What are the Psychological Causes Of Bed-Wetting?

Wetting the bed at night or enuresis is not an uncommon practice for children under six years of age and usually diminishes as a child gets older. However, if the habit continues, begins in older children or returns when a child becomes older, the problem may be linked to a physiological or a psychological issue. Not unlike adults, children also suffer stress. But as children often internalize their feelings, stress may manifest as bed-wetting.

Life Events

Moving and leaving friends behind, starting a new school, a parents divorce or losing a loved one are but a few of the many different stressful events that may occur in a child's life. Children handle trauma in a variety of ways, and some may start wetting the bed. Parents need to understand that the act is not intentional, and the child should be made to feel ashamed. Pediatric counselors recommend that parents find ways to open the lines of communication with the child by creating a secure environment in which they feel comfortable expressing their emotions. Similar to adults, participating in activities that help alleviate stress are often beneficial.

Abusive Situations

A child who starts wetting the bed may be experiencing emotional or psychological stress from being continually subjected to an abusive or neglectful situation. Children living in a household with a parent addicted to alcohol or drugs may wrongfully assume the overwhelming responsibility of being the adult. They might also endure constant criticism or violent outbursts. Children might be the victims of bullying in the home or at school. Enuresis might occur in children suffering from sexual or physical abuse. Along with bed-wetting, children additionally exhibit other symptoms that may include changes in eating or sleeping patterns, withdrawing or having irrational emotional outbursts. In these instances, children need the help of the other parent or another responsible adult who can help improve the circumstances and offer counseling.

Post-Traumatic Stress

A sudden, unexpected traumatic event commonly leads to post-traumatic stress, which may manifest as bed-wetting in a child. These occurrences may include being a victim of an automobile accident, losing a home to a fire or the unexpected death of a loved one. A violent or traumatic event that takes place in a child's community may also have a negative impact on children who feel their safety is now questionable. The National Mental Health Information Center reports that symptoms often subside naturally when a child resides in a stable, loving home. However, therapists caution that if bed-wetting or other symptoms of PTSD persist for more than two weeks, the child often benefits from professional counseling.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "What are the Psychological Causes Of Bed-Wetting?," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 25, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/what-are-the-psychological-causes-of-bed-wetting/ (accessed May 20, 2019).
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