Urinals' Undoing

Deals with the use of public restroom urinals by men. Description of urinals in public restrooms; Cause of men's phobia in using public restroom urinals; Problems encountered in using public restroom urinals.

By Victor Kops, published on July 1, 2001 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016


Irrational fears, or phobias, are commonplace but seldom addressed.
The sheer expression of them creates added anxiety. To overcome a phobia,
it must first be acknowledged. With this in mind, I'm taking the first
step in my quest for mental health.

To be exact, it is with dread that I relieve myself in a urinal. I
do not think I am alone in this fear, although I have had only one
patient in 27 years of counseling present this problem. He was indeed a
brave soul.

I am hoping that my disclosure will open the floodgates of
discourse about urinal phobia. Perhaps a self-help group entitled
Urinalphobics Anonymous (UA) will emerge. Thousands--if not millions--of
men may be afflicted by this silent illness. It puts an inordinate strain
on the existing toilet facilities, and the lines are beginning to back

There is something very intimidating about relieving oneself while
standing next to another individual. Urinals are typically placed too
close together for any sense of privacy to exist. The distance between
two is less than an arm's length. Water seems to be splashing everywhere.
Public restrooms should dispense umbrellas and galoshes along with
deodorant and condoms.

The urinals themselves are designed to only partially block the
view of your all-too-near neighbor. Unfortunately, most men are concerned
about the size of their organ, which only heightens their anxiety and
presses them closer to this alabaster wall of cascading water. Yes,
standing too close to the neighbor you're looking at does have a tendency
to increase the amount of splashing.

Another source of this indoor irrigation is the dripping problem.
In fact, this may have been the genesis of the "drip irrigation"
technique, one that is now considered quite common. Most men drip a
little after completing their business. Urinals pose yet another
perplexing problem because no paper is readily available. There seems to
be a few solutions available, however.

The most common method is a technique called "shaking the tree." I
believe the title is self-explanatory. And, yes, this technique also
causes some splashing. Thus it should come as no surprise that men's
bathrooms tend to look like Venice after a rainstorm. Another more
laissez-faire technique, most commonly known as the "hands-off approach,"
is the second most popular strategy. Those risk-takers who attempt this
method bear the ignominy of the dreaded spot if they fail. Precious
moments are wasted hoping that the spot dries before anyone else takes
notice. Yes, this is another source of incessant delay.

To make matters worse, half the male population doesn't wash its
hands before leaving the restroom. The number is higher for those who use
urinals rather than stalls, although not significantly so. (Sorry fellas,
but somebody finally had to disclose the sordid truth.) It is certainly
something to keep in mind the next time you consider shaking a man's
hand. It should be a law that everyone washes his hands, not just
restaurant workers.

The quick cure for Urinalphobia is simply not to worry about it.
Just use one of the stalls, even if you have to wait. But for those who
want to conquer their fear more directly, they must come out of their
water closets. Unite behind the banner of UA. The uniform will consist of
a raincoat, galoshes and an umbrella--regardless of the weather. And
washing your hands after every meeting will be required. After all, truth
does not relieve one of a pressing burden.


Victor Kops, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, practices
privately in San Diego, California. He is a fellow of the San Diego
Psychological Association and has written more than 200 articles for
various publications. He still doesn't use urinals.