Does ADHD Cause Incontinence in Children?

In this blog, we investigate the links between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and incontinence in children.

Does ADHD Cause Incontinence In Children?

In this blog, we investigate the links between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and incontinence in children.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common among children, affecting an estimated average of 5% of children globally [1].

Studies have shown the prevalence of nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting), daytime wetting, lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and faecal incontinence are much higher in children with ADHD, and can often coexist [2].

An ADHD diagnosis can sometimes mean that a child’s toilet training may take longer [3]. But don’t let this discourage you, as with time, your child can gain bladder and bowel control.

So, how are these conditions linked and what are you able to do to help if your child has both ADHD and incontinence? Read on to find out.

What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a medical condition that often begins in early childhood, and affects the development of the brain in multiple areas. The areas affected include the prefrontal cortex, which plays a significant role in controlling focus, behaviour, organisation and emotion [4,5].

So, it makes sense that common signs of ADHD in children include:

  • Difficulty focussing on or completing activities

  • Easily distracted

  • Fidgeting, squirming, or constantly needing to move

  • Forgetfulness

  • Interrupting conversations or inability to wait their turn

Unfortunately, we still don’t have all of the answers about what exactly causes the condition, or why some people have it.

Symptoms often present differently from individual to individual as it is a complex condition, and sometimes what seems like underlying ADHD can be indicators of something else - such as not getting enough sleep, stress or anxiety.

If your child has not been formally diagnosed and you are concerned they are displaying signs of ADHD, it’s important to take them to a medical professional to be correctly diagnosed and never self-diagnose. Only paediatricians or psychiatrists have the knowledge and training to diagnose and/or prescribe medications to treat ADHD.

Multiple different methods of treatment can relieve ADHD symptoms, including counselling, skills training, behavioural therapy and medications, all of which have proven to be effective [6].

Incontinence and ADHD

While studies on the link between ADHD and urinary and/or faecal incontinence in children show a strong correlation, the research on how or why is much less clear.

Some research indicates it could be due to delays in the maturation of the central nervous system, disruptions in neurological pathways as well as genetic and environmental factors [4].

There’s also evidence that other conditions contributing to voiding issues or soiling occur more in children with ADHD - for example, a 2021 Canadian study found that children with ADHD had higher rates of visits to their doctor for issues such as constipation [7].

Despite the limited knowledge on how or why ADHD is linked to incontinence and its symptoms, it’s important to remember that with time and patience, your child can gain bladder and bowel control.

Tips to Help Children With Incontinence and ADHD

Research has shown that the continence journey for children diagnosed with ADHD can be a little longer than for those without the condition, but that doesn’t mean you should be discouraged.

Here’s a short list of tips to keep in mind while you help your child with their bladder and bowel control.

  • Seek advice/treatment from your child’s GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, it’s a good idea to speak to their treating medical professionals about any wetting or soiling issues they may be experiencing.

If your child has not been diagnosed with ADHD but you’re worried they may be showing signs of the condition, it’s important not to self-diagnose. Instead, book your child in for an appointment with their GP or paediatrician to discuss your concerns.

They will be able to provide advice and treatment tailored to the unique needs of your child, as well as make any necessary referrals or prescriptions that may be required.

Research has shown that treatment of ADHD in children diagnosed with the condition often positively impacts their incontinence outcomes [8] - so discussing options with your child’s health professionals should always be the first step.

  • Stay patient, positive and encouraging

Whether your child is coping with daytime wetting, soiling, bedwetting or has regressed back to bedwetting after being dry, it’s important to stay patient, supportive and encouraging.

Punishing children for wetting/soiling accidents has been linked to negative mental health outcomes for the child, and can often result in making the problem worse. Instead, comfort your child and let them know they aren’t alone, and you’re here to support them.

Remember that for a lot of children, whether they have ADHD or not, experience setbacks on the road to continence. It may be a slightly longer journey, but remaining calm, patient and supportive throughout the process will help your child in the long run.

  • Use quality absorbent products to protect clothing and bedding

Using quality incontinence aids can be a helpful way to prevent any leaks or stains on clothing, furniture or bedding from accidents.

Our range of Magics Youth Pants are the perfect solution for daytime or nighttime wetting. They fit just like regular underwear, but with the added benefit of being ultra absorbent to protect furniture, clothing and bedding from any accidents.

They’re made of thin materials, so they stay discreet under clothing - so your child doesn’t need to worry about anyone being able to notice them.

They’re fitted with a flash-dry top sheet that quickly absorbs any liquid and locks it away into its core that features patented absorbency technology. An active odour neutraliser in the pants also helps to keep your child fresh for up to 12 hours.

We also have a range of bedding protectors that come in either reusable or disposable options, which are extremely helpful in saving you time cleaning in the transition to dry nights.

They can be a real life-saver when it comes to protecting mattresses, pillows and doonas - so you won't have to worry about the daunting task of cleaning a mattress again.

  • Consider trying physiotherapy

Taking your child to see a paediatric continence physiotherapist is another helpful option to support your child.

They specialise in helping children understand their bodily functions, but doing so in an engaging way adapted for children, and can help them to pay more attention to their body - including noticing when they feel the urge to urinate or have a bowel movement.

*This blog is for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice. If your child has ADHD and incontinence, or you suspect your child has ADHD, we recommend seeking assistance and diagnosis from a medical professional.

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