Why I Am Sometimes Too Anxious To Shower: Explaining My Anxiety Symptoms

I can’t believe that I am about to tell you about a super embarrassing anxiety symptom, but here goes! The other day, I returned home from the gym with the intention of taking a quick shower, getting dressed and going to the store to buy food for dinner. Sounds simple, right? But I couldn’t get in the shower. I felt a weird sense of heaviness and pressure all over my body that prevented me from moving. It took me over two hours to finally step in the tub and turn on the tap. And once I finished my shower, I was so exhausted that I lay down in my bed, naked, and stared at the ceiling for three hours instead of doing anything productive because I was experiencing severe anxiety symptoms.

There have been other times where I wake up and I don’t even get out of bed for hours because I am dreading the act of going in the shower and starting my day. I literally feel paralyzed and unable to move. Sometimes, I have had such bad anxiety symptoms around showering that, if my boyfriend is home, I ask him to sit in the bathroom with me while I shower.

Why am I so anxious about showering? What is so terrifying about the shower? I’m not sure. I brought this up with my therapist the other day, and we brainstormed some ideas about why I experience anxiety symptoms around the idea of showering. I do love that showering is super easy and does not require a lot of thought or effort since I just need engage in the same ritual each time: wet hair and body, lather in shampoo, rinse out shampoo, lather on conditioner, soap up my body, wash off the soap and conditioner, the end. But I think it’s because of this very ritualized nature of showering that I get anxiety. Since my body is on autopilot when it comes to the process of showering, it leaves my brain free to think about other things. Naturally, as someone with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, this leads to negative self-talk, dark thoughts and self-judgements on everything about myself, from my appearance to my personality. And unfortunately, because I am in the shower standing under running water, I can’t distract myself with my phone or a book or a newspaper, which are my typical coping mechanisms for when these thoughts invade my brain.

I don’t think that I have ablutophobia, which is the fear of bathing. But rather, I think sometimes I am scared to go in the shower because I am scared of what will happen afterwards. Once I shower, I need to get dressed and leave the house. And my symptoms of anxiety make that thought terrifying because I am worried that something bad will happen, particularly something that is my own fault. If I don’t shower and stay in bed, then I can avoid negative events.

I Googled “Anxiety around showering” to see if other people have these anxiety symptoms when getting in the shower or whether there was documented medical explanations for my fear. I found a lot of personal stories but not a lot of professional opinions explaining the phenomenon. ! In one forum, a few people mentioned that being in the shower makes them feel trapped and vulnerable. This really resonated with me. I definitely get anxiety around showering when I am home alone because I am scared someone will break into the apartment and attack me and I won’t be able to hear them because of the running water. People also mentioned the fear of falling in the shower, which I can definitely identify with.

One option to help improve the anxiety would be to get a radio for the shower, so I can listen to music or talk radio to distract myself. However, that is only a Band-Aid solution to a bigger problem: the anxiety symptoms that lead to my inability to be alone with my thoughts. I can certainly agree that it is not healthy that I can’t be alone without a distraction. I can’t walk down the street without calling someone, I can’t just sit silently and take in my environment. I need to be able to embrace mindfulness and live in the present. So what are some ways that I can improve my mindfulness?

  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Dedicating time to being device-free/screen-free
  • Meditation
  • The guidance of a professional through mindfulness cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Writing
  • Attentive listening
  • Apps for your phone such as Calm or Headspace.

I’m going to make a commitment to you, my readers, to try to actively address my fear of being alone with my thoughts, whether it is walking down the street or taking a shower. I am hoping that I can do some of what I listed about to reduce my anxiety symptoms.

What about you? Do you have any fears or anxieties that you are embarrassed about and want to get out in the open? How do you reduce your anxiety? How do you improve your mindfulness?

24 comments on “Why I Am Sometimes Too Anxious To Shower: Explaining My Anxiety Symptoms

  1. That’s interesting – I’m the opposite! I tend to shower longer whenever I’m at my low points or trying to deal with my anxiety. It cleanses me mentally and I’m (though not all the time!) able to breathe again afterwards, so come to think of it, showering or having a bath is one of my mechanisms. I agree that some days, being alone with your thoughts can be self-destructing. I hope you manage to alleviate your fears and get better!


  2. Haha sadly I’m not ready to talk openly about the couple of embarrassing specific fears that I have(!) but this was a great read, Bev: I find it most inspiring that you can talk so openly, directly and well about something that most people couldn’t begin to understand.
    Definitely eye-opening, so thank you. 🙂


  3. Thank you for writing this! I have such a hard time showering some days too (don’t worry I do do it- now isn’t it funny we all feel the need to say that?). My anxiety stems from being so conscious of not ‘wasting’ my time that I have difficulty getting into the shower because I feel I have so much else to do. Sometimes my confusion gets so bad that showering is overwhelming and too difficult and I have to do it later. It’s strange, but showering is one of those basic things that mental illness makes incredibly overwhelming and difficult. This was very brave of you to write, and also very eye-opening of the other kinds of anxieties that could surround a shower. Thank you!


  4. I think I have a fear of falling and hurting myself or worst because I have heard so much about people dying in the shower or tub. I love it feeling clean aftrewards though


  5. I get this! It’s amazing how the mind works against the body and wellbeing


  6. Fabulous post, and very informative. I don’t struggle with this, and so I didn’t think that anyone could! I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “I am scared to go in the shower because I am scared of what will happen afterwards.” Someone in one of my group CBT sessions once told us that her mother used to tell her “just put your feet on the floor”. Meaning, in the morning when you wake up, sometimes just accomplishing the task of putting your feet on the floor is a step in the right direction (no pun intended). Think of that next time the shower is causing anxiety. Back the task(s) down to their basic functions. Just get out of bed…the rest may just fall into place. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I am so happy you brought this topic up. I hate showering too. For me, like you mentioned, it is the anxiety of being alone with my thoughts. I have bought a radio and it has helped me a lot. I will oftentimes, not turn it on though, to see if I could shower without it as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have PTSD and I also find showering difficult, it’s not as bad now but I think in general what it was for me, was the combination of being alone with my thoughts, being naked (and therefore feeling more vulnerable) and the struggle of actually getting ready to go somewhere and leave the house.
    I’ve been known to get people to sit outside the door for me before, but now, if I’m feeling particularly anxious about it, I take my phone into the bathroom and play a podcast or a musical soundtrack or something. I also find singing helps because I have to focus on remembering lyrics and things.
    It’s quite heartening to feel like I’m in a similar boat with other people :).
    I actually wrote a poem about showering and how draining I can find it a few days ago, and looking at your description now – our difficulties with it seem similar.
    Thanks for writing this :).


  10. Pingback: Mundane Tasks and Being Left With Your Own Thoughts – Out of My Thoughts

  11. sarahannclark1

    Reblogged this on Learning through experience.


  12. Yeah I’m the same, I get a lot of panic attacks in the shower, and I just lie on my mattress for hours afterwards. Taking a bath helps, for some reasons it’s just with showers for me.


  13. Thanks for liking my post
    I applaud you for being so open and honest about your anxiety here. I’m not bi-polar myself, but it is in our family and needs to be talked about more openly by people like you with he courage to share. I do deal with anxiety myself and I know what it’s like to feel that whatever you’re anxious about seems silly or unexplainable. Only others who feel this way really understand, although friends and family can make great efforts to be supportive. I enjoyed reading your post and I encourage you to keep on keeping it real. I’m a firm believer that when we’re ‘real” instead of trying to put on masks, we not only connect with others on a deeper level, but they end up comfortable being real too, and all that “real” is so much better than the superficial society we are most often faced with 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love your openness and vulnerability, Beverly. You captured the weight of the paralyzing inertia.


  15. That is really interesting too me. I too (on days when I wake up and know I am not in a good place that particular day), sometimes lie for hours avoiding getting up and showering. I don’t have anxiety about the showering process itself. It is more the fact that once I am in there, the pressure of what needs to happen next takes hold and I start to get anxious about having to get on with the day, get things done, function properly and be productive. Sometimes that just feels overwhelming. It was funny that I came across this post of yours today, as I wrote about this waking up fear / dread / pressure in a poem I wrote yesterday about my own Black Cloud. If you are interested at all, you can find it here
    It is always helpful to realise that others have similar experiences to you and that you are not alone.Thank you so much for sharing this aspect of your anxiety symptoms.


  16. mrwadeanderson

    I just started writing about my adventures with anxiety and depression. Thank you for being so open and honest about your struggles. You’re not alone. Not only does this help you it helps others that deal with anxiety and those who know nothing about what we go through daily. You’re very courageous.


  17. Something similar happened to my dad about a year and half ago. He wasn’t afraid to get into the shower but once he was inside, he felt paralyzed too. He said he felt like the walls were going to close in on him. He quickly got out but after that he felt incredibly restless when going into the bathtub for about the next month or so. I’m so glad you shared this as well that my dad told me what happened to him. It could have been much worse if he hadn’t.


  18. Thank you for helping to change the conversation surrounding anxiety/mental illness. This post is profound and I struggle with a lot of the same things. It is tough to admit to others when we are struggling with something that outwardly seems so simple.


  19. Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing. I just wrote about Selective Mutism which is a type of Anxiety Disorder! I hope my daughter can be overcome her anxiety one day!


  20. Pingback: My Depression Was Once So Bad, I Took A Taxi To Work Every Day For Month – Slay Girl Society

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