Encopresis in Children
Encopresis is a disorder that can sometimes go unnoticed in young children, or get confused with a bad upbringing.
Many parents haven’t heard of it, and don’t know that it’s fairly common during childhood.
What is encopresis?
Encopresis is basically fecal incontinence. This disorder occurs when a child who is already potty trained loses control of their bowel movements.
Put simply, children lose the ability to control where and when they poop.
Why is it difficult to detect?
Encopresis can be mistaken for a bad habit or misbehavior. The family may think that the child’s encopresis is a way of rebelling, particularly if the child has behavioral problems or frequently challenges their parents.
If the child is playing and doesn’t have time to get to the bathroom, the family may think this happens because the child tries to hold on too long.
If not treated in time, however, encopresis can trigger psychological disorders with lasting effects.
How to tell when your child has encopresis
Parents can tell when their child is suffering from encopresis when these episodes happen several times in a single week.
What are the causes of Encopresis?
Encopresis can have many different causes, but two of the most common are constipation and diarrhea.
Constipation is one of the main problems that can lead to encopresis in children.
When a child is constipated, this means they have a large mass of hard fecal matter in their bowel, which makes it difficult to go to the bathroom.
Despite this, the digestive system continues working, and liquid or soft stool can leak out around the trapped fecal matter.
On the other hand, children can also suffer from fecal incontinence if they have diarrhea. Since they aren’t able to control their bowel movements, they may go without even noticing.
What to do if your child has encopresis
The first step is to take your child to the doctor. Children who are suffering from encopresis or fecal incontinence should go for a full medical checkup.
This should allow your doctor to rule out other pathologies, such as neurological or spinal cord disorders.
Your doctor will also be able to tell you if the encopresis is caused by constipation or diarrhea.
Another factor that the doctor may assess are emotional problems. If these are the cause, your child will need to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
What are the other effects?
Fecal incontinence during childhood can affect how children socialize. Children who have difficulty controlling their bowel movements often avoid playing with others.
They are afraid of having an accident in front of their friends. They may blame themselves, and feel ashamed of their own body.
When not treated properly, this problem can give rise to chronic constipation, bladder infections, stomach problems and lack of appetite.
Can encopresis go away on its own?
It’s important to talk to your child. Help them establish a routine for going to the bathroom and accept that this is something normal and shouldn’t be a cause for anxiety. Encopresis can go away on its own.
Also, if fecal incontinence is due to constipation or diarrhea, the problem can often go away once the underlying illness has cleared up.
What else can I do to help?
Children who suffer from encopresis need support from their family.
It is important to educate your child about going to the bathroom: when and how they should go potty. Simply getting them to sit on the toilet a few times a day can help.
Talk to them about the issue, even if it’s an embarrassing topic. You won’t help by washing their dirty clothes in secret or pretending that nobody has noticed the problem.
Never shame or humiliate children for accidents. Humiliation will just make things worse. This is a problem that is easy to deal with in childhood. It doesn’t need to cause lifelong trauma.
Similarly, punishment or criticism can get in the way of the physical or psychological treatment that the child is receiving.
A negative reaction will make your child less likely to come to you or other family members to share their worries and feelings.
If your child suffers from encopresis, make sure to praise them when they make it to the potty and don’t go in their underwear. Remember, this is not easy for them.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Alcázar, M. P. (2003). Diarrea, clínica y tratamiento. Farmacia profesional, 17(4), 84-90. https://www.elsevier.es/es-revista-farmacia-profesional-3-articulo-diarrea-clinica-tratamiento-13046489
- Guiraldes, E., Novillo, D., & Silva, P. (2005). Encopresis en el paciente pediátrico. Revista chilena de pediatría, 76(1), 75-83. https://www.scielo.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0370-41062005000100010
- SOTO, B. M. S. (2006) ¿LAS DISFUNCIONES EMOCIONALES PRODUCEN ENCOPRESIS?. http://biblio3.url.edu.gt/Tesario/2013/05/42/Son-Maria.pdf