Is It Bad to Hold in Poop?

While holding it in one time isn’t necessarily going to immediately make you constipated, the longer you hold off on going, the longer that stool will be absorbing water—so try to get yourself to a bathroom ASAP to prevent your next poop from being an uncomfortable one.

Doing this once or twice is probably not going to do any real damage to your digestive system, according to Dr. Nazareth. But if you find yourself holding in your poop often, “You’re training your body not to release when an urge comes” she says. Over time, that might also lead to chronic constipation. (Wouldn’t you rather just…go to the bathroom when you have to?)

The hard poop that might come from delaying your bathroom trip can lead to hemorrhoids too.

Hemorrhoids are a super-common complication that can come from straining to poop, which you’re more likely to do if you’re constipated. That means that frequently withholding your poop—and upping your risk of becoming blocked up as a result—can, in turn, increase your chances of developing these swollen veins in the anus and rectum, Dr. Nazareth says.

The reason: Hard, dry stool can be hard to pass, and straining to poop (as you might if delaying the inevitable makes you feel constipated) can also trigger hemorrhoids. In addition to going when you need to, making sure to eat plenty of fiber (in the form of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and legumes, for example) and drinking plenty of water can help prevent hemorrhoids from forming or getting worse.

More serious complications are possible if you put off pooping for way too long or as a regular thing.

Again, don’t panic: Holding in your poop occasionally is not going to cause real long-term harm, and we all do it sometimes. But it’s important not to make this a habit, experts say, because it is possible to experience other complications if you’re regularly avoiding the bathroom when you need to go.

Chronic constipation and straining can cause weakened muscles, potentially leading to rectal prolapse, when part of the large intestine slips out through the anus. Like hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse can look or feel like a lump coming out of your anus; but unlike hemorrhoids, it can be harder to treat at home and might require surgery. Over time, without treatment, rectal prolapse may also cause incontinence.

When to talk to your doctor about poop issues

If you’ve held in your poop and are now feeling constipated a lot or you’ve developed hemorrhoids, reach out to a doctor. They might recommend in-office treatment for hemorrhoids or prescription medication for constipation if the standard over-the-counter stool softeners and fiber supplements aren’t helping. (And generally speaking, when it comes to poop issues: It’s especially important to make an appointment with a doc if you notice any red-flag symptoms of potentially more serious digestive issues, such as blood in your stool, significant and otherwise unexplained weight loss, or persistent abdominal pain.)

If you’re having a health issue because of your poop nerves, though, it’s also time to talk to a mental health care provider about what to do next. Sure—even though pooping is a normal bodily function, lots of people are embarrassed about doing it in public (or even just not 100% private) bathrooms. But while it’s very common to feel shy about pooping in certain places from time to time, let a mental health care provider know if your anxiety about going in public is more severe (again, especially if it’s leading to other issues). Though it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), parcopresis (or shy bowel) is a term for extreme psychological distress about pooping in a public setting. If parcopresis interferes with your life in any way, treatments like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy that focuses on helping people understand their thoughts and emotions, might help. A therapist might encourage you to discuss your concerns about pooping in public to help you understand why it makes you feel so anxious, as well as come up with coping strategies.

The bottom line? “Listen to your body. Go when you need to,” Dr. Nazareth says. And next time you feel the urge in a less-than-ideal environment, see if you’re able to build up the courage to go anyway—you might be surprised by just how freeing (and less crampy) it feels.


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