Can Stress & Anxiety Cause Bedwetting?

Nov 02, 2022 | 2 minutes Read

Boy sitting at place writing with a pencil

Poor grades in school, a move to a new town, rejection from a team or club, or an illness in the family are just some of the major stressors children may experience growing up. These situations may affect how kids feel about themselves and how they cope on a day-to-day basis. And they could indirectly contribute to nighttime wetting.

Parents of children who still wet the bed often wonder if stress is what’s causing their child’s nighttime wetting. According to medical journals and urologists, that’s probably not the cause. The feeling seems to be that bedwetting — also known as nighttime wetting — is genetic (it runs in families) and that the signals between the brain, nerves and muscles of the bladder haven’t matured yet. Over time, as the bladder grows and muscles strengthen, nighttime wetting most often resolves itself on its own. 

What Does Bedwetting Mean Psychologically?

Many parents wonder about the psychological causes of bedwetting. Stress and anxiety in and of themselves will not cause a child who never wet the bed to start nighttime wetting. However, stress can contribute indirectly to nighttime wetting. Emotional and psychological stress can cause a child to behave or act differently, which can lead to nighttime wetting. Keep in mind that it’s the change in the child’s behavior caused by stress, and not the actual stress, that is contributing to them wetting the bed.

So, if your child is mostly dry at night but then starts experiencing more frequent nighttime wetting, check not only if a medical reason is the culprit, such as an infection or diabetes, but also if their behavior has changed due to a new stress in their life.

Sleep and Routine Changes Can Affect Bedwetting

With bedwetting emotional issues aren’t likely the direct reason. But the psychology of bed wetting tells us that new stresses can change routines – and indirectly lead to nighttime wetting.

Children under a lot of stress may not sleep well. They may have difficulty falling asleep, resulting in fewer hours of sleep at night. Because of this, they may fall into a deeper sleep, which can result in nighttime wetting.

It’s not just sleep patterns that get disturbed when your child is stressed. Their daytime routines, such as eating and bathroom habits, also can get thrown off. A stressed or emotional child may be less likely to follow the house rules, such as using the toilet before going to sleep. In addition, kids may be more prone to eat sugary or salty foods in an effort to soothe themselves from whatever may be bothering them. This unhealthy coping strategy can lead to more thirst, more fluid intake, fluid retention and ultimately more nighttime accidents.

How to Support a Stressed Child Who’s Wetting the Bed

It’s really important that you deal with the underlying cause of your child’s stress in an understanding and supportive way. You should also help your child maintain their daily habits and routines even if they are resistant. In addition, it may be helpful to connect with other families in the same situation. Knowing that nighttime wetting is common and normal can go a long way to easing the worries of your child until the issue is resolved.

While you and your child manage your nighttime wetting routine, it may be helpful to use disposable absorbent products, such as Goodnites® NightTime Underwear or Goodnites® Bed Mats to protect against leakage. Even if your child can’t control other areas of their life causing stress right now, they can get control back at night by knowing they’ll wake up with a dry mattress.

These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, consult your doctor as needed.