Why does one seem to get less "bathroom warning" at home than in public? (Possible TMI)

I’m not sure if this is really a Factual Question or not, but it seems to be the case for me. Is it just me, or other people, too?

At home, my body gives me a mere minute’s warning sometimes that I need to go to the restroom, but while we’re driving, I can usually hold it for a considerable amount of time before it becomes an emergency. Whassupwidat? Gimme the Straight Dope, please.

In 6th grade, for Christmas, I got a book called Grossology which described this phenomenon but I don’t recall it offering an explanation beyond your body reacting when you sense you’re near your familiar toilet.

This article from the Atlantic attributes it to to a couple things, including a Pavlovian response:

As to my personal experience, there have been times, when I’m out on a run, that I’ve felt the strong need to evacuate (shame on me for not taking care of business before I ran). The need was pressing but not urgent until I was within eyesight of my front door, when it was all I could do to scramble for the toilet before messing myself.

In my own experience, it’s because your brain isn’t telling you that you have to wait. One of the steps to evacuation, after getting the signal from your colon that evacuation is called for, is your mind deciding whether it is or is not socially and otherwise appropriate to evacuate at that moment, based on years of conditioning from when you were a child. When your mind knows that it is an hour to any sort of restroom, it gives you the ability to hold on for at least a while longer. When all you have to do is walk into the next room, your mind does not help you in the same way.

Since this is a medical/personal experience question, I’m moving it to IMHO.

YMMV if you have irritable bowel syndrome.

And varies even more wildly if you have inflammatory bowel disease.

For me, it’s often been the opposite of what’s described in the OP.

Shopping at Lowe’s home improvement stores commonly triggers a need to take a dump. And they are pretty good at hiding their restrooms.

A similar although lesser phenomenon is associated with Barnes & Noble.

Mustard’s Law: When you feel the urgent need to urinate or defecate, that urgency doubles in intensity with every step nearer you are to the toilet, beginning approximately 50 paces from your destination.


Others mentioned that your bladder/bowels know when you’re home. Here’s a Straight Dope classic on the subject that was compiled into Teemings. Is Teemings still available anyplace?

I call it Pavlov’s Bladder. In my case it derived from 20 years of 5 hour tutoring sessions where I really couldn’t leave my students alone. Instant I unlock my front door the urge comes back full force.

The premise is definitely true, I can’t count the number of times I was overcome by an urgent need to urinate the minute I unlocked the door to my apartment, an urge that my mind suppressed until that moment. This happened hundreds of times, I’m sure,

I always wrote it off to “the brain is a wonderful thing”, and I was grateful.

My urge hits as soon as I get off the highway onto local roads. The need to pee is inversely proportional to the distance to the loo. By the time I get to the door it is reaching a cresendo that must be dealt with, NOW!