Being a functioning person can seem so hard sometimes. Between work and family and day-to-day life, it can get overwhelming. Add mental illness like depression or anxiety to the mix and life can go from overwhelming to unbearable. Luckily, modern medicine, advancements in mental health science, and changing views surrounding therapy have allowed plenty of people to get help and live full, happy lives. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what can trigger a depressive episode or panic attack, especially during transitional periods in our lives when there is a lot of change both physically and mentally. A fairly common problem that millions of people face as they age, that can certainly exacerbate underlying or preexisting mental health issues, is light bladder leaks associated with Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI.
What are Light Bladder Leaks?
There are technically several kinds of urinary incontinence, but one of the most common forms is Stress Urinary Incontinence. SUI leaks occur whenever you bend over, lift something, sneeze, cough, laugh, or run down the stairs (basically, any motion or action that places pressure or “stress” on the urinary tract or bladder). Stress incontinence can be caused by two things: urethral hypermobility, in which the urethra shifts position due to increased abdominal pressure, and/or intrinsic sphincteric deficiency (ISD) when your sphincter doesn’t seal off effectively at your bladder. Urinary health experts have determined that most women that have SUI are usually suffering from a little bit of both of these forms. While all genders and people of all ages can develop SUI, it is more commonly seen in women and older adults. There can be varying causes and risk factors for developing light bladder leaks as a result of stress incontinence, a majority of which have to do with the weakening of the pelvic floor and/or damage to the nerves in the pelvic floor. Some common risk factors for developing SUI include:
- Surgical procedures that involve the pelvic floor (hysterectomy, prostatectomy, etc.)
- Nerve damage (diabetes, stroke, spinal injury, etc.)
- Chronic coughing
- Perimenopausal and post-menopausal women
- Repeated high-impact activities over time (i.e., marathon runners, dancers, jockeys, etc.)
While light bladder leaks are probably more common than you think, they’re still embarrassing and difficult to deal with.
LBL & Mental Health
For those who have experienced leaks, it’s no secret they can take a toll on self-esteem and overall mental health, especially if you’ve been previously diagnosed with a mental health problem like anxiety or depression. The Mayo Clinic briefly explains at what these terms mean:
Depression – Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
Anxiety – (More specifically, anxiety disorders, which are different than a general feeling of anxiousness.) People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder.
Obviously, living with these kinds of mental illnesses can make day-to-day life more difficult, but compounding these kinds of issues with light bladder leaks can have an even bigger impact. Those suffering from light bladder leaks tend to isolate themselves and avoid social interaction, which can worsen mental health complications. In addition, depression and anxiety can lead to lowered self-esteem, which many may already be suffering from as a result of accidental leaks. To cope, some people turn to vices like cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, which can further exacerbate not only mental health issues but urinary health, as well. So while the connection between urinary health and mental health may not be obvious, it certainly exists.
While SUI is common, those with preexisting mental health problems may find it more difficult to cope and live a normal life, compared to their mentally healthy counterparts. If this sounds like you or someone you know, there are plenty of solutions for both mental and urinary health that can significantly improve your quality of life. Always talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing so that they can properly diagnose you and find the right treatment plan. This goes for mental health symptoms, too! Some common solutions for light bladder leaks include:
Pads & Liners – similar to menstrual pads, but are designed to absorb urine. Pads and liners can be worn for up to 4 hours, or until they are soiled and need to be changed.
Kegels – these are exercises meant to target and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Hormonal Treatments – women that are experiencing bladder leaks as a side-effect of menopause may be prescribed a topical hormone (estrogen) to reline the urethra.
Revive® – designed specifically for women, this reusable bladder support device is inserted into the vaginal tract to support the bladder and reduce leaks for up to 12 hours a day. The device is one size, comfortable, safe, and FDA-cleared for over-the-counter sale at retailers nationwide