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What the Yuck: Afraid of public restrooms
February 19th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

What the Yuck: Afraid of public restrooms

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I have a phobia about going No. 2 anywhere but my own bathroom. How can I get over this?

A: Your anxiety is really common, and something you can overcome.

First, remember: We all produce bowel movements and the accompanying sounds and, yes, smells. No one’s paying attention to you in a public restroom - they’re all preoccupied!

To get a little more comfortable in there, listen to your iPod to relax, and try using the stall farthest from the door. Deep breathing can also help curb your anxiety.

But if your fear prevents you from going regularly (which can cause constipation and abdominal pain), consult a therapist. You’ll feel much better - mentally and physically.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. kay

    I'm 'afraid' of public restrooms just because they're usually filthy, especially in department stores and grocery stores. They pretend to be diligent in cleaning them but really, they're not fooling anybody. I think the employees just go in, write the 'cleaned' date and time on the sheet behind the door, and then walk right back out without touching a thing. They sure don't empty the trash as the used paper towels bins are usually overflowing. Pretty disgusting.

    February 20, 2012 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina L.

      I am personally scared of germ-phobia and wide-spread use of antibacterial products which led to the rise in untreatable infections and possible increase in the occurrence of autoimmune deceases. It is all because market caters to the needs of brainless neurotics who have an unrealistic wish to live in a sterile environment. Somebody who needs help because she is scared of public bathrooms is unfit for life. Keeping your immune system strong is the best defense. I have not been sick or have a seasonal flue for almost five years, and never had a stupid flue shot in my life.

      February 20, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • Pattysboi

      So, have you notified the manager of the store?

      February 20, 2012 at 19:51 | Report abuse |
    • funker

      I'm not sure what Galina L. is talking about, but tonight I went to the Big Lots in Boone, NC, and had to do number 2. The seat was up, but when I put it down, it had the obvious stains of someone doing number 1 on it. I don't know how or why the seat was raised with stains on it. I also don't understand why it wasn't cleaned. I waited till later.

      February 21, 2012 at 02:00 | Report abuse |
  2. monah

    No one in the bathroom is paying attention to you? Are you kidding? I can't help but pay attention when I'm hearing and smelling someone going number 2! It's gross! If I have to go number 2 in a public restroom I'm embarrassed if anyone hears and smells me and I don't want them to see it was me who did that!

    February 20, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      Are you my ex-wife?

      February 21, 2012 at 02:02 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      YEAH...for real...that is my M.O. when i am in the bathroom and i hear sounds...i of course am paying attention...it makes me giggle.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "No one in the bathroom is paying attention to you?" Start singing "99 Bottles of Beer."

      February 21, 2012 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • KellyAnn

      Hell is two women in a public restroom each waiting for the other to leave so she can poop. This happens all the time at my office. You can tell because the person in the other stall becomes absolutely silent and doesn't move a muscle until the other person leaves.

      February 21, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Monah, just er Rip honey....

      February 21, 2012 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    I love the smell personally. Where else can you get that gut-wrenching, eye-watering, nose-buring smell but in a public restroom. They call it a restroom so you can...well, rest. I like to spend at least an hour in there getting used to my surroundings. Just thinking of all the crap that was flushed underneath me makes my eyes water.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      You win. Best response of the day. But, while you're enjoying your respite, can you consider the fact that others may need the facility you are "resting" in?🙂

      February 21, 2012 at 01:53 | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    who care grow up peoples, animals poop everywhere in the world, so why can human do the same on the ground to poop, by the way for doing this if anyone poop on the ground is 100% infection free is true, that why all other international doing this because they are smart, American need to grow up and it all MEN-MADE for making a toilets so you can get infection, "HOW DO MEN-MADE? THEY MAKING MONEY FOR TOILET PAPER< BRUSH TO CLEAN AND OTHER CHEMCIALS COST TO CLEAN" it all about $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$! grow up American!

    February 20, 2012 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jpbrody

      My word, Mike! I don't know where you live, but if everybody in the cities started taking a dump on the ground, the cities would be even worse pestholes of filth and disease than they are. Waste is 100% infection free? You need to use that internet of yours for something besides trolling around looking for places to expose your ignorance.

      I hope you take your own advice and stay where you are. By the way, if you lay a load out in the street or bushes and are seen in America, you're going to be arrested for at least indecent exposure.

      One last word of advice for you, considering your comments: Watch your step, just in case there are others who doo as you doo. .

      February 20, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      Can you say "cholera"?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:32 | Report abuse |
    • FlyGuyInSJ

      Mike? Mike?

      You're one of those Occupy people, aren't you? Please, peacefully protest whatever you want, but when you need to take a dump, by all means please occupy a toilet stall next time.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      Why are you guys talking to this bozo? Don't you see the 'Report Abuse' button?

      February 21, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  5. jpbrody

    One word: Depends.

    February 20, 2012 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. timmy jim

    Anyone feeling a bit, FIRSTY?

    February 20, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ShyAbout#2

    I'm glad to see this article. I'm OK around strangers, but if I'm at a concert or event where one of my friends is in the stall next to me I CAN'T DO ANYTHING. I'd just die if they heard me rip one. I know I need to get over it...but it is very hard.

    February 20, 2012 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Deathstalker

    The way they addressed the issue they seem to mostly be talking about a phobia with personal embarrassment. I use public bathrooms but would rather not. I could care less for the most part if someone hears or smells me taking a crap but what worries me is getting a virus or other germs and diseases. I would think this is a more rational fear then some other phobic about someone giving you a look because you let one rip in the bathroom. Why care what they think like there crap doesn't stink or something please. Yes you your crap stinks too so what of it who cares. That being said it is possible but highly unliekly to get a virus in a public toilet.

    February 20, 2012 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David B.

      You mean you COULDN'T care less (NOT "could care less"). You stated the opposite of what you meant.

      February 20, 2012 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
    • funker

      To David B: Why stop there? This comment is so full of typos and mistakes, it is a great example of using people's comments to teach others how to read and write. Thanks!

      February 21, 2012 at 02:11 | Report abuse |
  9. Katie

    I'm not afraid of public restrooms, but I am thoroughly disgusted by the public usage of them. Far too many people think nothing of urinating all over the seat and the floor or refusing to flush their highly visible, smelly waste. Just because someone else is supposed to clean up the room doesn't mean you have to mark your territory like an animal. You are a human being, and it's time to act like one: don't use a public restroom unless you can display some public courtesy. If you MUST behave like an animal, go pee on a bush or squat in the dirt like the dogs do.

    February 20, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      I love your response, and my daughter's name is Katie, so yeah for you! I work at a University where some people seem to think it's okay to not lift the seat, p– all over the seat, and not flush. Where did the parenting fail?

      February 21, 2012 at 02:19 | Report abuse |
    • FlyGuyInSJ

      Thank you, Katie. I hate having to take my daughter to a public restroom because of how filthy most of them are. Before I even put the "butt protector" on the seat, I usually have to clean the seat first. A few months ago, I took my three year old into the restroom at our (very nice) local public library only to find that someone had taken a very large dump on the floor in the stall rather than use the toilet. I alerted the library staff, who immediately closed the restroom until it could be cleaned up. Took her to one of the two "family" restrooms in the library instead, and found the seat covered with urine. You'd think people would lift the seat, and teach their kids to do the same, but apparently, you'd be wrong😦

      February 21, 2012 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
    • onyxnuk

      Well said. Thank you

      February 21, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
    • Animal

      "you have to mark your territory like an animal." Arf arf. Bow wow wow. Woof woof.

      February 21, 2012 at 16:43 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Katie, there is a practical reason why people don't flush. They don't want to touch that handle, which is tough to reach when the seat is up, and they don't want to get their sneakers brown and smelly. At least that's why I don't flush. My aim is pretty good though. If the restroom owners were a little smarter, they would have the handles up much higher where people can't spray them. I getting sick just typing this...

      February 21, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      @Joe: take a bit of toilet paper, wrap it around your hand and then flush. Simple solution to your handle phobia. Otherwise you are just part of filth problem. All too often men get excused for not having control over their aim and are not taught to take responsibility for the mess they make. (It's not WOMEN who pee on flush handles!!) Your behavior is no different from women who pee all over the seat because they think it's too dirty to use. YOU people are the reason the bathroom is filthy and YOU people are the ones spreading germs.

      February 22, 2012 at 07:44 | Report abuse |
  10. randoid1234

    Deep breaths in a public bathroom? No thanks.

    February 20, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David B.

      LOL. I was thinking the same thing. No deep breathing in those places. Do the opposite!

      February 20, 2012 at 20:57 | Report abuse |
  11. r

    Oh, shut up. Never heard of those little spray air fresheners? Get one (or two) and carry them with you. You can even use a little spray vial of perfume. Or you can hold it in and go home.

    February 20, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jwrj

    This one time i was in a restroom doing #2 and it stunk so bad that 3 folks came in and left suddenly last one saying "good god are you dying" i replied "im not dying now" and i chuckled that experience was emberassing

    February 20, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      Despite your bad spelling, good for you!!

      February 21, 2012 at 02:24 | Report abuse |
  13. Irene

    Flush the toiler while you're going. The flushing drowns out the sound and flushes away most of the smell.

    February 20, 2012 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ser

      the flushing jsut incites the smell...all the particles of smell are breaking up and penetrating the air and your nostrils...

      February 21, 2012 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  14. saopaco

    What I do not like are the people who insist on talking to others in the restroom. I am in there not to socialize, but to carry out some biological processing. Don't be an Uncle Ted and talk to the people in other stalls!

    February 20, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      I was doing number 2, when I heard, "Hey, what's happening?" I had no idea the person in the next stall was talking on a cell phone, so I said, "Hey?" Doh!

      February 21, 2012 at 02:28 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Processing. That's another way of thinking about it. Just don't package and sell it, okay?

      February 21, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse |
  15. JOHN

    I noticed most(all?) of the discussion about bathroom phobia are from women. Too bad worry and anxiety are very productive, else you'd rule the world.

    February 20, 2012 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. nancy

    Throw some paper in the hopper first, that way it's not noisy when you "go". DUH!

    February 20, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. mike

    women taking a crap smell worst than a men do and women are disgusting and filthy odor OMG!

    February 20, 2012 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • funker

      While I agree to an extent with what you say, I hope that English is not your first language.

      February 21, 2012 at 02:32 | Report abuse |
  18. You got that one wrong

    "No one’s paying attention to you in a public restroom... " After a gastric explosion that rivals a nuclear bomb, I beg to differ.

    February 20, 2012 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      Remember Slim Pickens in 1941, hollering and throwing his shoes in the toilet to make a bigger splash?

      February 21, 2012 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
  19. Bob

    You're only supposed to go #2 in public restrooms in an emergency. Otherwise, do it at home.

    February 20, 2012 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. thatguy

    Does 1 + 2 = 3 ?

    February 20, 2012 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. thatguy

    Where were all you "concerned citizens" when I was wiping my a$$ with leaves in the Vietnam jungle ?

    February 20, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      These thumbsuckers weren't born yet. Are you klidding?

      February 21, 2012 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
  22. Sandy

    Fear of public restrooms causes more problems for everyone, not just the neurotic one. If every woman would do one simple thing (sit DOWN to pee) cleanliness would soar, but fear of the seat and the resulting desire to squat over it ruins it for those who come after you. Likewise those who refuse to touch the handle to flush or use their foot to do the honors. Add to this those who can't read signs about disposal of sanitary waste and don't clean up after their sons' bad aim, and it definitely gets gross for the rest of us. Please remember that you are no better than anyone else on earth and do your part to leave things as if your mother or daughter were next in line to use the facilities.

    February 21, 2012 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • joe

      The other side of the story Sandy, is that the owners of the said public restroom should actually clean them at regular intervals. This way, they will stay cleaner, longer. It's all about motivation.....and a good mop.

      February 21, 2012 at 22:27 | Report abuse |
    • joe

      But not for your father or son?

      February 21, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  23. Steve

    I'm more concerned with hearing and smelling them, then them hearing and smelling me

    February 21, 2012 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Karl

    Wear adult diapers. Then you don't have to humiliate yourself ridding your body of waste products around other people and you can clean up in the privacy of your own bathroom.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      "Wear adult diapers. " That's an incredibly bad idea.

      February 21, 2012 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
    • malacorazon

      soooo walk around with an adult load in your pants? guess you never changed an infants diaper

      February 21, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
  25. Guest

    What a most enlightening article! I'm sure millions of therapists in the U.S. are bracing themselves for an onslought of toilet-phobes heading their way since reading this piece.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      I can see those therapists resignedly scrubbing their toilets already.

      February 21, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
  26. RealGlaird

    Agreed to all of the above about the pig sty that modern members of our society have created in public restrooms. I have 2 solutions, to ease one's anxiety.
    1) Employers and retailers should recognize that they are offending valuable customers by not maintaining restrooms. As a consumer, I refuse to ever return to an establishment that has insulted me, but allowing the restroom to degrade. Period. And I'm vocal about my decision.
    2) On the road, I have given up on gas stations and diners for normal stops. I now use major truck centers almost exclusively. They not only have a cornucopia of consumer products, related to travel; but, they also maintain hotel quality rest facilities. Of course, as civilized members of our society, we are obligated to do our best to leave these facilities in the same state we found them. Plus, I always try to make, even a meager, purchase when I visit such a facility, to offset their costs of maintenance.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      They don't make much on gas. If you like a place, buy a drink or a candybar.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
  27. Spenser Amadeus

    Did anyone notice that the person who asked the question never mentioned public restrooms? He/she said "anywhere but my own bathroom".

    February 21, 2012 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      Maybe she meant third base at Yankee Stadium?

      February 21, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • Fiona

      The sign of a true psychological hangup.

      February 21, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "The sign of a true psychological hangup." I was thinking "bed of neuroses" or a big pair o' noids myself.

      February 21, 2012 at 14:24 | Report abuse |
    • Ronald Dump©

      I go psycho when someone hangs up on me.

      February 21, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
  28. Rob

    I hate it when I am doing number two business in a row of stalls and an SOB picks the stall right next to mine and cozies up next to me while I am doing my business. Sorry, I can't crap when someone is in the next stall. Also, I don't know how many times I have seen dudes go straight from the urinal to the paper towells without washing. I hate public restrooms. Good article.

    February 21, 2012 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Hugh Jass

    I always sing at the top of my lungs while I'm doing my business. "Highway to Hell" usually clears out the room, and then I don't have some nimrod sitting next to me on the phone. "Wassup?" pause "Nothin.' plop "Yeah, me too."

    February 21, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Snopes

    I never use a public stall because of the Tropical Butt Spiders that can attack while you are seated. It's a well-known fact; I read it on the internet.

    February 21, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      That's an urban myth. I looked it up on . . . wait a minute . . .

      February 21, 2012 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • Ronald Dump©

      I was in a stall once and there were a bunch of Tropical Butt Spiders attacking some guy in the next stall. I flushed so I didn't have to hear it.

      February 21, 2012 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
    • Tropical Butt Spiders­®

      Quit slamming our name around. That wasn't us in the stall, we are not a myth, and we are opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers tomorrow night in Miami. Come out and support us!

      February 21, 2012 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
  31. Fiona

    I fear the people who use the facilities and leave without washing their hands. Hand sanitizer....quickL,

    February 21, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ronald Dump©

      You mean The Living Dead? Aim for the head, or you can set them on fire. Good luck.

      February 21, 2012 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
  32. VinoBianco

    yea i don't think this question is about embarassment, I think it's about the filth of public restrooms.

    February 21, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Filth created by the people who use them.

      February 22, 2012 at 07:35 | Report abuse |
  33. VinoBianco

    I consciously avoid situations where I may have to use a porta-potty. Gross.

    February 21, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • joe

      If you dropped your diamond crusted watch in the port-o-potty, would you reach down and pick it up?

      February 21, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      Joe, I've changed diapers. After a while you get used to it. I wouldn't enjoy it, but I wouldn't be too neurotic to pick up my watch.

      February 22, 2012 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
  34. Hugh Jass

    If it's really bad, I'll come back with a jar of Bosco© and pour it all over the seat. Then I complain. It really impresses them.
    "Oh my GOD, what HAPPENED in here?"
    It was like this when I came in.
    "Someone must have really been sick!"
    These bathrooms are always dirty.

    February 21, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick Santorum

      When I become president, Bosco will be illegal, whoever he is.

      February 21, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  35. Daddy B

    No problem dropping a bomb in public bathrooms... I do it at McD's all the time..

    February 21, 2012 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      You mean you throw M80s in the toilet? Like in grade school?

      February 21, 2012 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
  36. Daddy B

    I was in the islands one time and the locker room was semi co-ed. the treatment rooms were in both the men and womens side. Sometimes your massage was in the womens side. I took a big #2 in the girls side, and a lady was in the stall right next door doing the same thing. We met at the sinks when we were finished, no on said a word.. But it wasn't bad.

    February 21, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • joe

      I think most of us on this message board agree on one thing.......thanks for sharing that.

      February 21, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
  37. morph147

    lol i went to school/worked with someone who had this issue. he actually got a doctors note to be excused to drive home and use the bathroom there because it was such a huge problem. i think he wanted an excuse to smoke pot though....

    February 21, 2012 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rick Santorum

    I hate men's rooms. Guys are always coming up to me and putting their hands on my shoulder and winking and saying "Nice sweater vest, Rick." Then they wink some more and start showing me their junk. I always feel strange and leave before I find out what they wanted to show me.

    February 21, 2012 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Jerry

    For those of us with either Ulcerative Colitis

    February 21, 2012 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Cy Cibittler

    Make your morning coffee so strong that it ignites a bowel-clearing reaction in the privacy of your own home. Then, all you need public restrooms for is #1.

    February 21, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      "Morning Thunder" tea is used for that as well.

      February 22, 2012 at 09:00 | Report abuse |
    • ser

      works for me....been doing this since 1998.....yes sirre BOB

      February 22, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse |
    • Levent

      politely make it know that you will refer to them with dignity and crepset always and that you expect the same from them .further point out that you will always be her Father .ideally you all will agree that the little girl has two daddy's

      March 4, 2012 at 05:38 | Report abuse |
  41. Jerry

    For those of us with Uclerative Colitis or Crohn's Disease it is a necessity to use a public restroom and as one of those with Crohn's Disease using a public restroom is something I have had to get used to doing.

    February 21, 2012 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hugh Jass

      Yeah, I know someone who went through that. People don't like it, they can leave. Cobain shot himself to escape the pain.

      February 22, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse |
  42. Deedie

    Sanitation and manner issues asside, I am fearful of two-way mirrors and mini spy cameras!

    February 21, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. tll

    I would NEVER take a deep breath in a public bathroom! omg and lol. Just nasty.

    February 22, 2012 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Paul

    @ FlyGuyInSJ
    Bathrooms have nothing to do with the Occupy Movement. Paul was obviously making a joke, and his joke never mentioned the Occupy Movement. If you were intending to make a joke by linking Pauls joke with the Occupy Wallstreet Movement you did nothing more than create a non sequitur

    February 22, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. AmazonX

    Simple, just flush the toilet as something starts to happen. Worried about the water splashing up? Decorate the top of the water with some TP and that should stop that. Hey, think about this, rather the noise and smell be where it belongs, in the toilet, than say, in the dressing room as you bend over the pick up the dropped hanger. Or in the supermarket aisle as you try and lift that 12-pack of Deer Park.

    February 23, 2012 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply

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