Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is a very common problem, especially in children. It can also affect adults. It can be a difficult situation for both parents and children. Bedwetting is a complicated problem with multiple causes. In this article, we will look at the psychological causes of bedwetting in children. The following are some of the most common psychological causes of bedwetting:
Significant life events, such as moving to a new city or starting school, can be emotionally draining for the child and result in bedwetting. Another event that can cause bedwetting is the birth of a new sibling. When a sibling is born, the elder child may not receive as much attention as it did previously. In such cases, bedwetting may be a means of attracting the attention of caregivers.
Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing while sleeping, and restless leg syndrome, which causes leg discomfort, can disrupt a child’s sleep patterns and contribute to bedwetting. Changes in a child’s sleep schedule might disturb their body’s circadian rhythm and may lead to bedwetting for a short time.
Research has shown that children who go through enuresis share an insecure attachment style with their caregivers. Recent research has backed these findings. The study, published in February 2023, found that children who experience bedwetting often exhibit notably higher instances of insecure attachment styles.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Bedwetting in children has often been linked with ADHD. Research indicates that nearly 20% of children with bedwetting also show symptoms of ADHD. In cases of more prominent ADHD, bedwetting occurs more frequently. This association is attributed to delays in the central nervous system, which can affect a child’s ability to recognize bladder signals promptly and reduce their responsiveness to cues indicating a full bladder. ADHD also results in a child having poor impulse control, making it difficult for them to recognize bodily signals and void the bladder accordingly. Many children with ADHD may also suffer from anxiety, which can contribute to bedwetting.
Bedwetting can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, causing a vicious cycle. The fear of ridicule from peers or family members can exacerbate the issue and create more psychological stress. Recent research found that children with bedwetting issues have a significantly negative perception of themselves as compared to children who do not wet their beds.
Stress and Anxiety
If a child is going through a stressful situation, like divorce or financial issues, they are more likely to wet their bed. Children may also unintentionally wet their bed if they are going through stressful or anxiety-provoking situations like low grades, strict teachers, etc. at school.
Experience of Trauma or Abuse
Bedwetting may occur as a result of a traumatic or abusive situation in some cases. This could include things like bullying in school or having an alcoholic parent at home. Bedwetting can sometimes be a reaction to sexual abuse. Traumatic experiences may cause nightmares and night terrors in some children, which may contribute to bedwetting.
Bedwetting is typically common in children up to the age of 7. If it goes beyond that, it could be a sign of a larger problem. It is also important to remember that bedwetting can be caused by many factors; thus, looking at only psychological reasons won’t give us a complete picture. A thorough examination of the problem is far more appropriate for tracing its origins. Bedwetting can be cured with the right treatment and support from caregivers.
- Ayribas, B., Toprak, T., Degirmentepe, R. B., & Ozgur, M. O. (2023). Insecure attachment and its relationship with negative self perception in children with nocturnal enuresis. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 19(1), 24.e1-24.e7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2022.10.006
- Joinson, C., Heron, J., Emond, A., & Butler, R. (2007). Psychological Problems in Children with Bedwetting and Combined (day and night) Wetting: A UK Population-Based Study. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 32(5), 605–616. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsl039
- Joinson, C., Sullivan, S., von Gontard, A., & Heron, J. (2016). Stressful Events in Early Childhood and Developmental Trajectories of Bedwetting at School Age. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 41(9), 1002–1010. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsw025
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- Tsai, H.-L., Chang, J.-W., Chen, M.-H., Jeng, M.-J., Yang, L.-Y., & Wu, K.-G. (2020). Associations Between Psychiatric Disorders and Enuresis in Taiwanese Children: A National Population-Based Study. Clinical Epidemiology, 12, 163–171. https://doi.org/10.2147/CLEP.S230537