Bedwetting and Bipolar Disorder In Children Another Myth From The Mental Health Community

USA Today, in it’s December 11, 2012 article, “Parents of bipolar kids face hard questions” reports that Dr. Dimitri Papolos, child psychiatrist, reports in his book  The Bipolar Child, that bedwetting is a symptom of bipolar disorder.


Dr. Papolos’ inaccurate assertion continues to perpetuate a major myth and misunderstanding about bed wetting, i.e. that it is the result of a psychological or psychiatric disorder.  That myth leads to inappropriate treatments for bed wetting that can damage the child and will fail to end the bed wetting.


Overwhelming clinical and research evidence points to bedwetting as an inherited deep sleep disorder that can lead to emotional and psychological symptoms; but is not the result of them.


Any mental health provider, child psychologist or child psychiatrist who equates bedwetting with bipolar disorder and treats accordingly is perpetuating this dangerous myth.  Additionally, they are misdiagnosing the bed wetting and dooming the child to further suffering from the disorder.



Author: Dr. Lyle Danuloff Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and past President of the Michigan Psychological Association. Dr. Danuloff is an international expert in the field of enuresis. He is a consulting psychologist at The Enuresis Treatment Center, a Bed Wetting Center that treats children, teenagers and adults worldwide.


Excerpts from the book The Bipolar Child by Dimitri Papolos, M.D.

Diagnosing early-onset bipolar disorder is not just the responsibility of a doctor, but parents, friends and teachers.

  • Abrupt rapid cycling of mood throughout the day.  The child may be silly, goofy and giddy one moment, and the next, irritable, angry and/or aggressive.
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech.
  • Periods of unusually elevated self-confidence, possibly with delusions of grandeur, such as believing one can fly.
  • Sleep disturbances (i.e., difficulty in going to sleep, difficulty getting up in the morning, frequent nightmares and terrors, bed-wetting, teeth-grinding).
  • Significant episodes of aggression in response to perceived threats, such as vicious cursing and explosive tantrums that can last for hours (15 minutes is typical for a normal tantrum).
  • Fears of death and dying, separation and abandonment. Perceiving even the most benign stimuli as threatening, even in familiar surroundings.
  • Difficulty in making transitions and handling disappointment, criticism, limit-setting and loss.
  • Extreme sweet cravings. An example:  Child likes candy vs. child eats an entire box of sugar.
  • Auditory hallucinations and delusions, vivid images that involve gore and blood.
  • Unusual display of sexuality for a child’s age group.  Example: A 3-year-old lifting her skirt up in class is one thing, but an 8-year-old doing the same is another. The older child should have learned to control impulses like that.
  • Other signs include poor frustration tolerance and frequent complaints of extreme boredom.

Entire article can be found in USA Today, December 11, 2012

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