Teenagers are often reluctant to seek advice, as they simply do not want to reveal their problem to the world. Evidence has even shown that the majority of teenagers would rather suffer in silence than talk to a Urologist and find a solution.
A study of healthy adolescents indicated that 3 percent of 15 to 16 year olds experience regular daytime wetting. Teenagers often fail to go to events such as summer camps, holidays and school trips in fear of others discovering their condition. Unfortunately, there is a social stigma and taboo around incontinence that makes it difficult to talk about. But just how greatly can incontinence affect the social life of a teenager?
Being a teenager can be hard enough, bringing with it a range of challenges and milestones. The addition of faecal or urinary incontinence can have a huge psychological impact on confidence or self-esteem, making growing up much harder. It is common for people to believe that incontinence only impacts seniors, so young people can become confused and ashamed when they experience leakage. Studies and personal stories of incontinence have shown that many incontinent teenagers restrain from getting into an intimate relationship. Dan Colgate has suffered with faecal incontinence throughout his entire life. He mentions how his teenage years were particularly hard, with the pressures of managing school life, a social life and a good image to portray to others. He remembers how he would cope by hiding the issue. Intimate relationships were something he felt he couldn’t do. Dan asserts, “with so much of my energy being poured into hiding what was happening in my underwear even the most remote prospect of having someone go near one day was tarrying!”
Another huge issue that incontinent teenagers face is poor self-image. In one study, 50 percent of young women with incontinence said they felt “odd” and “different” from other people their own age. Incontinence can cause young people to feel weird or out of place. As expert Chris Dawson states, “you may worry that you smell or your clothes are stained or that people will notice a wet patch on your seat.” Rather than being able to reflect their true selves through wearing what they want to wear, incontinent teens often stick to wearing black, baggy clothes. Although there are products available which you can wear with anything, teens are often unaware of this. Wearing light colours can often make teens feel self-conscious and unable to relax. The impact of self-image on quality of life has been investigated in several studies of health-related behaviours. Studies have shown that poor self-image in itself can cause a lack of willingness to socialise.
Pressures of doing well in school and maintaining a personal life can be barriers to sharing the problem with peers. Ultimately, loyal friends should not be judgmental about incontinence, and it is highly likely your peers and family will be supportive. As incontinence sufferer Dan Colgate explains, “I was a teenage boy who had learned to derive a great sense of personal satisfaction and self-image from doing well and never letting my problem hold me back. However, every time I saw a new couple together at school or a friend fall into a new relationship I felt lonely. I was faced with this mismatch between my successful self-image and the reality in front of me”. Researchers and academics at the University of Bristol explored the impact of secondary school environment on young people with incontinence. The study found that it was rare for teens to talk about continence at school to friends and teachers due to fears of being stigmatised, bullied or teased. Not sharing the problem with others can lead to severe isolation, which has a huge negative impact on social life. Ultimately, incontinence can cause teenagers to isolate themselves, which is often the primary cause of a poor social life. Read how we can erase the taboo of incontinence.
Don’t Let Incontinence Stop You
Although living with incontinence can be hard, isolation can worsen your situation. This can affect your quality of life much more severely and make the psychological impact of incontinence much worse. Feel free to read our living with incontinence section for day to day tips and advice.
Here are our 3 key tips for living life to the full with teenage incontinence:
Know Your Surroundings
If you are going to a friend’s party or gathering, it is useful to spend some time memorising your surroundings and where the bathroom is. Find out how you can dispose incontinence products at a party. Similarly, if you go to the cinemas or theatre, look for where the toilet is so you know exactly where to go if you need to.
Are you going to a sleepover or a camping trip? Read our guide to Nocturnal Enuresis for tips on managing incontinence at night.
Share it With Others if You Can
Sharing your incontinence problem with someone you trust can decrease the risk for isolation and unhappiness. It can help to prepare yourself first and practice what you will say in your head. Confidence can prevent people from not taking you seriously or making jokes, so remember that incontinence is not your fault. If you haven’t already spoken to a Doctor, it is vital to let them know. This can rule out any underlying issues.
Choose Discreet Protection
Finding the right product can help you feel at ease at social events so you aren’t worrying about people noticing your product. Choosing incontinence products can depend highly on your mobility, however some incontinence products do provide more discretion than others.
For moderate to heavy incontinence, pull up pants are an effective option, as they are elasticated and feel just like normal underwear. These are likely to feel much more comfortable and discreet than all in ones. If your incontinence is heavy to severe or you have no bowel/bladder control however, all in ones can often be necessary.
Shaped pads are a discreet option for light incontinence, as they are anatomically shaped and are small and light. Shaped pads are comfortable and are designed to be worn inside your normal underwear. If you require more security, you can wear shaped pads with fixation pants.
Are you unsure of what your product options are? View our full range of incontinence products here.