Are UTIs or other bladder health issues affecting your mental health?
Every year, World Mental Health Day encourages efforts to raise awareness about mental health issues, and this year Mind are campaigning for people to #DoOneThing to tend to their mental health.
In support of this campaign, we would like to encourage people who suffer with UTIs or other bladder health problems to look after their own wellbeing, using Mind’s #DoOneThing ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ plan.
It is estimated that 3 in 4 women experience some type of urinary symptom (e.g. continence issues, overactive bladder). We know that managing bladder health issues can be extremely challenging. If you suffer with UTIs or another bladder / urological issue, then you are not alone. Patients worldwide have shared their experiences in various research studies -here are some challenges which are very common:
- UTI patients often feel that they do not receive enough information about the condition, worry about the implications of antibiotic use, and are also concerned about what is really happening in their body when UTIs keep coming back. 1
- 58% of overactive bladder patients, and around 80% of women with recurrent UTIs, report having moderately to severely impacted daily life and sex life. 2,3
- Frequent doctor visits and ongoing treatment attempts can cause financial worries. 4
- 70% of recurrent UTI patients experience symptoms of depression. 5
- Fear and frustration are felt by women experiencing recurrent UTIs with regards to excessive antibiotic use and not having an effective treatment plan from medical professionals. 6
- UTI patients feel that their relationships with friends, family and partners are put under strain due to their UTIs. 7
On top of this, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this an even more challenging and isolating situation, so it is even more crucial for people living with ongoing health issues to take a moment for their own wellbeing. It is important that you don’t feel overwhelmed, and can be there for yourself so that you can also be there for your nearest and dearest, even if you just #DoOneThing.
Sometimes the smallest of actions can make a surprisingly big difference.
We’ve put together some ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ ideas which are relevant to bladder health patients to help you look after yourself:
1. Do something different today and make a connection
Unfortunately there is a high prevalence of urological conditions in the general population, but this means that there are also a large number of support groups out there. These groups exist not only for people to share their personal experiences and struggles, but also to share practical support for more effective illness management. For example:
- Facebook support groups for UTI / bladder health. (16) Embedded/Chronic UTI Support Group | Facebook
- Bladder Chatter - for learning more about overactive bladder and connecting with others.
- If you have UTIs which are coming back recurrently, or suspect that you might have chronic UTI, Chronic UTI Info has a very useful list of support groups for patients.
2. This week, why not get active?
Depending on the kind of urinary symptoms you experience, the idea of getting active might be daunting, but getting active is one of the best ways to give your physical and mental health some TLC, and tending to your general health can in turn improve your bladder health.
If you struggle with continence issues in particular, pelvic floor exercises can help you to strengthen your pelvic muscles, which can in turn make exercising more comfortable.
Check out this NHS guidance for pelvic floor exercises.
Some urological conditions such as Interstitial Cystitis (IC) may also involve incontinence issues, as well as other symptoms, such as pelvic pain and strong urges to pee. These symptoms can similarly make physical activity more difficult. The Interstitial Cystitis Association recommends gentle, low impact activity such as walking, yoga, and low impact aerobic / strengthening exercises for patients.
Most importantly - start slowly, and listen to your body.
3. Take notice and be in the present
Yoga and meditation in particular can have health benefits for urological issues.
Research has shown that mindfulness can be really beneficial for people experiencing urinary symptoms including strong urges to pee and incontinence. A study run with IC patients even found that mindfulness practice could change the bacterial diversity of the urinary microbiome, meaning a healthier bladder environment!
Check out this article: Mind Over Bladder, which describes a study on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with yoga for urinary urge incontinence.
4. Focus on learning
Finding the right information about a condition, allowing you to manage your health in a way that best suits you, is also important for your wellbeing.
Focusing on UTI in particular, Live UTI Free (LUF) is an organisation which works to educate patients on the most up-to-date and accurate information, and is a great place to start learning about UTI if this condition affects you.
And our blog post for Urology Awareness Month breaks down some common urological conditions.
The last of Mind’s ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ is Give.
Many people have been on long, complex journeys with their urological health. If you are someone who has been managing UTIs and/or other issues for some time, you might want to consider where you can share your story. It is helpful for other people to know they are not alone, but also to learn about what a condition is, to hear about others' experiences with treatment strategies, as well as experiences communicating with medical professionals, etc.
There may be opportunities to help others within support groups, or through an organisation like Live UTI Free, who are always keen to expand their community and hear people’s stories.
Additionally, a really important way to help this patient population is through participating in research. Organisations like LUF are sometimes involved in, or aware of, ongoing research efforts to improve our understanding of bladder health issues and the treatment options available. By keeping an eye on their activities, e.g. signing up to mailing lists etc, it may be possible to get involved in exciting new research aiming to completely change the healthcare available for potentially debilitating bladder health problems.
1 Pat JJ, vd Aart T, Steffens MG, Witte LP, Blanker MH. Assessment and treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: development of a questionnaire based on a qualitative study of patient expectations in secondary care. BMC urology. 2020 Dec;20(1):1-6.
2 Yoo ES, Kim BS, Kim DY, Oh SJ, Kim JC. The impact of overactive bladder on health-related quality of life, sexual life and psychological health in Korea. International neurourology journal. 2011 Sep;15(3):143.
3 Boeri L, Capogrosso P, Ventimiglia E, Scano R, Graziottin A, Dehò F, Montanari E, Montorsi F, Salonia A. Six Out of Ten Women with Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Complain of Distressful Sexual Dysfunction–A Case-Control Study. Scientific reports. 2017 Mar 15;7(1):1-8.
4 Ciani O, Grassi D, Tarricone R. An economic perspective on urinary tract infection: the “costs of resignation”. Clinical drug investigation. 2013 Apr 1;33(4):255-61.
5 Renard J, Ballarini S, Mascarenhas T, Zahran M, Quimper E, Choucair J, Iselin CE. Recurrent lower urinary tract infections have a detrimental effect on patient quality of life: a prospective, observational study. Infectious diseases and therapy. 2015 Mar 1;4(1):125-35.
6 Scott VC, Thum LW, Sadun T, Markowitz M, Maliski SL, Ackerman AL, Anger JT, Kim JH. Fear and Frustration among Women with Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: Findings from Patient Focus Groups. The Journal of urology. 2021 Sep;206(3):688-95.
7 Maxwell, K., Roberts, L., Kramer, M., & Finlay, K. (2021). Using the Working Model of Adjustment to Chronic Illness to explain the burden of recurrent urinary tract infection: A survey-based study. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 29(Supplement_1), i5-i6.