic and anxiety are all the things you mention and it is indeed very common. In fact, there is a world wide epidemic of both depression and anxiety disorders including panic.

What I am not clear about is whether you have gotten professional help with this. It appears that you did a lot of great work on yourself in the past. You are right, it is possible to get over anything once you put your mind to it. However, everyone can reach that point where only professional help works. I am not talking about medication but behavioral and cognitive types of therapy. In addition, things like meditation, exercise, soft music, etc, all help a lot.

Can you tell us if you have had professional help with this?

Allan:)

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The short answer is , yes, I've had plenty of professional help throughout my life. Starting when I was 7 years old, I've been seeing doctors, therapists, psychiatrists and so on. It wasn't until I was in college that I finally found a doctor who truly helped me figure out what was going on and how to deal with it. He was the first therapist who used the word agoraphobia with me. Most other doctors seemed to be just guessing. Once I gained an understanding of the fundamentals of panic and anxiety, it was like someone flipped a switch! I finally understood what was "wrong" with me, and was so excited to find ways to "get over it". I tried anything and everything and finally found what worked for me. Medications really didn't work for me, but that doesn't mean they are not for anyone. I hope that what I've written on this site hasn't given the impression that nobody needs medication or professional help. I still see a doctor from time to time. Especially during stressful periods. In fact, I just saw my doctor today. I've been having a bit of a resurgence of the agoraphobia, inspite of all my best efforts, and felt it was time to touch base with a doctor. I have 3 children under the age of 7, am in the process of buying our first home, have been concerned about the stability of my work situation and the economy, and so on and so forth. It was really getting to me and I wasn't dealing with it. My point being that everyone needs help now and again.

So, yes. I have had and still get help from a professional therapist. I strongly urge people to find help whenever they need it.

Also, for what it's worth, I've had alot of experience with medication, but found that it didn't work for me. Meditation and exercise, as well as CBT have been the foundation of my success with living with and getting beyond anxiety/agoraphobia.

Everyone has to find out what works for them. There is no blanket answer for everyone suffering with anxiety. This website certainly helps shed light on a subject that is often left in the shadows. I hope that my contributions can help someone out there. It makes me feel good to share my experiences in the hopes that someone else will benefit from them.

-Jimmyfay2

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social moth,

wow, i read your post and a shiver of recognition ran up my spine. I would be classified as "high functioning" by most people, that is I can usually hide my anxiety pretty well in public. (Of course "stuffing it" has a real down side as well--it often leaves me exhausted and in an emotional puddle when I'm all alone.) Still, there are one or two phobias/fears that send my anxiety into overdrive and I can't help but freak out in public. One deals with bathrooms.

I have some specific bathroom 'rituals' at home and in public restrooms as well, although they are not quite as elaborate as the ones you describe. But there is one 'type' of bathroom that freaks me out to the point where I completely lose control and usually exit quickly, without going, shaking, for minutes or even hours. When I think back to those bathrooms it still sends a mini-wave of panic through me. My heart is racing even as I type this.

I will go into a description. I would say that if things like this trigger anxiety in you (whoever is reading this) you might want to stop now.

The bathrooms that freak me out are usually from the 1930s - 60s, in public buildings like schools, churches, etc. They are quite spacious and have lots of (faded) tile everywhere. They have extremely high ceilings and there is exposed piping visible running across the tops of the walls and the ceiling. When the ceiling is poorly lit, my anxiety is even worse. These bathrooms have rows of stalls and urinals and sinks. Some have peeling paint, no windows or high windows (with painted-over hinges). The urinals are usually in a 'trough' style or a style that goes all the way to the floor.

I have recurring nightmares which occur in those bathrooms, and have had them since I was a young boy. I am usually alone. Usually there is filth everywhere and it is my job to clean it all up, either that or I am looking for a clean, private place to use the restroom but it is all nasty and covered with filth.

Anyway, there is a historic building here (an old school that has been converted into a restaurant/theater/bar) and I went into their main restroom one time and ran out of there, hyperventilating. The same thing happened when I was visiting the University of Pittsburgh and went into the restroom in the Tower of Learning. We had to go into a completely different building across campus for me to use the bathroom because I was so freaked out.

I'm not sure why I have this strange fear. I don't remember anything bad actually happening in a restroom when I was a child, I just remember having the nightmares starting at an early age (and I still have them, at least one every couple months).

I'm sure this doesn't help much (and I hope no one's own fears were triggered by my description), but at least you know you're not alone.

Best,

Sean

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