Physical Side Effects of Anxiety Can Include Urinary Retention

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDSeptember 29th, 2021

Physical Side Effects of Anxiety Can Include Urinary Retention

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. When it becomes overwhelming and gets worse over time, however, it can manifest into an anxiety disorder. People with anxiety disorders can experience a range of symptoms and side effects, even physical ones. More frequent symptoms include a pounding or rapid heartbeat, unexplained aches and pains, dizziness, and shortness of breath, but anxiety can also cause less common side effects like urinary retention.

What Is Urinary Retention?

Urinary retention is the inability to completely empty the bladder when urinating. This condition can either be acute, meaning that it onsets quickly or chronic, meaning that you’ve had the condition for a longer period of time. Symptoms of urinary retention can vary, but they often include:

  • A poor or weak stream when urinating

  • An intermittent flow when urinating

  • Straining to urinate

  • Feeling like you still have urine in your bladder even after you’ve urinated

  • Needing to get up frequently at night to urinate

  • Inability to urinate

  • Lower abdominal pain

  • Loss of bladder control

There are several different causes of urinary retention, including anxiety.

How Anxiety Can Affect the Bladder

Research has shown there is a strong correlation between anxiety and the bladder, although the exact link is not entirely clear. The most likely explanation is your flight-or-fight response. When activated, your flight-or-fight response triggers your heart, muscles, lungs—everything you need to either fight or flee. While your brain is focusing on these vital organs, it’s less focused on functions such as bladder control. For some people, this means feeling the urge to urinate but for others, it can mean having difficulty urinating. 

Drug Side Effects

Urinary retention may also occur in someone with anxiety, not because of the disorder itself, but due to the medication, they take for it. Some drugs, such as tricyclic antidepressants, have been known to produce side effects such as urinary retention.

Treatment of Urinary Retention

Treating urinary retention will depend on whether the condition is acute or chronic. For the acute form, a catheter is put into the urethra to drain the bladder. Treatment of the chronic form of urinary retention will depend on the specific cause. This can include changes in medication, physical therapy, or certain procedures. 

DispatchHealth Helps People With Anxiety

Anxiety can present numerous symptoms in addition to, or aside from, urinary retention. Know that you’re not alone in dealing with your anxiety—you can turn to DispatchHealth. We provide in-home healthcare, bringing a team of highly trained and experienced professionals right to your door. This can be an especially helpful option for people with anxiety, as they may already feel overwhelmed dealing with their symptoms and don’t want the extra burden of leaving the house for treatment. 

[availability_widget] It’s incredibly easy to make an appointment with DispatchHealth. We can be reached through our website, our mobile app, or by phone. Within a few hours, a Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner and a DispatchHealth Medical Technician will arrive at your home, and an ER physician will be available by phone. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

For life-threatening and time-sensitive injuries and illnesses, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. DispatchHealth shouldn’t be used in a life-threatening emergency and doesn’t replace a primary care provider.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 





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