Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Could Stress or Anxiety Be Causing Your Child’s Bedwetting?

Stress and anxiety may not cause a child to start wetting the bed, but it can make bedwetting worse. Find out what you can do to help.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

A move across state, a baby, a divorce -- each can create a lot of stress, especially for kids. For a child who wets the bed it can be even harder. Symptoms that were in check may get worse, and dry nights could become more rare.

So does that mean stress and bedwetting are linked? The answer is no. And yes.

The Basics of Bedwetting

There are a lot of myths about bedwetting: That kids do it because they’re lazy. That if they just tried harder they could stop. And that stress or anxiety will cause a child who has never wet the bed to start.

Like a lot of myths, none of these is true. Wetting the bed -- also called nocturnal enuresis -- isn’t a behavioral issue kids can control. It’s genetic and often runs in families; if not a parent, then an aunt, uncle, or grandparent likely wet the bed.

For most kids, bedwetting is simply “a maturational lag,” says Martin Scharf, in his book Waking Up Dry: How to End Bedwetting Forever. A child’s bladder may be too small for the amount of urine they’re producing, or the muscles that contract the bladder may be stronger than the sphincter muscles that hold urine in.

And although stress can indirectly affect a child’s bedwetting, most experts believe it isn’t the reason a child starts wetting the bed. There’s just “no major association between anxiety, stress, and bedwetting,” says Anthony Atala, MD, chair of urology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Stress and Bedwetting: What's the Connection?

The association between stress and bedwetting is actually one step removed, says Atala. Although stress doesn’t cause a child to start wetting the bed, behavior the child engages in when under stress can make bedwetting worse, or make a child who was mostly dry experience wet nights. These behaviors include:

  • Eating a high-salt diet
  • Not emptying the bladder at night
  • Drinking fluids right up to bed time

Like many adults, kids may seek the comfort of food when they’re stressed, foods like salty snacks. But start eating a lot of salty foods and you’ll start retaining fluids. Start retaining fluids, and if you’re already likely to wet the bed because of a too-small bladder, you may wet even more.

Stress or anxiety may also cause a child to drink too much late at night, or they may forget to urinate before bed -- but it’s not the stress or anxiety causing the problem, it’s the behavior, Atala says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd