Why do I urgently need to pee, only when I approach my home?
August 5, 2013 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Why do I urgently need to pee when I approach my home but not at any other times, and how can I stop?

I sometimes find that as I'm walking up the stairs to my apartment and fumbling with my keys, I suddenly, urgently need to urinate where I didn't before. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with how much or what I've consumed, how long I've been out, etc. It seems more like a part of my mind perceives it as now "safe" to relax my bladder because I'm home, compelling me to dash for the bathroom and occasionally not quite make it. Is there something I can do to change this?

I'm 48, male, healthy other than being overweight and having well-controlled hypertension. I've had recent prostate exams and diabetes screening and all is well there. I know about and practice Kegel exercises. I do not experience urinary problems other than as described above. I will be chatting with my doctor about this, but in the meantime would welcome advice or anecdata on the cognitive aspects of this. YANAD, YANMD, TINMA.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've experienced this for years, and the phenomenon was particularly pronounced in my old apartment. I would be walking home perfectly unaware of any urge to urinate, and it would hit me opening the front door of the building. By the time I'd get upstairs and open my apartment door it would have become as bad a need to pee could conceivably be.

It's never even occurred to me to consult anyone about it. I've always considered it a kind of pavlovian response to arriving home. I usually pee once I get home, and eventually the connection is reinforced to the point that arriving home triggers the urge to urinate. An urge which seems very tied to the mind, given how much control you have over it (deciding when and when not to pee over the course of your day). Moving house disrupted the phenomenon instantly (it was that door, that set of keys rattling), although it still happens occasionally to a lesser degree.

I wouldn't worry about it. I mean, I don't worry about it.

I am 30, not overweight, nothing notable otherwise.
posted by distorte at 7:16 AM on August 5, 2013

Shoot, if you figure out how to stop, let me know man. I always, ALWAYS get an overwhelming urge to poop when I am in a library with my arms full of books. So then I have to find a study carrel and put down the books and hope no one reshelves them in my absence and then find the bathroom . . . it's a huge pain.

I think the reasoning is the exact opposite. In my case I think it is some psychological reaction that makes my brain go "Wait! She's right in the middle of something it would be difficult to stop! Oh man! Don't have to poop, don't have to poop . . ." which is like not thinking about a pink elephant, you know? So there you are fumbling for your keys, and your brain goes, "Oh NO!!! It's taking too long to get into the house! What if I have to pee suddenly! Oh god, don't think about peeing . . ."
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:32 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would try to make a habit of hitting the restroom sometime before you head home. That may trigger your brain into thinking that you're "safe" and don't have to go so urgently when you arrive home. Even if you don't feel the need to urinate, it may be something that you can train yourself to feel.
posted by xingcat at 7:32 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yep. Same here. It's all a habit, basic Pavlovian conditioning. As xingcat says, the best way to fight your conditioning is to replace it with other conditioning -- train your system to pee at other times, and fight the urge when it hits you on the stairs. When you get home, don't pee, no matter how much your brain is saying you need to. Make it so you don't get that reward right after you climb the stairs, so your brain is less trained to think, "Walking up stairs: Time to prepare the floodgates."
posted by Etrigan at 7:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hey there! It isn't just you. When, oh when, can we have keyless entry on our dwellings like on our cars? Mine comes and goes (and happens to me a lot less now) but you might want to look up 'latchkey incontinence' or grow a hedge ;)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:48 AM on August 5, 2013

I have this too! I think it's because by the time I get to my front door or even my driveway I've finally fully relaxed from my day at work or whatever it is that has been occupying my mind the whole day and in that moment my bladder decides YES MY TURN.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2013

Like xingcat's suggestion, I have to pee before I head home. I still get the feeling, but unless I've been on the road for a very long time I'm mostly physically unable to piss myself trying to get the door unlocked.

I've always assumed it was some kind of mystical curse, which includes having one dog who is especially fond of jumping up and punching me in the bladder when I walk in the door.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2013

And here I thought I was all alone!
I've been practicing the steps Etrigan outlined for about 6 months and have noticed a great deal of improvement.
posted by Floydd at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2013

compelling me to dash for the bathroom and occasionally not quite make it.

A pavolvian urge to pee when getting home may be normal, but this sounds like urinary incontinence on top of that. Etrigan's counterconditioning isn't really going to help until you get that part of the problem under control.
posted by muddgirl at 8:21 AM on August 5, 2013

I have this, too -- and one thing actually works: for the long, long dash to the bathroom, I visualize being at work. I earnestly picture the hallways at work, and my coworkers there, like I'm on my way to the bathroom at work, and that confuses my brain/bladder just long enough to make it to the bathroom. It is very frustrating that, when you know something is merely psychosomatic, you can't just snap out of it -- but there it is.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:58 AM on August 5, 2013

This thread has brought on one of those "OMG I'm not the only one!" moments.

I get this all the time and figured it was some sort of habit response thing. I work at home so I don't only get it returning home. If I'm working at my desk and get up, doesn't matter if I felt I had to go before my bladder is all "Yipee break time." Super annoying.
posted by Jalliah at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2013

If it's helpful, you should know this is so common it has a name: key-in-door urgency.
posted by Ausamor at 9:19 AM on August 5, 2013

Could it be a pavlovian thing?

In college, I often used this one particular computer lab. Due to my routine or the schedule of my day or whatnot, It happened that three or four times in a row, I had to go to the bathroom almost as soon as I arrived and settled in at a work station.

After three or four times of it occurring naturally, going to that computer lab began to trigger the need to go to the bathroom. After a while, if I wanted to make myself go, I could just go down to the computer lab for a minute, and it would happen like clockwork. If I had a lot of work to do and couldn't take a bathroom break, I had to make sure not to use that lab.

Going just before you leave work could help the "not quite making it" factor. I mean, there couldn't be that much pee in you, and it doesn't seem like you're otherwise incontinent.
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2013

What a relief to read this. :-)

I mostly get to the building door, then need to pee, but have to take the lift up 6 floors first. I distract myself by reading the apartment rules (in German, so much concentration is required) while waiting for the lift, then translating the lift regulations on the way up, or trying to work out what 1000kg divided by 13 people (the lift's weight limit) would be exactly. That helps me get in the door.

Maybe while you're training, carry something similar with you that requires some concentration, to distract your reptile brain from it's current urgency.
posted by tracicle at 9:56 AM on August 5, 2013

Distraction is the thing, for sure!
In high school this was a big problem for me. The sight of my house [on the other side of a major road that needed to be carefully jaywalked across] was the trigger and I would often need to pee before I made it the 200[?] meters home. There were bushes and trees and fences so I had options.

If a friend walked home with me it would often be after dinner before I had to pee, and it wasn't urgent at all. Once I noticed that, I tried various singing/whistling/remembering/walking funny ideas that were okay at distracting me. I can't say what worked better but I do remember a winter of only one set of footprints in the dividing median of the road that I jumped in precisely -- so maybe walking funny was a winner.
posted by Acari at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2013

Oh, God. I am diabetic, and sometimes have issues with just plain more frequent urination needs than average -- but I have this house used only for storage, with no working plumbing, and whenever I go over there I get the urge to pee almost immediately. It drives me crazy. Has to be psychological. Note: I've never lived there at all, just have tons of old boxes of stuff in it. I would like to spend more time getting rid of some of it, but I keep having to cut my time over there short because right now.
posted by dhartung at 7:17 PM on August 5, 2013

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