Does Paruresis Breath Hold Practice Really Work?

 Does paruresis breath hold practice really work?

If you’ve been suffering from shy bladder syndrome, then you’ve probably already looked up cures for it. If you have, you’ve maybe come across a fairly well known treatment option known as paruresis breath hold practice. To be quite honest, I’m personally not 100% convinced about this method of treatment but you may want to give it a try yourself and let me know how you get on.

Whilst I may be a little sceptical many have reported very positive results. Perhaps I’m wrong in my scepticism … you decide!

Basically, as the name suggests, the breath hold technique for shy bladder involves holding your breathing and allowing your muscles to relax.  The idea is to hold it for around 45-60 seconds until the urinary sphincter (the muscle that controls the exit of urine through the urethra) is relaxed enough for you to be able to pee.

Let’s explain the basis behind the treatment and how it works in a little more detail … then … give it a go and try it for yourself!

Paruresis Breath Hold Practice – Introduction

The paruresis breath hold technique is a relatively simple breathing technique. It works on the premise that, if you hold your breath for long enough, you WILL pee. The theory behind this treatment is that holding your breath results in an increase of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. This increase in CO2 level is recognised as a way to reduce anxiety. In this case it can relax the sufferer to the point that they can release the stream.

As I said though, whilst it has worked for some it’s not for everyone. I personally believe it works better for those who struggle to start a flow but can continue to pee once started. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think.

In my own case it was introduced to me and I tried it but had better results with graduated exposure and hypnotherapy:

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How To Start

You’re aiming at being able to hold your breath for around 45 seconds which is why we suggest you build up gradually. Here’s what to do in 4 easy steps:

  1. Start by breathing normally but only exhaling about 3/4 of the air you’ve breathed in. Don’t be tempted to take a big gasp of air … you’re not looking to swim a length under water :-).
  2. Leave this little bit of air in your lungs and then hold your breath. You may find it easier to pinch your nose to avoid any involuntary breathing at this stage.
  3. Hold your breath for 10 seconds to start with but gradually build up the time.
  4. Keep practising until you can hold your breath in this way for the optimal 45 seconds.

Whilst the exact timing does vary a little it’s at this 45 second point that it’s believed the pelvic floor will drop and, hey presto, the stream will start! Pretty simple concept right?

Word Of Warning

Before you get started I very strongly suggest that you:

  1. discuss the plans with your doctor or physician.
  2. test it out in a comfortable and safe environment.
  3. build up gradually.
  4. stop immediately if you get any form of adverse reaction.

As I suggested – try it out in a safe and comfortable environment initially. If you find that you are one of those for whom it does work then you can progress to all environments. You can even start the shy bladder breath hold on the way to the restroom. That way you can get started almost as soon as you reach the urinal.

It can be a little scary at first (not breathing doesn’t feel natural at the best of times!). Sometimes, if you push yourself too far too quickly, you might even feel a little faint too. In that case you could consider holding your breath for lesser amounts of time and build up to the 45 second target.

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Does Shy Bladder Breath Hold Practice Actually Work?

Science says that this slow breathing helps ease the tension in the body and allows you to calm down and let go so that you’re able to pee. So the answer is yes … shy bladder breath hold treatment should actually work. It certainly does for some which is why we suggest you try it for yourself.

On the downside I’m talking about holding your breath for 45 seconds which means that you could find yourself stood at a urinal for the best part of a minute before anything happens. This is why we suggest starting the paruresis breath hold process on your way to the bathroom. Some have also reported the flow clamping resulting in having to start the process again … with less confidence this time!

Normally when you’re suffering from shy bladder syndrome, peeing anywhere that your mind deems as ‘not safe’ can feel an impossibility. Faced with the prospect of having to pee in public, your mind panics, your body freezes and you find yourself standing in front of the urinal, your sphincter muscle well tensed up, and there you stand knowing that nothing is going to come out.

Paruresis breath hold technique certainly can help to relax the pelvic muscles to the point where you can release the flow. this has a knock on effect of giving you a little more confidence to ease and calm your mind which can lessen the general anxiety too. We suggest that you don’t just focus on breath hold alone though but also target the underlying causes of your shy bladder and this double whammy could work well.

Give it a try for yourself – practice in advance and see if it works for you. I’d welcome hearing about your actual results (in confidence of course).

Paruresis Breath Hold Practice In Action

And whilst I may not be an advocate and before you dismiss this treatment option as “not the one for you” … here are a few comments from people just like you, who’ve been trying to overcome their problem with breath hold (BH).

Here’s what one paruretic has to say—

“I look at it like a Placebo. It works because you want it to. That’s what my mind is mumbling to me as the weeks go by.”

And here is another 19 year old college student who has found a cure in BH techniques…he says—

“In a nutshell. I used to suffer from shy bladder all throughout high school, but learned of the breath hold technique 2 weeks before my senior year. Then I practiced for 45 seconds every day for 2 weeks. I finally got it just in time for school to start. As you can imagine, standing there for 45 seconds was awkward for a while. But after about 2 months of using it successfully every day (I must have had the breath capacity of a pro diver) it only took me 10 seconds exactly from the time I started walking to the time I got there to be ready to go.”

And yet again another person suffering from shy bladder has found his cure in BH.


Does Breath Hold Practice Really Work For Paruresis?

breath hold technique for shy bladderScience says it should work, medical professionals say it could work, the International Paruresis Association discuss it on their website and some (but not all) paruretics say it does work!

I say try it for yourself but don’t just focus on this one treatment option. Work on it alongside trying to change your overall perception about the need to pee and your anxiety of peeing in public places. Maybe work on it as part of an overall paruresis treatment system?

Visit our “Shy Bladder Syndrome Frequently Asked Questions” page to learn more about the condition and different treatment options.

Paruresis Breath Hold Technique – Common Problems

As I said earlier, the breath hold technique is very popular but not always as easy as it sounds! I’ve gathered together a list of the main 5 problems associated with the practice as reported by real people:

  1. It sounds simple but it takes time to master the art. The trick seems to be in calming the mind – you need to get it under your control. Make sure you are comfortable and you are breathing at the normal rate. Before you actually start, take a calm breath. Hold it for 2 seconds and then let out about 80% of it. Now start your breath hold. Remember … keep calm and breath hold!
  2. Because you need to keep holding your breath for about 45-50 seconds or maybe more – many people struggle to get their muscles to relax, especially in the abdominal region. The solution … practise. You are cutting off your body’s air supply; it is natural for it to panic. But with practise you can get to the relaxed state needed.
  3. For some the problem is a little different. They manage to hold their breath long enough to get the stream started but then find themselves needing to take a big gulp of air and that’s when they just stopped peeing all over again! The explanation for this is that the sudden intake of breath makes the urinary sphincter tense again. The way around is that you need to practise taking in ‘little sips’ of air instead of large gulps. That way you can hold on to the calm set of mind and continue to pee. However, this also requires practise – since you need to train your body to not panic. A little pressure applied to the bladder when the flow has started may also help.
  4. When starting out you will find the natural tendency is to want to gasp for air the moment the feeling of holding your breath kicks in. Could be aftrer 10 seconds or 30. The best way to counteract this feeling is to swallow. Yes, you are gulping but without inhaling or exhaling any air.
  5. It’s not an instant fix and so those who expect miracle results are disappointed. It takes time to master he art so don’t give up!
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