Enuresis in the United Kingdom

It is believed that in the United Kingdom there are approximately half a million youngsters ranging in age from six to sixteen who wet their beds on a more or less routine basis. A higher percentage of these children and teenagers are male as opposed to female. Most parents begin toilet training their children around the age of two or three but it is important to remember that learning to control bladder function is a process and does not happen at the exact same time for everyone. Some children are ready to be toilet trained (or potty trained) by age two while others are not ready until they are three or three and a half. Enuresis or bed wetting very rarely is indicative of a physical or emotional/mental problem although sometimes it can be. Most doctors and researchers cannot say with one hundred percent knowledge what causes enuresis and why some children experience it and others do not.

The main feature of enuresis is that there is repetitive urination on bed sheets and clothing during the night (often described as involuntary urination). From a clinical standpoint a child is defined as a bed wetter if they are at least five years of age (or are the equivalent in developmental terms) and the bed wetting episodes take place for a period of at least twice per week and continue for a length of at least three months in a row. As well bed wetting has developed into a problem if it infers in any way with the child’s scholastic abilities, social performance and /or ability to function in any way in a personal sense (such as interacting with family members and friends). Other medical conditions such as diabetes, spina bifida and the possibility of seizures must be ruled out by a doctor, as does the use of a particular substance such as in the case of a person who uses a diuretic. In the United Kingdom (UK) enuresis is broken down into three types- nocturnal only, diurnal only (meaning daytime only), and lastly, nocturnal and diurnal. It is also often described as functional enuresis instead of simply enuresis or bed wetting.

Most children in the UK who suffer from functional enuresis do not have any “coexisting mental disorders.” However in relation to the population in general, more children who suffer from coexisting mental disorders also suffer from functional enuresis. Some of the most widespread mental disorders include sleepwalking disorder, sleep terror disorder, and functional encopresis. Encopresis is defined as “The repeated uncontrolled or involuntary passage of feces not as a result of a physical disorder but for psychological reasons.” Other psychological problems that can be related to functional enuresis include a lack of self-esteem, a limited quantity of social interaction, anger and punishment being doled out by parents, ridicule and rejection from peers, problems with conduct and behavior both in and out of school and underachievement in regards to scholastic abilities and other pursuits (such as sports, music, art, etc.). Keep in mind that children who suffer from enuresis need all of the encouragement and support they can get as bed wetting carries with it a social stigma that is difficult for many to cope with by themselves.