It’s past your bedtime and you find yourself tossing & turning in the bed thinking about the way your bladder has been acting up for the past few days.
You remember a conversation with a friend about mental health that left you thinking about what you must be doing right, or wrong, and you immediately google things like ‘can anxiety cause uti like symptoms’, ‘can stress mimic uti symptoms’, ‘anxiety and uti symptoms’ and hundreds of search results appear.
After scanning through the first few articles, you realise it’s not as easy to answer as you think and you end up with even more questions than you began with.
What next? Well, we’ve got you! Let’s get into it bit by bit, one question at a time.
1. What exactly is a UTI?
As the name suggests, a urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of the urinary system. If any unhealthy bacteria comes in contact with the system, it develops the infection.
Usually, these infections are classified as upper and lower urinary tract infections based on the parts that are affected.
In females, the urinary tract consists of kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra whereas, in males, it also includes the prostate along with the other parts. (1)
There are multiple effects of UTI which make it very easy to spot. If you’re experiencing extreme pain, try reading about how to prevent UTI?
Image source: Healthline
According to some recent studies, UTIs are more common among females as compared to males, not to forget that most of these studies have focused on young, sexually active women in their research. (2)
2. What Are The Symptoms? What Leads To This?
Now that you have a basic understanding of UTIs, you wonder how you can tell it is what you think it is.
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Painful or burning sensation while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Urgency to urinate
- Foul-smelling or abnormal urine color
- Other lesser common symptoms like pelvic pain, pain during sex, or fatigue.
Sometimes you may experience extreme pain while suffering from a UTI. In such cases, you might need immediate medical attention.
RECOMMENDED READING: How to relieve UTI pain?
To have a proper understanding, let’s have a look at some of the common causes of uncomplicated UTIs. (3)
- Frequent intercourse
- History of UTIs (self or family)
- Menopausal or premenopausal phase
- Bladder stones
- Unhygienic urinary habits
3. Stress, Anxiety and UTI symptoms. How are they related?
Well, knowing what UTI is, is not enough and we know it. This is the point where the mind goes ‘oh, but..what about this stress?
Can stress cause UTI symptoms?’ or ‘is anxiety a symptom of uti?’ Hold on, let’s first see what stress and anxiety feels like.
According to the APA, Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. (4)
Stress, as we all know, is the physical or mental reaction to day-to-day challenges in life.
Image source: Mindwell Leeds
Stress can affect our physical health in numerous ways, so does anxiety. However, the relationship between anxiety, stress, and UTI symptoms remains unclear.
While researchers may not be able to claim how anxiety may or may not be responsible for causing UTI symptoms, there are some issues regarding urination that look like UTI symptoms and anxiety might be linked with it.
- Frequent urination/incontinence
To understand this, we’ll dig a little deeper into how stress and anxiety works in the body.
When there is a fear or feelings of apprehension, the body quickly goes into the state of fight-or-flight mode and the body starts shifting focus to the resources available to handle it.
With this going on, the parts of the brain that controls urination have to be on hold/shut down and thus, it causes you to urinate more often.
- Increased urge to urinate
As explained above, the fight and flight system activates, and the body gets tensed up putting pressure on the urinary tract organs like the bladder and abdomen. This further creates the urge to urinate more often while you are anxious.
- Very low flow
It is to be kept in mind that anxiety and stress may make you urinate more often, but it doesn’t produce more urine. Thus, while going to pee, again and again, may cause you to relieve some stress, it may also feel like the flow is very low or nearly nil after a few times.
Most symptoms are very similar to that of a yeast infection.
If you’re facing additional symptoms which might be uncommon for someone suffering from UTI, consult your healthcare expert and get tested.
Meanwhile, try reading about the difference between UTI and Yeast Infections.
3. Can Anxiety Cause UTI?
Image source: Allure
Simply, no. The anxiety or your stress related to this anxiety cannot cause urinary tract infection because well, as science says, there has to be contact with unhealthy bacteria for UTIs to occur.
So, the UTI symptoms anxiety has been linked with, are only the urinary issues that look like those symptoms.
However, can stress cause uti-like symptoms? Partially, yes. The stress produces a hormone called cortisol and large amounts of cortisol in the body reduce the body’s natural resistance to infections and inflammations.
If a person has already come in contact with a UTI and is wondering if stress causes uti symptoms, well, it may worsen the situation. The same goes for anxiety as well.
4. Other Reasons For UTI
Some of the lesser known reasons for UTI can be:
- The shorter urethra in female anatomy
- Certain types of birth control methods are not suitable for an individual
- Friction is caused by not having enough lubrication during sexual activity
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Blockages in the urinary tract
5. Ways To Treat UTI
Before looking at some of the ways to treat UTI, here are some of the ways you can prevent them.
- Water is your best friend. Stay hydrated, pass it out! Drinking water can help you urinate more often and get rid of the dirty bacteria down there.
- Sexual hygiene. Always pee after sex. It is the best way to flush bacteria even if it climbs up there.
- Avoid harmful feminine products. Any sprays, creams or products that can disturb or irritate the urethra should be avoided.
- Use water-based lubricants during sex. Friction can cause wear and tear in the pubic area which makes the body more vulnerable to infections.
If you’re someone who likes it organic, you can always try homemade cures for UTI.
Recommended reading: Natural remedies for UTI
Image source: Dreamstime.com
Finally, some of the ways to treat UTI are:
- Pelvic floor exercise. The muscles in the pelvic region can be stretched or weakened due to a lot of reasons like pregnancy, surgery etc, and exercise is the best way to strengthen them again
Yoga, meditation, relaxation. If it is the anxiety causing UTI-like symptoms or the other way around, it is always good to deal with it.
- See a doctor. It is always recommended to trust your doctor and let them handle it before things go worse.
- Psychotherapy. Help yourself out of that stress. Talk to a professional, they might help you alleviate the mental crisis.
6. The Bottom Line
To conclude, stress and anxiety make your body’s immune system weak and this gives the unhealthy bacteria more ways to attack. The body becomes vulnerable and thus, leads to more stress.
Whether it is stress causing uti symptoms or UTI like symptoms caused by stress, it is always best to pay attention to the early signs, drink more water, and see a health professional take help.