We’ve All Done Weird Things

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Reader’s Question

When I was a little girl I had severe depression and some anxiety issues along with ADD. I am now 19 years old and still have anxiety and ADD but I don’t know if any of these problems could have caused me to exhibit such odd behavior when I was a child. I think it was around third or fourth grade, I started to collect my urine. I would pee in a small plastic bottle and save it where I didn’t think my parents would find it. This was about the same time I became depressed, maybe a little before. I had no reason to do this. I started to research the subject and became worried when all the answers I found said kids do this when they are sexually abused or something traumatic happens to them; apparently this issue is not too rare in foster homes and such places, but nobody had any real answers for me. I don’t remember being abused by anyone and I was too old to just be fascinated with urine so what could it be? I was wondering if depression or ADD could have made me do this? I also had no reason to be depressed since I lived in a good home.

Psychologist’s Reply

You may be relieved to know that you’re in good company. Howard Hughes, a wealthy film producer who was later played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Aviator, is said to have hoarded his urine at times.

We do a lot of odd things as humans, which doesn’t necessarily make us weird, deviant, or abnormal — it makes us…well…human. As long as this was a fleeting behavior, and not something that continued for long or transitioned into something harmful or debilitating, I am not concerned and neither should you be. And the mere presence or history of an odd behavior does not indicate that something sinister happened to you or “caused” the behavior.

The world is full of odd people with perfectly “normal” childhoods as well as plenty of people with horrendous childhoods who grow into perfectly boring adults.

So why do people do odd things and why specifically did you hoard urine? Given my response above and assuming it’s not affecting you now, then the “why” probably doesn’t matter. That said, perhaps this OCD-like behavior was based on an irrational fear of something bad happening to you or a fear of losing part of yourself. The act of saving your urine may have given you a sense of control over your body and environment at a time when you may have been experiencing transitions in your physical and emotional identity.

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What most interested me in your question was the oft-perpetuated myth that “I had no reason to be depressed since I lived in a good home”. The fact is that depression and most other mental health conditions do not discriminate. While it is certainly true that life stress, including experiencing a poor childhood, makes us more susceptible to later distress, a majority of my patients with depression came from a “good home”. In fact, most cannot identify a reason for why they feel the way they do.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatments have consistently been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Further, an evidenced-based therapist can tailor their treatment to specific types of anxiety, such as exposure and response prevention for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

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