What Is Potomania? Causes of Water Addiction

There is a disorder related to the uncontrolled intake of water and other liquids. Addiction to water is formally known as potomania and is a pathology with serious health consequences. We explain what it is, what its symptoms and its main causes are.

What is potomania

The term potomania comes from the combination of two Latin words: potos (drink) and mania. It is an unspecified eating disorder (NAD) that is defined as the desire to drink large amounts of liquid, usually water, compulsively and without a previous feeling of thirst. Water addiction is also known as psychogenic polydipsia.

We all know that drinking water has many health benefits , but its excessive intake can become a problem. However, potomania is not the cause of excessive water consumption, but its consequence. Those who suffer from potomania can drink between 8 and 15 liters of water a day and obtain a pleasant sensation when doing so, so it can be classified as an addiction.

Water balance

To understand the effects of potomania on the body, we must understand the role that water plays for the human body. Water is distributed in the human organism intracellularly and extracellularly. The former represents about 55% of total body water. Extracellular water is the aqueous part of extracellular fluids, interstitial fluid and plasma, and it is also part of extracellular solids (dermis, collagen, tendons, skeleton, among others). Intracellular water occupies about 20% of the total, of which approximately 8% is found in the blood.

Under normal health conditions, the amount of water needed by the body is conditioned by the need for body fluids to have the volume and concentration required to ensure biological functions. Water is therefore vital for the proper development of the vital functions of the human body.

Water is absorbed into the body by the digestive system and the kidneys are responsible for eliminating the excess as part of the urine. The water concentration is balanced when daily losses are compensated and, for this, healthy people, with normal kidney function and who do not have excessive sweating, should drink between one and two liters of liquid daily . In this way, the blood volume and the concentration of dissolved mineral salts (electrolytes) in the blood are kept in balance. In this sense, potomania is understood as the excessive intake of water by those who suffer from it and its effects alter the organic functioning of the body.

Causes of potomania or addiction to water

Psychiatric imbalance is usually the most common cause of potomania. In fact, it seems to be closely linked to eating disorders such as anorexia or vigorexia. In particular it can be related to the so-called anorexia nervosa; people with this disorder drink water to get satiety or to gain weight at a certain time.

Potomania can also be related to personality disorders and others related to psychological problems such as orthorexia, schizophrenia or delusions.

The brain region is responsible for maintaining the amount of water necessary for the body

In some cases, the causes of potomania can be found in an alteration in the working mechanism of the hypothalamus. This is the brain region that, among other functions, is responsible for maintaining the amount of water necessary for the body and for warning of the lack of fluid by emitting the signal of thirst. An alteration in the working mechanism of the hypothalamus could cause episodes of neurological potomania.

Other causes of potomania can be found in chronic kidney diseases, organic disorders, hormonal pathologies or diabetes mellitus, which usually has three symptoms: polydipsia –excess thirst-, polyuria– excess urination- and polyphagia excess hungry.

Finally, potomania can be caused by the consumption of certain medications (anti-inflammatories, diuretics and lithium) that cause excess thirst.