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Why This Type of OCD Might Be One Reason I Need to Pee Every Half Hour

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. To find help, visit the International OCD Foundation’s website.

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Today, on oversharing with Morgan: urination.

I have had what I deemed “bladder issues” for going on three years now. I have to pee far more frequently than the average person. I wake up once or twice during the night to pee almost every night. During the day, I sometimes have to go every half hour. Other times, I’m able to go a record-breaking two whole hours. Impressive, I know.

Yes, I mentioned it to my primary doctor. I discussed it with my OB-GYN. I even saw not one, but two different urologists about it. Whenever I bring up my concerns to a new practitioner, they all initially think I have a UTI. I have legitimately been tested for a UTI probably 10 times in the past few years. Initial results show signs of a UTI: trace blood, white blood cells and bacteria. And then they do a culture, and I don’t have a UTI. Every single time. We’ve tried medications for an overactive bladder that didn’t seem to help. I had an ultrasound of my kidneys and bladder. Nothing made sense.

A few months ago, after growing increasingly frustrated with not finding physical answers, I did start to wonder if this wasn’t something physical. I already knew of sensorimotor obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) because of my heavy involvement in the OCD community. In this subtype, the OCD focuses on bodily sensations such as breathing, heart rate or swallowing to the point that it’s hard to think of anything else. But could this really be OCD? The physical sensations and urges feel so real, and so many doctors thought I had UTIs.

Last night, I had an epiphany. Maybe it doesn’t have to be “either/or.” Maybe, it can be “and.”

I think, yes; I get signals from my bladder that it needs to be emptied more often than the average person. I do have trace amounts of blood in my urine, though that isn’t always a medical concern. And yes, the physical sensations do feel very real. But I think my inability to sit with those sensations might be OCD.

I’ve noticed I am hyperaware of these urges to urinate in a sensorimotor OCD way. For me, it isn’t a fear that I will have an accident and wet myself; it’s more a fear that I will be distracted. For example, if I’m somewhere with a friend (back when we were allowed to go places), about to perform in a show or just reading a good book, I don’t want to be distracted or interrupted by feeling the need to pee. Before beginning an activity, it’s suddenly all I can think about. So, I do a compulsion: I empty my bladder, often more than once. I’m trying to erase the uncertainty that I will feel the urge again anytime soon. That response to these signals sounds like OCD to me.

At the end of the day, OCD can be weird and creative and just plain annoying. The same goes for bladders. Also, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is how I will primarily tackle this moving forward. It’s OK to go to a doctor if you have a reasonable physical concern, and that’s what I did. Asking those initial questions wasn’t OCD. But my doctors didn’t find anything wrong, and there’s not much else to try physically, though there may still be an underlying physical issue. I’m not saying this is 100% OCD and 0% physical or “legitimate” (in quotations because OCD is still legitimate). I’m just saying, sometimes it can be a mixture of both.


Getty Images photo via LuckyBusiness

Originally published: May 9, 2020
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