I suffer from a rare phobia called parcopresis which makes it nearly impossible for me to, um, "go #2" anywhere but a private location where I am assured not to be interrupted or joined by another person (e.g. my home, where I live alone). This includes situations where the need is quite urgent. This phobia has caused me to soil my clothes more than once because I could not find a private bathroom in time (e.g. after eating chili or Indian food).

This interferes with my work because this is not a recognized mental health disorder at any company I have ever worked for, and thus special accommodations have never been made. I also live too far from work (90 minute commute each way) to handle the problem by going home during lunch, or similar. The practical result is that I end up taking excessive sick days to remedy the problem. Now that I have recently run low on sick days, I find that I must force myself to use the bathroom before work and not eat anything all day or drink any coffee, which has been detrimental to my health, including one time where I passed out at work, as has caused the quality of my work to suffer.

This has been a problem at every job I've ever held, so this is not exactly specific to my current job. Is there something I can do to compel the management to take my non-recognized mental health condition seriously? I have already tried to present testimony from my mental health professional but this has not been fruitful. There are no personal bathrooms in my work building and they are unwilling to make one available for me. Working from home is also not an option due to the nature of my work. I am otherwise a productive employee and seem to be well liked by my boss and coworkers, but I feel my superiors are growing impatient with me over this and I get a strong vibe of "just get over it" when I speak to them about it.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 12:24
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    This interferes with my work because ... special accommodations have never been made. Could you say what specific accommodations you would like from your employer? They may want to help, but be at a loss as to how. Ask something reasonable, though. Don't expect that you will be allowed to, say, work from home 3 days a week because of this.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:33
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    I'm 38 and I have never done a number two at work, ever. While my position on doing so is fundamentally the same as yours (I won't go on a public toilet) I have never soiled myself or found myself in a difficult situation. It does sound like you aren't trying to mitigate the issue yourself, in that you acknowledge the issue is greater after certain foods but you don't seem to be willing to avoid those foods, so... I don't personally think there is an accommodation to be made here by any employer, its a lifestyle choice you have made yourself.
    – user34687
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 11:44
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    Employers don't get to decide what is and is not an illness; doctors do. If you have documentation of a diagnosis from a mental health professional then your only real solution is the same solution open to someone with a physical ailment which an employer chose to disregard; law suit. However, the law in your country might consider the creation of a private bathroom to be an unreasonable accommodation (there are limits to how far an employer has to accommodate people after all). Only a lawyer can tell you. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:25
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    Regarding Moo's point; have you explored the possibility that as well as your parcopresis, you might also, by horrible coincidence, have a physical bowel problem as well? That would be some terribly bad luck, but the fact that you have actually soiled yourself in the past would point that being worth investigating. Most adults can "hold it in" for the length of an average working day; if you can't, then something physical may be amiss. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:29

8 Answers 8


The link you provide says two things:

  1. "Parcopresis is not a medically recognized condition.(*)";

  2. The condition can be mitigated through treatment.

I advise you to use your medical benefits and seek treatment (**). If your condition can be managed, it's a win-win situation for you and your employer.

In the meantime, try to spot bathrooms at your place of work that are rarely used and out of the way that you can use. You might consider say coming in early using the bathrooms before anyone shows up at the office or using the bathrooms at times of the day where foot traffic is at a minimum. If worst comes to worst, find the nearest bathroom and drop your pants there - either it goes in the toilet or in your pants. Choose. The nice thing about voiding is that the stuff eventually comes out, i.e. the situation resolves itself, regardless of your wishes or what goes on in your mind. And try shutting your conscious mind while you are doing your business. See if meditation and/or yoga helps.

(*) The original Wikipedia article stated as of last night that parcopresis is a medically recognized condition. MonkeyZeus read the Wikipedia article and pointed out that the Wikipedia article states that parcopresis is not a medical condition. Nzall just pointed out that the Wikipedia article was edited today at 14:16 to say that parcopresis is not a medical condition. My thanks to both MonkeyZeus and Nzall.

(**) parcopresis falls under the category of anxiety disorders. You should seek treatment for anxiety disorder.

  • I would remove the advice to "Choose" and the bit before it. That's not appropriate here, and is unfairly minimizing the condition (which makes it impossible for the OP to make that choice). The first part of the answer I think is very good.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:56
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    @Nzall Wow, I didn't think to check the edit history; it's not as nice as StackExchange sites'. Sorry about that, Vietnhi.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:22
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    @Cruncher Use Wikipedia the right way, by going straight to the bottom and looking at the sources: Only one third of the patients suffering from [paruresis and parcopresis] have had their symptoms recognized by a health care professional. The journal which states that also refers you to the survey where the raw data presumably come from.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:39
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    The accommodation is simple as well. They put a lock on the door and give you the key.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:10
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    @HLGEM: It seems that this condition comes in a huge range of strengths. It is irrational, so something rational like a lock on the door isn't going to help. The real solution would be to consult a psychologist who specialises in phobias.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 23:41

Also worth noting that, while not a great answer, there are people with incontinence problems who wear adult diapers. The problem is common enough that these are advertised on prime-time TV. It may be embarrassing, but it's a valid medical condition and people cope.

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    They solve biological problems, not phobias
    – Kos
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 10:44
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    @Kos - the OP has pointed out this phobia although it may not cause a biological problem, it does lead to soiling his pants. This seems to address the worse case scenario.
    – user8365
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 11:41
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    Also may be wise to ensure that the OP keeps some extra clothes at work.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 13:50
  • In another perspective, the employers could concede a pseudo-private-bathroom (e.g. a private room) where the OP would just use and change diapers.
    – CPHPython
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:59

I have to admit that I've never heard of this condition before. So, it's likely that your boss and co-workers are similarly ignorant. Getting yourself officially diagnosed may help to get you some level of cooperation/leeway from the business. It'll also lead you to getting some support/help outside of the working environment.

There's a few ideas you could try out.

1) Change your eating habits/times so that you don't need to poop during working hours
2) Negotiate with your boss and put up a "Toilet is being cleaned" notice up on the bathroom door when you're using it so that you gain some privacy
3) Investigate some support groups and ask what coping mechanisms they use to get through their working day (obviously, you're not the only person to suffer from this)

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    You can train yourself to poop at a specific time each day, outside of work hours. Cultures like India's insist on morning, at home since the alternatives are poor, example just to illustrate its commonly practised. I assume you have healthy digestion otherwise. Unfortunately, hot/novel foods will disrupt your times. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:16
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    Toilet is being cleaned. Very nice idea. +1
    – o-90
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:46
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    my help -> may help. Sorry, I don't have sufficient rep to make a 1 char change. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:56
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    It was also mentioned in the chat room (ex-comments), to ask if the OP could be allowed to lock the door to the office bathroom while using it. Depending on how many stalls are in there, this might be workable if done only as necessary.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 16:25

Personal solutions

I assume you have already exhausted the possibilities of solutions that you can take up on your own, which could allow you to work, such as:

  • find a suitable bathroom outside of your office (maybe a coffee shop or a lunch place has comfy bathrooms?)
  • medical treatment (non-healthy long time)
  • therapy (probably a good idea but not an immediate solution)
  • telecommute (not possible with current employer?)

If you're certain there's no "quick win" available, read on.

Legal solutions

The first thing you could check if your employer is legally required to provide accommodations for your medical condition. I'm not experienced here so I can't tell you much, plus it varies a lot with geography, but the first step is "know your rights".

My employer is not legally obliged to accommodate, now what?

Then you can count on their understanding. Explain your requirements clearly to your manager, preferably on paper. Attach papers.

Crucial tip about this: Propose some possible solutions yourself

This shows effort on your side, gives an idea about your expectations, and generally just makes your proposal much more likely to be accepted (even if a different solution ends up happening).


  • "maybe we can arrange to make a new single person bathroom that could accommodate all people with conditions or disabilities?"
  • "maybe we can renovate multi-person bathroom X on floor Y and remodel it into the Swedish (single-person unisex) model?"

If your manager is willing to help, they can check the possibilities of such a project with the proper person, or maybe direct you to the right person.

Remember to emphasise that such changes would work well for comfort of all employees, on top of helping with your own needs. (It's harder to justify expenses for only one person.)

I tried that but my employer isn't willing to help

Okay, if they're neither obliged nor willing to accommodate your needs, there's nothing more for you to do. This is not a terrible thing: your employer and you just proved to be a bad fit, full stop. This happens. Honestly, the best approach is to look for a different place that will match your expectations better.

Good luck!


This has been a problem at every job I've ever held

A simple solution is to find a job nearer to where you live and although you'll still have the phobia you will at least be able to get home in time. Any reasonable employer will recognise this and accompany your need to nip home every now and then. And the ones that don't? Well you probably don't want to work for them anyway.


Avoiding spicy foods and coffee while at work sounds like a good compromise

In addition to that, when you actually need to use the toilets, have you considered shutting off or minimizing your sound and visual perceptions?

For example, playing loud music on headphones (or white noises if you prefer) and perhaps closing your eyes for that short period?

Trying this out at home first and then at the office (early hours when there is no one or very few people around) for a couple of days, should help you evaluate its effectiveness

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    Testing this may create worse side-effects, since the bladder muscles when strained or stressed for long periods of times may cause recurrent urge incontinence.
    – CPHPython
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 15:09

I think as other people have advised getting treatment for your condition is the long term solution but ignoring that as other people have covered it.

Sounds a bit daft as you're trying to avoid needing to go, but you could try a gentle laxative (consult with your doctor). My experience is that it does the business in the advertised 8-12 hours. If you take it when you leave work you should have 'cleared house' in time for work then next day.

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    This seems dangerous advice. According to Wikipedia, Senokot is "not recommended for long-term" due to side-effects - and OP would have to take it almost every working day.
    – sleske
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 8:29
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    I used it as an example (a wrong example and I will edit), however forcing yourself to go is bad for your health. I am trying to suggest that he can get himself into a rhythm of going outside of work, it won't be a 100% solution but there is no quick fix by the sound of it. I have edited my answer in such a way that your comment and down vote make sense.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 8:51
  • Thanks for the change. I removed the strike-out text; the edit history shows the change if anyone's interested.
    – sleske
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 12:33
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    @sleske One of my kids has been on Senekot for years under the direction of a doctor. It's entirely possible to do safely, but should be done in consultation with a doc.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:01
  • @ceejayoz thanks for the info, I think I should have mentioned the word doctor at the very least in my original posting.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 14:13

If you're looking for a quick fix then try wearing a diaper for adults. I know it sounds silly but this is serious. You explain in comments at Vietnhi Phuvan that seeing a therapist would take too long and you need a solution fast. This seems to be the only real option. If you soil yourself anyways it wouldn't make a difference. Here is an example from Amazon.com, nothing to be embarrassed about over 700 positive reviews written. Maybe keep some deodorant at work to mask any unpleasant smells.

@Comments: no it isn't a duplicate. This one is better as it contains a link and more information.

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    This is a duplicate of previous answers
    – Draken
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 9:27
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    @MrE keep in mind there is a prompt you clicked through in order to post this which said you read through existing answers and your answer would not be a duplicate of those answers.
    – enderland
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 13:44
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    @Jeutnarg Just hover over the text "answered x hours ago" and you will see the precise date and time. Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 16:52

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