Depression is a type of mental illness that has numerous causes and can affect anyone, although it’s about 50% more common in women. According to the World Health Organization, it’s also more prevalent in those aged 60 and older. You may feel sad, have low energy, or lose interest and joy in the things you used to love. Symptoms vary widely in type and intensity, but depression is a serious concern. Fortunately, it's also treatable and your doctor can recommend therapies, lifestyle changes, and medications to help.
What many women don’t know is that being incontinent has been linked to being depressed. Incontinence affects over 35 million Americans and people with urinary incontinence often feel a loss of control over their life, tend to isolate themselves, and deal with feelings of anger, frustration, and even grief. When you know the physical and psychological impact that incontinence can have on a person, it’s easier to understand how it can be linked to depression.
Women with severe incontinence are 80% more likely to have depression than their continent peers, while women with mild to moderate incontinence symptoms are 40% more likely to be depressed. Learn more about the relationship between the two conditions and what you can do to manage your symptoms and live life on your terms again.
How are Depression and Incontinence Linked?
There are a variety of factors that link depression and urinary incontinence, both physical and emotional.
The Physical Impact
Urinary incontinence can have a significant physical impact on a person. People with incontinence tend to be burdened with keeping up appearances. This includes getting stressed over always keeping a spare change of clothes in your bag, feeling the need to scout out the nearest restrooms when out, and avoiding things that may trigger the condition.
These are all preventative attempts to get ahead of the condition, yet they can contribute to depression and anxiety. You may feel these steps are necessary for you to feel comfortable going out in public, but the added stress and time burden can negatively affect your mental health.
Dealing with the aftermath of incontinence also takes its toll. From changing clothes, laundering sheets, and changing absorbent protection, the never-ending cycle can be wearisome and can contribute to a lower overall sense of well-being.
Mental and Emotional Impacts
There's a great feeling of shame and embarrassment that can come from being incontinent. You may live with the fear of others finding out and go to great lengths to hide your condition from close friends, family, partners, or even doctors.
While it’s important to note that urinary incontinence is a common complaint and nothing to feel ashamed of, many still end up limiting their social interactions, preferring to stay close to home where they don’t have to worry about accidents or leaks. This anxiety can cause relationships to suffer, and may even affect work life.
Over time, these physical and emotional impacts can start affecting you on a deeper level, causing you to isolate yourself from those you love and care about, leading down the path of depression. When it comes to urinary incontinence and depression or anxiety, women who have moderate to severe mental health symptoms are more likely to experience incontinence. The risk of anxiety increases by more than 10%, and the likelihood of developing depression increases by over 15%.
The reason behind this may stem from the neurological and biochemical pathways, specifically the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, that both conditions share. The relationship between the adrenal glands, hypothalamus, and pituitary gland has a central role in the body’s stress response, how anxiety and depression affect brain chemistry, and in bladder control.
How to Manage Both Conditions Simultaneously
The link between depression and urinary incontinence means that you must take action to manage both conditions to see the best results. The first step is to discuss your health concerns with your doctor. Explain all your symptoms so you can work together to find the most helpful treatments to bring relief.
You may find it helpful to keep a journal to track your depression and incontinence symptoms, triggers, and the actions you implement to make positive changes. Keeping a thorough record allows you to look back and see the progress you have made to stay motivated. It’s also an excellent source of information that helps your doctor understand what you experience on a day-to-day basis, allowing them to offer meaningful advice and treatment options.
Prevention and Management of Urinary Incontinence and Depression
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you, or someone you know, suffer from some type of incontinence. It’s important for you to know this condition affects many people and you're not alone.
There are many things you can do to treat incontinence and depression. An easy way to immediately find relief is by sourcing the right absorbent product to help you feel protected and in control.
Other lifestyle changes you might find helpful include increased physical activity, a healthier diet, and plenty of sleep. Taking care of yourself physically does wonders for your mental health and can even lessen the severity of urinary incontinence. Try adding Kegel exercises to your daily routine to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Over time, you should start to notice fewer leaks and greater control over your bladder.
Pay more attention to your own needs and focus on self-care to elevate your mood, reduce your stress, and get more in tune with your own body. Engage in activities that you enjoy. Start a new hobby. Reach out to a friend to share your thoughts and feelings and accept their support. Find something that brings you happiness and redirects your focus away from your worries.
Seek Medical Help
If you feel down much of the time, be sure to talk to your doctor about ways you can treat depression and urinary incontinence. Your doctor will be able to get you started on a treatment that can help you turn things around. Make sure you communicate openly and honestly. There's no need to be nervous. Healthcare providers have likely heard from and treated many like you. You won’t be the first, and you definitely won’t be the last.
Remember to stay honest with your doctor about the effectiveness of any treatments you try. This is another good reason to continue keeping a daily journal to track your symptoms and progress. If you don’t find adequate relief with the first recommendation, speak up. Attend all follow-up appointments so your medical providers can support you and adjust their advice based on your changing needs.
Learning more about the many ways to treat your incontinence, such as physical therapy, medication, in-office procedures, and even surgery, can empower you to seek help. The National Association for Continence has an extensive amount of information, tools, and support to help you navigate your condition.
Therapy and Counseling
If you have incontinence but attempt to keep it a secret, you could start to feel like an outsider. You may feel like you have no one to talk to, which can lead to loneliness. If this sounds familiar, try logging on to the free message boards at the National Association for Continence. It’s a great community of people who are all suffering from similar problems. Sharing your thoughts, your experiences, and listening to others who are in similar situations can do wonders for your mental health. You may even learn some new tips or tricks for managing your condition.
Seeking out a professional therapist or counselor is another great way to bring relief to your life. Talking things over with a therapist is an excellent strategy to help you to understand the impact it's having on your mental health, and they will be able to suggest ways in which you can manage the stress and anxiety of incontinence. A therapist or counselor is also a great anonymous resource if you feel uneasy about sharing your worries with friends or family.
The Bottom Line
It’s no surprise depression and urinary incontinence are linked. The stress alone that each condition causes can increase the risk of developing the other. This, combined with the shared neurological pathways of both conditions, means that you need to address both to get effective results.
The good news is that you don’t have to learn to live with the physical and emotional discomfort or the negative lifestyle impact that urinary incontinence and depression often cause. There's help available that can provide real relief. Talk to your doctor to get access to the treatment you need to manage your symptoms or even eliminate them entirely and get back to living your life the way you want.
Part of managing the physical and emotional impact of urinary incontinence is through products like bladder pads and protective underwear. Nexwear offers a range of products, available in various sizes, styles, and absorbances to give you comfortable and discreet protection. Shop Nexwear today to discover your favorites and have them delivered right to your door for even greater convenience.