Anismus, or failure of the somatic sphincter apparatus to relax at defecation, has been implicated as a major contributor to the problem of obstructed defecation. Current diagnostic methods depend on laboratory measurements of attempted defecation and the most complex, dynamic proctography has been the mainstay of diagnosis. Using a new computerized ambulatory method of recording sphincter function in these patients at home, we report an 80% reduction in our diagnostic rate suggesting that conventional tests fail to accurately diagnose this condition, probably because they poorly represent the natural physiology of defecation. Treatment of this distressing condition is more complex and a variety of surgical and pharmacological measures have failed. Biofeedback retraining of anorectal function of these patients has been very successful and represents the management of choice.