Is anxiety the cause of your child’s bedwetting?

Bed wetting in young children is a common problem, especially in the under-fives. According to figures published by the British Medical Journal, at the age of five as many as 20 children in 100 will have difficulty in controlling their bladders at night-time and continue to accidentally wet their beds.

It’s often thought that stress or anxiety is the main cause of this bedwetting problem, but in reality there are many other reasons for this habit to persist – from the size of the bladder; a urinary tract infection or something that runs in families; is caused by a lack of hormones and simply a habit that’s tough to break.

So if your child is one who is still suffering from accidental wet beds at night, how can you be sure that stress and anxiety is not the cause?

Bedwetting – or nocturnal enuresis, to use the medical term – can be defined as being ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’. The majority of children, who have simply never become dry and have had the bedwetting problem all their lives fall into the ‘primary’ category.

In a minority of cases, there can be a sudden onset of bed wetting. If your child has been dry at night for several months or even years and starts having wet beds again, then this can be caused by an emotional upset and can be defined as being ‘secondary nocturnal enuresis’.

Causes of this type of bedwetting can be stress or anxiety-related for reasons such as:

  • an illness
  • starting or changing schools
  • moving home
  • divorce
  • birth of a sibling
  • death of a grandparent or relative
  • death of a pet
  • bullying at school
  • holiday trip abroad with strange toilets and unusual foods

This type of bedwetting is usually temporary and not the same as an ongoing bedwetting problem – most parents know their children and will be able to tell the difference. If your gut feeling is that the explanation for the bedwetting is an emotional one, try to keep calm and offer your child as much support as possible during this tricky time. If the situation does not improve within a month or so, consider enlisting additional help or support from other family members, teachers or school counsellors.

Alicia Eaton is a Children’s Behavioural Specialist – a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Licensed NLP Coach based in London’s Harley Street since 2004.  She is the author of the best-selling “Stop Bedwetting in 7 days” book and video programme.  You can read more about changing children’s habits and behaviours in her latest book: “Words that Work: How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything”.

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