different names of paruresis

How many different names does one condition need? In this feature we’re going to look at all the different names of paruresis shy bladder syndrome and cut through the confusion for you. We think you may be surprised at just how many different names there are!

Paruresis is the official, recognised medical term for this form of social anxiety disorder. When there’s an official name there always tends to be an alternative common name or nickname but this condition is different … it has more than 10!

The Different Names Of Paruresis Shy Bladder Syndrome

How many names do we need for a single condition? Surely, as we suggested, Paruresis just needs a single official name and one shortened nickname like most other ailments? Well, that would make sense wouldn’t it? But this one is different! Just to confuse the issue further it’s actually known by many names. So, let’s explain the different names of paruresis:


This is the official name for the condition. It was first used by Williams and Degenhart (1954) in the report entitled “Paruresis: a survey of a disorder of micturition”. This was published in the Journal of General Psychology 51:19-29. It was the first time the name had been used.

Paruresis derives from a Latin term meaning simply “abnormal urination”. Anyone who suffers from the condition is known as a Paruretic (abnormal urinator).

Avoidant Paruresis

Because the nature of the condition means that a paruretic has difficulty in urinating when in the real or imaginary presence of others (a public restroom for example) it is natural that they have a tendency to start avoiding such situations. This is where the term avoidant paruresis comes from. It’s exactly the same condition but refers to the resulting avoidance of the difficult, uncomfortable or embarrassing situations.

Shy Bladder Syndrome

Shy bladder syndrome is the “official” nickname of the condition officially called paruresis. There’s no difference at all – it’s exactly the same social anxiety disorder but just with a more informal title that describes the symptoms very well. The bladder is basically too shy to release a flow of when others are around. We do however know that it’s not really the bladder that’s at fault. It’s all in the mind!

And now we come to all the other names …

Shy Bladder

This one is simple – it’s just an abbreviation of shy bladder syndrome. There’s absolutely no difference whatsoever. It’s by far the most common lay term for paruresis that you will hear.

Bashful Bladder

The word “bashful” is simply an alternative for the word “shy” and, for some reason somebody decided that shy bladder syndrome was better termed bashful bladder syndrome and then shortened to simple bashful bladder.

Bashful Kidneys

It was then thought that the kidneys were perhaps more of the problem than the bladder and so the name bashful kidneys was coined. This one didn’t really catch on although you may hear it used from time to time.

Pee Shy or Pee Shyness 

This term was used to describe the person suffering from pee shyness – ie paruresis!

Pee Fright

This term is occasionally used to describe paruresis. It refers to the fear that prevents urination.

Pee Phobia

This term is often sometimes used as an alternative name for shy bladder syndrome but it doesn’t accurately describe the condition as it is better suited to an alternative phobia.

Stage Fright

We mainly associate this with an actor forgetting his lines as a result of a sudden anxiety at being the centre of attention with an entire audience focused on his or her performance. I can see the similarity to the irrational feelings of a paruretic but it doesn’t accurately describe the condition accurately. You will hear it referred to in this way from time to time – perhaps people of trying to be kind and sympathetic in calling it stage fright?

Toilet Phobia

This is not quite the same. Toilet phobia is a fear of toilets and not necessarily a fear of urinating in the presence of others, You will here it inaccurately used in relation to paruresis though.

Public Piss Syndrome

Well, it had to happen … a more “urban” description perhaps! You have to agree though – it does work :-).

Psychogenic Urinary Retention

Psychogenic urinary retention is an official condition and does sometimes accurately describe paruresis. As the name suggests, in this case the bladder does not empty  at all or does not fully empty due to a psychological issue rather than a medical one. Whilst Paruresis would perhaps fall into this category the condition is really referring to a temporary issue brought about during periods of excessive stress or in times of high emotional stress or trauma.


Urophobia is a related but different phobia. It is actually the fear of urine or urinating. It stems from a Greek term meaning urine (uro) fear (phobia).  This phobia describes a fear of urine itself or  all things urine related. It differs therefore to paruresis which is a fear of passing urine when other people are around and being judged by them accordingly. Don’t get these names confused as they are different fears.

The Different Names Of Paruresis

So, there you have it – one condition made incredibly complicated with multiple names! And, this may not be an exhaustive list so please let us know what we’ve missed or what you’ve heard the condition referred to (use the comment form below).

If you want to know more about whatever you decide to call this condition check out our Paruresis Frequently Asked Questions.