The Emotional Toll of Urinary Incontinence in Men
Male Incontinence: Getting Support
If incontinence is having a major impact on your quality of life, it will really help to get some emotional support. "A lot of men don't say anything about their incontinence and suffer in silence," says Griebling. "But they could really find a lot of comfort in just talking to someone."
So where can you go to discuss such a topic? Here are some ideas.
- Support groups. Living with male incontinence is isolating. So meeting other men in your position who are dealing with the same stresses and symptoms can be a big relief. "Some guys get a huge amount of energy and support from meeting with groups," says Wright. "They say that being in those meetings is what pulled them out of the hole." Support groups are not only ways of getting emotional support. They're also places you can trade practical treatment tips or advice about doctors.
- To find a support group in your area, ask a doctor for recommendations. For men who have recovered from prostate cancer, the group Us Too runs popular support groups throughout the country.
However, some guys don't always get the expected relief from a support group. "I've seen some men who get worse after joining a support group," Wright says. "They just can't bear everyone else's stories and it sends them into a downward spiral." So is a support group right for you? Wright says the benefit varies from guy to guy. You won't really know whether a group will help you unless you try a few sessions and see.
- Therapy. Male incontinence can lead to depression, and depression can be serious. So if you think your symptoms have become severe, get professional help. "When we see people who are having significant emotional issues related to their urinary incontinence, we refer them to colleagues in psychiatry or psychology," says Griebling.
Some men can get a lot of benefit from therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. If the idea of therapy doesn't appeal to you, keep in mind that it may be quite different from what you expect. Therapy doesn't mean lying on a couch talking about your childhood. Lots of therapists focus on working on specific, concrete issues. A therapist might zero in on how your symptoms are affecting you -- for instance, causing anxiety at work or interfering with your relationships -- and help you figure out ways to work through the problems.
- Talking to your spouse. You may feel embarrassed, but experts say it's a good idea to talk about what you're going through with your partner. "In a good, supportive relationship, I think it's critical for a man to discuss it with his spouse," says Wright. Not only could you use your spouse's understanding and support right now, but your secrecy could be affecting your marriage. If you don't explain what's going on, your wife might think that you're having a problem with her, Wright says. "The gap between a husband and wife can just keep widening," he says. "It can get to a point of no return."