Potomania: symptoms, causes and treatment
Water is essential for the body and to be healthy . It has usually been stated that we must be hydrated all day to make our body work easier and prevent problems such as constipation.
So, does that mean it's healthy to drink large amounts of water every day? Where is the line between healthy and problematic? Do people who do not separate from the water bottle have a problem? Can water be harmful to our body?
In general terms it has always been recommended to ingest 1 to 2 liters of water per day for the proper functioning of the organism, although this statement is subject to multiple factors that can vary the amount of desirable intake: metabolism, the amount of sport performed, the time of year, the life stage, the amount of vegetables and fruit ingested ... In this article we are going to talk about the potomania (Also known as psychogenic polydipsia), what are its causes and its treatment.
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What is potomania?
Potomania, also known as psychogenic polydipsia , is the desire to drink large amounts of fluid, usually water, as a result of a mental or organic disorder.
It is an alteration that is reflected in compulsive acts, and it is not governed by the physical sensation of thirst , that is, the person with this syndrome will drink large quantities of water without thirst.
At the nosological level, potomania it is not included in any classification system for psychiatric disorders , but due to its characteristics it could be included under DSM 5 "Eating disorders or food ingestion not specified" (APA, 2013). Other professionals advocate including it within impulse control disorders.
The potomania is characterized by compulsive fluid intake , that generates in the person a sensation of relief and pleasure.
Predominant symptoms characteristic of the ingestion of foods that cause clinically significant discomfort or deterioration in the social, labor, or other important areas of the person's functioning. For example, they feel clinically significant anxiety if they can not access the fluid quickly what do you want to drink. The desire to drink liquid governs the person, who can not lead a normal life.
In the most serious cases, you can get between 8 and 15 liters of water a day. At the time when the person consumes more than 6 liters of water per day, you should consult a doctor immediately, although apparently there are no other symptoms.
High anxiety coexists when they do not have access to the liquid they wish to ingest, problems sleeping, panic attacks and headaches .
On the other hand, potomania it is confused in many occasions with the dipsomania . The latter is the irresistible tendency to abuse alcoholic beverages. It refers to an impulsive form of intake, related to external stressors, which generates very maladaptive behaviors.
Negative consequences in the organism of potomania
What can happen to our body if we exceed the intake of water systematically and over time? It is known that drinking more than 3 liters of water per day ceases to be beneficial for the body, because can alter the balance between fluids and electrolytes .
Some symptoms that indicate that our body is overhydrated are:
- Muscle cramps, feeling fatigue and fatigue (consequence of the dilution of potassium and sodium in blood).
- Nausea and headache .
- Reduced concentration and loss of mental agility (the low concentration of sodium in the blood affects the functioning of the brain).
- Drowsiness and body paralysis .
- In very extreme cases, coma and death.
Psychological and organic causes
We must highlight the hypothalamus as the main organic cause. One of the functions of this region of the brain is to warn of the lack of fluid in the organism through the signal of thirst. An alteration in this brain structure could generate episodes of potomania. Another possible organic cause that must be taken into consideration is diabetes mellitus .
However, experts say that the origins of this syndrome are due mostly to certain mental illnesses, delusional disorders and eating disorders. Among the causes, they stand out :
1. Psychotic disorders and dementias
Diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, or Alzheimer's can influence its appearance.
In these cases the person drinks large amounts of liquids with the aim of being satiated without ingesting calories , or to gain weight before passing a medical examination.
- Related article: "Types of anorexia (symptoms, causes and characteristics)"
3. Vigorexia and orthorexia
Their motivations would lie in distorted beliefs about the benefits of the intake of certain liquids.
We must also highlight the use of certain medications as causes, such as some anti-inflammatories, diuretics and lithium , which interfere with the function of the kidney.
In this section we will explain the psychological treatment of this syndrome. It should be noted that in severe cases the psychological treatment must be accompanied by medical and / or pharmacological treatment for the control of hypnoatremia (low sodium level).
One of the great challenges for psychologists when it comes to treating this syndrome is that the person is not able to control the intense desire to drink water, so it will hardly follow the guidelines and recommendations that are indicated to reduce the intake of liquid. In extreme cases, the clinician may be forced to reduce patient mobility to a specific area that lacks sources of fluids.
Fundamentally, the treatment of psychogenic polydipsia will be based on the restriction of fluid intake accompanied by the therapist (The patient should ingest between 1L-1.5L of water every 24 hours) along with cognitive-behavioral techniques. Some of them are:
- Techniques to reduce anxiety : muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, deep breathing, self-instructions ...
- Techniques to reduce the intake of water gradually: drink in small sips a certain limited amount of water a day, full attention to each sip of water ...
- Techniques aimed at Redirect the patient's attention when he feels the desire to drink water .
- Economy of cards: in some cases this system can be implemented to reinforce self-control behavior, as for example in people with schizophrenia.
- Cognitive restructuring in cases where distorted beliefs exist in relation to water intake (eg, existing myths about the benefits of drinking large amounts of water).