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The history


The term “paruresis” was first coined in 1954 by Williams and Degenhardt. Before this time, research into urinary dysfunction tended to focus on possible failures of the bladder and associated structures. While some references were made to a psychological influence on urinary function, Williams and Degenhardt were the first to describe a disorder of micturition (urination) in which the inability to pass urine was associated with social conditions.

Since then, a lack of clarity around definitions has become apparent. While some authors use terms such as paruresis and psychogenic urinary retention interchangeably, others argue that there is a distinction to be made. Specifically, that paruresis refers to an inability to pass urine in the presence of others, while psychogenic urinary retention refers to a chronic inability to pass urine that is not alleviated by a change in social conditions. Additionally, in 2002, Vythilingum, Stein, and Soifer altered the definition of paruresis from being a difficulty initiating the flow of urine in the presence of others, to the fear of not being able to urinate in the presence of others.

In the limited papers published on the topic, there has also been ongoing disagreement over the classification of paruresis as a social anxiety disorder. In the DSM-IV-TR, paruresis is considered to be a variation, or a symptom, of social anxiety disorder. Paruresis has also been described as a type of performance anxiety, which is often seen in social anxiety disorder. However, it has been suggested that paruresis may be a distinct condition, which merely overlaps with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder.


Even less is known about parcopresis, and much of what has been written about the condition seems to be based on paruresis research. In the absence of an appropriate medical term for anxiety around defecating in public places, the creators of began to utilize the term “parcopresis”. The term has since appeared in scientific literature and on specialist toilet phobia websites.

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© Copyright Dr Simon Knowles 2018