Overactive bladder isn't something that comes up in the course of everyday conversation. In fact, most women are reluctant to discuss their bladder issues with anyone -- even their best friend. Who wants to proclaim, "I'm always running to the bathroom, and sometimes I just don't make it"?
Because of the relative silence surrounding overactive bladder, it can be hard to find support when you need it. “The woman who’s just delivered a child and finds she isn’t getting bladder control back -- she runs to pick up her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and this isn’t there," says Linda Brubaker, MD, professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Urology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and director of the Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).
"A woman who’s growing older sees men on television talking about erectile dysfunction -- but not women sharing their stories about continence,” she adds.
OAB: Emotional Challenges
“Especially as overactive bladder and other continence problems become more severe, they can be very distressing, embarrassing, and ultimately isolating,” says Ross Rames, MD, associate professor of urology at the Medical University of South Carolina, who works with MUSC’s multidisciplinary Bladder and Pelvic Health Center.
When you don't have control over your bladder, you'll tend to withdraw socially. That means missing out on the things you enjoy in life, which could include attending church, movies, ball games, and concerts. “They won’t go to events because they can’t sit through them without rushing out multiple times to go to the bathroom,” Rames says.
Restricting yourself that way can have an impact on your physical health as well. “Women may stop going for walks because they’re afraid to be that far from the bathroom,” says Brubaker. “Or they may stop playing sports -- even ‘grandma soccer’ with the kids -- because they’re afraid of leakage accidents. So their lives become more sedentary.”
OAB can also cause problems at work. “Imagine if you’re a schoolteacher and you have to stand up in front of a classroom of fourth-graders for an hour or more without a break,” Rames says. What if you're an executive who has to make a long presentation to colleagues -- or a physician who can’t just rush out to the bathroom in the middle of surgery? In so many ways, OAB can make it difficult to do your job due to the emotional stress caused by worrying about sudden, strong urges to go.
OAB, Sleep, and Depression
Most people will agree that getting a good night of sleep can make a big difference in the day that follows. When OAB disrupts sleep, it can leave you feeling groggy from all the interruptions caused by trips to the bathroom, and it can affect your overall feeling of well-being.