The Emotional Toll of Female Incontinence
Female incontinence is physical, but it can also have a psychological impact.
The family dinner was going well -- until a condition known as female
incontinence got in the way.
The middle-aged woman has urge incontinence, sometimes called overactive
bladder (OAB). As the name suggests, when the urge to go to the bathroom comes
on, it often can't be controlled.
She leaked urine through her clothes and onto her son and daughter-in-law's
upholstered dining room chair, an embarrassment that didn't go unnoticed.
After the cleanup, even with her daughter-in-law and other family members
assuring her that everything was fine, the woman was so humiliated she now has
trouble accepting invitations.
Urinary incontinence is primarily a physical problem, affecting an estimated
12 million U.S. adults. But incontinence can also take an emotional toll on a
Emotional Toll of Female Incontinence
When you have female incontinence, you may avoid social situations and even
sexual intimacy, and that in turn can lead to withdrawal and depression.
"Incontinence is embarrassing," says Jennifer Anger, MD, MPH, an
assistant professor of urology at the University of California Los Angeles
David Geffen School of Medicine and an attending physician at Santa Monica --
UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
But if you get a medical evaluation when you first notice symptoms of female
incontinence, your doctor can suggest a host of treatments that will improve or
eliminate the condition.
"Older women think it's a normal part of aging," Anger says,
clarifying that it is not. While the condition does affect older women more
than younger, it doesn't have to be a side effect of aging.
Female Incontinence and Depression
Depression is more common in women with female incontinence, according to
several studies. In one study, published in a 2005 issue of Obstetrics
& Gynecology, researchers found that nearly three times as many women
with female incontinence had depression compared to those without the
They surveyed nearly 6,000 women, ages 30 to 90, with more than 40% of them
reporting some degree of female incontinence.
Another study, published in Social Science Medicine in 2005, found
that urinary incontinence is associated with depression in both women and men.
And if a woman is incontinent, her husband is also more likely to be depressed,
the researchers found.
Female Incontinence Impact on Quality of Life
Not surprisingly, the more severe the urinary incontinence, the greater the
impact on quality of life, report French researchers who evaluated 556 women
with female incontinence and compared them to more than 2,000 women without the
condition. These women had lower self-esteem, impaired well-being, and reduced
sexuality compared to the women without female incontinence.
Urinary incontinence in severe forms should be considered a disability, the
French researchers conclude in their report, published in a 2006 issue of
Neurourology and Urodynamics.