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Is there a link between ADHD and bedwetting?

By Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH

When kids still wet the bed in grade school, it can be upsetting for them and their parents. It’s actually a fairly common problem for kids with ADHD . They’re about three times as likely to have bedwetting trouble than other kids. 

It’s not totally clear why. Some researchers think it’s because bedwetting and ADHD are both linked to a delay in the development of the central nervous system. 

Another possible reason is that kids with ADHD have a harder time paying attention to bodily cues. They may not wake up enough at night to realize that their bladder is full. Or they might not wake up at all when their bladder is full.

Genetics might also play a role. Bedwetting runs in families. ADHD does, too.

The good news is that bedwetting usually goes away on its own. About 10 percent of 7-year-olds wet the bed. At age 10, about 5 percent do. And at ages 12 to 14, the number falls to just 2 to 3 percent. 

Bedwetting can be hard on kids’ self-esteem. They may think it’s their fault or feel embarrassed by it. Other kids seem to not even notice the bedwetting, which can be frustrating for parents and caregivers. Keep in mind that kids can’t control when they develop the ability to stay dry.

Dive Deeper

Developmental delays and bedwetting

As kids develop, they start to stay dry at night when their bodies can do three key things:

  • Release enough of a certain chemical at nighttime to help concentrate their urine.

  • Increase their bladder’s capacity so there’s enough room to store urine at night.

  • Recognize that their bladder is getting full during the night so they can wake up and go to the bathroom.

A delay in any one of these functions can cause bedwetting. For kids with ADHD, that development may be slower, or come later. Eventually most kids with ADHD catch up to their peers, and the bedwetting stops.

Learn about the developmental aspects of ADHD .

The role of anxiety

Anxiety doesn’t cause bedwetting, but it can contribute to the problem. Many kids with ADHD also have anxiety. 

Kids who are anxious may not want to use the bathroom at school or in other public places. They may also forget to use the bathroom before bed. Stressful situations at home can also be a factor. These include things like divorce, illness, job loss, or moving to a new home. 

Find out about the connection between ADHD and anxiety .

Next steps

Bedwetting can make kids feel guilty and ashamed. Their self-esteem can suffer. It can also impact their social lives, keeping them from having sleepovers or going away to camp.

It’s important to focus on positives. Regularly remind kids of their strengths and celebrate successes. 

Parents and caregivers should also talk to their child’s health care provider. Bedwetting itself isn’t a health problem. But it can sometimes be a sign of a medical issue, especially if kids also start having daytime accidents. 

Try an activity to help kids see their strengths .

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