How mental health can increase incontinence

Mental health disorders can increase the risk of incontinence in the following ways:

  • Mental health disorders may interfere with the person’s ability to get to the toilet on time because of disorganised thinking, confusion or inattention.
  • Medications used to treat these illnesses can directly affect the bladder and bowel or make the person less aware of their need to go to the toilet.
  • Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, not drinking enough fluid or drinking large amounts of bladder irritants such as caffeine and alcohol. 
  • Poor physical health from long-term self-neglect.

Some people with serious and enduring mental health disorders become prone to addictions such as smoking cigarettes and/or drinking high quantities of coffee, cola or alcohol. These behaviours can contribute to incontinence in the following ways:

  • alcohol has a diuretic effect causing more frequent urination
  • caffeine can irritate the bladder causing more frequent urination
  • smoking can induce a persistent cough that can strain and weaken the pelvic floor muscles.


Talk to your family doctor or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66. The National Continence Helpline is staffed by Nurse Continence Specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support. They also provide a wide range of continence-related resources and referrals to local services.

Call Beyond Blue to speak to a counsellor on 1300 22 4636 or chat to a counsellor online via the website.

Beyond Blue also has a list of helplines and websites that can provide further information, advice and support.


Last Updated: Mon 22, Apr 2024
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020