Getting pee-shy at a crowded urinal is an inconvenient but not uncommon affliction for men. But for one Connecticut man, his over-bashful bladder was more than an inconvenience -- it cost him his job.
Daniel Pond, 53, of North Branford, Conn., was fired from his job as a public works highway employee in 2009 after he failed to pass a mandatory drug test because, he said, his pee-shyness made him incapable of providing the necessary urine sample.
Pond is now suing the town of North Branford for $15,000, claiming that he does not have "any sort of problem" with drugs, and that his request to submit a blood test in lieu of the urine sample his "medical condition" prevented him from providing was ignored, according to the filed complaint.
Joseph Himle, director of the Curtis Center at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, said "it's surprising" how often those with paruresis -- a condition that makes it difficult or impossible to uriniate in the presence of others or when others are close by -- end up not getting jobs or being fired for issues such as these.
"It's clear to me that there need to be greater flexibility in collecting urine samples for drug testing," he said.
Dr. Michael O'Leary, senior urologic surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, suggested that having people sit down to urinate or catheterizing them would be other options to obtaining the necessary urine sample.
"Dysfunctional voiders," as O'Leary prefers to call them, are not physically unable to pee, as they can do it when alone, but they have a psychological performance anxiety that makes them unable to relax the external urinary sphincter on command when under social or time pressure, such as having someone observe them during a drug test.
Paruresis is treatable with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which, over time, can help relax the sphincter muscles and dispel anxiety, Himle said. Medications, such as Flomax, which relax the pelvic muscles can also help, O'Leary said.
Neither Pond, nor his lawyer, John Williams, returned calls from ABC News seeking comment.
Pee-shyness is one common way our bodies betray us, but there's more. From obscure conditions such as spasmodic dysphonia to the tendency of some to faint at the sight of needles, the human body can sometimes override our consciousness and self-control.
Here's a list of some of the more serious conditions that can leave people feeling out of touch with their own skin and bones.
For 30 years, Wendy Allot had no control over the color of her face.
"I'm a big time blusher," said Allot, 46, of Kirkland, Wash. "I could turn so red that it almost became a purple hue. It was not attractive or adorable -- it was humiliating."
By age 11, Allot said she'd turn beet red anytime she thought anybody was looking at her. Then she'd turn beet red thinking about the possibility of turning beet red.
"So I blushed basically from the fear of blushing. It was ongoing," said Allot. Then at age 37, Allot took an antidepressant and found that the blushing just stopped.
"I had no one to go to that thought it was even a problem," said Allot. "When you are blushing probably 50 to 75 times daily, there is a problem."
For more information on the science and social cues behind blushing, click here.
"Blushing is something I don't have control over. I can blush at the drop of a hat, whether I am embarrassed, happy, sad, angry or not," Bill Leverich of Kansas wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com.
Leverich said it hadn't affected his personal life, but he does wonder what it does to his career.
"I wonder if they think I am lying to them or just uncomfortable talking with them, when 99 percent of the time I have nothing to be embarrassed or concerned about," wrote Leverich. "I try to see it as a positive in that I feel it makes others feel they may be in control, while I in fact am, but it can still cause me to lose some focus when I can feel my face turning red."
Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University who studies blushing, says the reaction has more to do with being watched than with guilt.
"It tends to be embarrassment. But the more broad reason is that people blush when they receive undesired social attention," said Leary, adding that anyone can have the blood rush to their face in the spotlight -- it just shows up more in people with fairer skin.
Unfortunately for the blushers, Leary said it's almost impossible to stop the red hue once it starts. "You can't do it by force of will," he said. "There is a suggestion in one study that at the moment it is happening, try to blush as hard as you can."
Frequent blushers may have more hope trying to prevent a bright red hue than stem it once it starts, said Dr. Doris Day, a New York dermatologist.
"Blushing happens usually because of some sort of a stress trigger. You might not feel the stress anymore but at some point in your life you felt a trigger," she said.
Day says some drugs, including histamines and beta blockers, have been shown to reduce redness in the face either from social triggers or from heat, spicy foods and alcohol.
"Sometimes taking beta blockers when it's going to be a stressful situation can help," said Day. "Histamines help more for the physical triggers."
However, Day said using histamines on a short-term basis will not help a red face: They must be taken over time in consultation with a doctor.
Sweating isn't exactly a bodily function one can control, but the vast majority of people have the luxury of sweating when everyone else in the same hot car, on the same basketball team or in the same classroom is just as hot as they are.
That's not so for the 2 to 3 percent of people with unpredictable, uncontrollable sweating, or hyperhidrosis.
"Ever since I was in elementary school, I'd say probably second grade, I remember being in class and my hands just sweating as I worked, having my hand on a paper, and the paper being saturated from my hands sweating so much," Wendy Burke told ABC News' "Good Morning America" in 2004. "So, I mean, it's really been something I've lived with almost all my life."
Burke said at first adults didn't believe her, and doctors did not take her seriously. They said, 'Oh, you're just clammy.' Everybody blew me off."
Dr. David Pariser, current secretary of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, told "Good Morning America" that many hyperhidrosis patients suffer socially and practically from the condition.
"I constantly hear about patients who are having to change their shirt three to four times a day, who stuff diapers in the sleeves of their shirt under their arms to absorb the moisture, who only buy black clothes and wear multiple layers, who never wear tank tops in the summer because they're afraid of the embarrassment of the sweating," he said.
Pariser said the cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, but doctors have found some effective treatments, including sending electrical pulses through sweat glands and injecting botulinum toxin type A, or Botox, to paralyze sweat glands.
For a rare disease that cripples the vocal chords' ability to make the most common sound, spasmodic dysphonia has some notable speakers and politicians as sufferers.
"It's a very rare disorder, and there is really very little known about it -- especially back in the '80s and '90s," said Dr. Phillip Song, a laryngologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.
People with spasmodic dysphonia in the media, such as National Public Radio talk show host Diane Rehm, have helped bring spasmodic dysphonia to national attention.
But few people knew what was wrong when Lorraine Rappaport started noticing her voice changing back in the early 1980s while working as a school counselor in California.
"It came on gradually; it isn't like anything that happens overnight," said Rappaport. "My voice got very hoarse, and there were certain letters of the alphabet at the beginning of words that I could not say easily."
Slowly, her condition began to interfere with her job and her communication with others.
"There were times where I had to stop and think, because I wanted to avoid a word because I couldn't say it clearly." Rappaport started to avoid words that began with "h," "ch," "k" or "c" -- a difficult task in English. She had never heard of spasmodic dysphonia at the time, and physicians kept telling her the problem was psychological, especially since she was getting a divorce at the time.
But by the early 1990s, Rappaport found treatment for her condition in a National Institutes of Health clinical trial using Botox injections. The NIH flew her to Maryland from California to receive the low-dose injections, and she started to see an improvement.
Today botulinum toxin type A is used to treat many of the 30,000 Americans who live with this condition.
It's a phobia that filmmakers have loved for years. At a tense moment, someone, usually a man, sees a needle and crumples to the floor.
But it wasn't until 1997 that the mental health community officially recognized needle phobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now, mental health experts estimate that needle phobia may affect up to 10 percent of the population, and it may even be inherited.
"Every time I went to the doctor, it was a shop of horrors," says Keith Lamb, an emergency medical technician in Columbus, Ohio, and a long-time needle phobia advocate.
For years, Lamb could not even walk through a dentist's door, because of his needle phobia. But he said his fear of needles truly came to a head when he enrolled in emergency medical management training and was required to "practice" injections with a partner.
"I can dish it out, but I just can't take it," said Lamb.
In belonephobia, the most prevalent form of needle phobia, the mere sight of a needle, triggers a physical domino effect known as a vasovagal reaction: a central nerve flares up, then blood vessels dilate, blood pressure drops and the person faints.
For many, it's not just the prospect of getting a shot but sensitivity to the actual pain of the shot that's at the root of their phobia.
To administer an injection, a health care provider must navigate carefully through tissue, tiny veins and nerves to an injection site. Extra movement can push medication into the wrong layer of tissue, causing weird sensations, or push a needle through the other side of the vein, necessitating a repeat try.
"When we do a puncture, we go into a network of small nerves," said Dr. Sudhir Diwan, director of pain medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. "When someone jumps, there can sometimes be a nerve injury, and that causes more pain."
Fortunately, nonfainting needlephobes such as Lamb may not have to wait long for science to find a physical rationale for their fear. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta are already beginning to use MRI scans to map feelings associated with dread in the brain. Unlocking these secrets may eventually lead to new approaches that will take the sting out of shots for those with a fear of needles.
For those who have never experienced persistent sexual arousal syndrome, or PSAS, its symptoms may seem more like a godsend or a dirty joke than a debilitating condition.
However, for the women who experience PSAS -- which causes them to live perpetually on the brink of orgasm -- the condition is a nightmarish curse. And up until 2001, it was a curse that didn't even have a name.
"I thought I was alone in this," Heather Dearmon, 34, of South Carolina, told ABC News' "Primetime." "And this is after seeing every kind of doctor imaginable -- gynecologist, psychologist, psychiatrist -- you know, everything. And none had ever heard of anything."
Getting relief from the condition is often as elusive as sympathy. The sensations, which are not brought about by fantasies or other sexual thoughts, are often only partially relieved through orgasm. For some women, even sex does not help quell their arousal, and on occasion can even make the sensations worse.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a professor of surgery at the University of California at San Diego and the head of the sexual health program at Alvarado Hospital, studies the condition and says understanding of it is spare, even within the medical community.
"Every lecture I give on this, there's always smirks in the audience: 'Oh, I wish my wife was like this.' These are professional physicians," Goldstein said. "And I said, 'No, no, you're, you don't really want this. You do not want your wife to have this, please.'"
Indeed, the mortifying nature of PSAS leads Goldstein to believe that perhaps thousands of women have the condition and don't seek a doctor's help.
"To me, this is a sickness," Dearmon said. "This is not ... something we've chosen. ... I would rather never have another orgasm in my life for the rest of my life than to have this problem."
While it may be true that musical taste resides in the ear of the beholder, it is somewhat less common that a song can send a listener into an epileptic seizure.
But such was the experience of Stacey Gayle. Worse, the song that brought about her seizure was by dancehall reggae artist Sean Paul -- a favorite or hers.
"It was terrible," Gayle, a 24-year-old New Yorker, told ABCNews.com. "It didn't even have to be that loud."
One of Gayle's first music-induced seizures happened at a cookout where the song "Temperature" was being played. Some time after this, she had a similar experience at a restaurant.
The seizures were so bad that Gayle finally had part of her brain surgically removed in an effort to control her problem.
"She realized her life was going out of control with these seizures happening," said Dr. Ashesh Mehta, the director of epilepsy surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Mehta recalled meeting Gayle in February to discuss her condition. When Gayle's mother played "Temperature" on an MP3 player for her daughter to hear, a music-induced seizure followed.
"It was amazing to me," said Mehta. "We got a seizure when we put her music on."
Brain researchers believe such seizures can occur when the part of the brain that processes emotions associated with a certain type of music overlap with areas of the brain that trigger seizures.
About 70 percent of people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures through medication. For those who still have seizures or cannot handle the side effects of the medication, doctors consider brain surgery.
"We did try a number of different anti-seizure medications, but it was clear that her epilepsy was not responding," said Dr. Alan Ettinger, chief of the epilepsy center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "In her case, in addition to music setting off the epilepsy, even the very thought of the song started to provoke the seizures."
ABC News' Kirk Fernandes and Mary Harris contributed to this article