Stress and Bedwetting

Are stress and bedwetting connected? It’s easy to think of bed-wetting as only your child’s problem, but it affects the entire family, too. Every night 5 to 7 million children wet the bed. While this number reduces every year starting with about 20% of five-year-olds wetting the bed, about 10% of 6-year-olds still wet.  Many studies say boys wet more than girls, but the fact is: it’s an issue for the whole family.

Some parents pull their hair out trying to find a cause for their child’s bed-wetting.  They go through a checklist of what the child eats at night: do they have a glass of water or soda before bed, do they go to the bathroom before bed, etc. The truth is, bedwetting’s number one cause is simply developmental delays and a family history of wetting the bed.

Stress and secondary enuresis

Primary enuresis is when a child has never been dry at night. Secondary enuresis is when a previously dry child suddenly starts wetting again. Stress is the number one cause for secondary enuresis. Kids have different ways of reacting to stress or anxiety.  While they are not in conscious control, they react to changes such as moving, a new baby, a death in the family, etc. by wetting the bed.

Having your child see a doctor for secondary enuresis for their stress and bedwetting to rule out medical issues is a good idea. This is true especially if the child continues to wet for several weeks or months.  Once you have determined there is no physical reason for the child wetting the bed again, you can may ask for help from a psychiatrist or therapist.  Wetting the bed is also a common reaction to abuse.  Having a licensed psychiatrist consult with the family is ideal. This can identify any underlying emotional distress that may be causing the wetting. Even GoodNites agrees that stress may indirectly contribute to bedwetting.

Solving stress and bedwetting situations

One of the best ways to fight stress and bedwetting in children is to let them know the entire family loves them and supports them, even if they wet the bed.  Any teasing by siblings should be stopped immediately. Instead, encourage them to be empathetic of their brother or sister.  Ask that they treat them as they would want to be treated.  Talking with your child about their day and any problems will also help to reduce anxiety. In many cases, using a disposable underpant such as GoodNites can help keep the bed dry until the cause can be determined and a treatment plan established.

Stress and bedwetting may have periods of going away and then it may come back again.  What’s more, the cause of the child’s stress leads to even more stress.  This in turn leads to stress for the parents and the cycle continues.

Taking a rational, nurturing attitude towards bedwetting will help the entire family.  Never shame or punish a child for bed-wetting. Occasional accidents are normal, but if your child wets consistently, please see a doctor to rule out any physical issues and proceed from there.