Not Using the Bathroom

My 15 year old refuses to go to the bathroom or drink liquids of any kind. She says she hates going to the bathroom and we do not understand this behavior. She was treated for a UTI several months ago and has not wanted to urinate since. She holds it to the point of urinating in her pants. How do we get her help?

Ben's Answer:

This is a sign of a potentially serious problem that needs to be addressed without delay. Anytime someone is refusing food or fluids -- especially fluids - this is a critical situation. If she is really not drinking at all, this needs immediate attention. In that case, if there is an adolescent psychiatric unit in your area, I would call them to consult about the situation and see if they will admit her there. They have the ability to monitor her condition, ensure that she is getting food and fluids, and address whatever psychological or psychiatric issues might be causing her to behave this way.

Possibilities could be that she is either acting out in an extreme way in order to gain control, in much the way an anorexic person refuses to eat; or it could be that she is experiencing a psychotic episode, in which she has lost touch with reality and has some real fear or paranoia about drinking or urinating.

If this all relates to Urinary Tract Infection she had a few months ago, then it is likely that somehow that experience triggered something traumatic that has caused her to fear urinating. A good therapist would be the place to start to try to address whatever trauma she experienced in relation this this.

I would recommend an experienced child/adolescent psychotherapist in your area who can assess the level of urgency, evaluate her mental state, and either handle it themselves or refer her to a hospital where she can get the care she needs. If you see this behavior continuing, please don't wait to do this!

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

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