Don’t let incontinence get you down: How to look after your mental health Don’t let incontinence get you down: How to look after your mental health

Incontinence doesn’t just affect your physical health – it also can harm your emotional health. However, it’s important to remember thousands of South Africans are managing this problem and you too can go on living a happy, fulfilled life even if you're living with incontinence.

How does mental health affect incontinence?

Suffering from mental illness can increase symptoms of incontinence for a few reasons, including confused thinking which interferes with the ability to get to the toilet, being less aware of needing to go to the toilet and lifestyle factors, such as poor diet or poor physical health.

As a result, you should speak with your doctor about treating your mental illness. As a carer, you can encourage patients to have a healthier diet with plenty of fresh food and vegetables, as well as getting them to engage in more regular exercise.

Some people with long-term mental illnesses also have addictions to coffee or smoking, which exacerbate incontinence issues. You should take steps to reduce your consumption of these products where possible. If you’re having six cups of coffee a day, for example, try five and work your way down from there.

How do I manage my mental health with incontinence?

Feelings of embarrassment, social rejection and alienation are completely normal for incontinence sufferers but these can be easily overcome once you start taking control of the condition. Here are a few steps to manage your mental health at the same time you treat the physical symptoms:

  • If incontinence is bothering you and affecting the way you feel about yourself, talk to someone. Speak to your doctor, your carer or someone in your support network. Remaining silent or avoiding the issue will only worsen your negative emotions. If you’re a carer, help your relative or friend confront his or her feelings and get into a comfort zone with talking about their incontinence.
  • Ask your doctor about medication options. If your mental health symptoms are really affecting you, you might need medication to help treat the stress incontinence as well as depression.
  • Start exercising to elevate your mood and tackle your incontinence problem at the same time. Exercises, which will help both your mental and physical symptoms, include yoga, Pilates and pelvic floor exercises.
  • You can also use incontinence products, which can help eliminate the embarrassment of an incontinence-related accident, boosting your confidence and helping you be more social.

Treating incontinence is a balance between physical remedies and keeping your spirits high. Make sure you spend time with the people you love and don't be embarrassed or withdrawn due to incontinence. Remember, while it can be inconvenient, incontinence can be easily managed and shouldn’t be a barrier to your overall happiness. Further reading:

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