Hypnotherapy for Bedwetting

How Hypnotherapy compares with other treatments for bedwetting and one boy’s story
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Andrew Tan, 9, arrived at most early childhood milestones at a young age, and with ease. He walked at 9 months old. He was stringing sentences together and was potty trained when he was 2 years old. But when it came to being dry at night, Andrew had a different story. “We just thought that he’d come to it sooner or later,” says Joanna Tan, Andrew’s mum. “But at 6, he was still wetting the bed at night.”

According to the NHS, bedwetting when asleep, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is very common in children, especially those under 7. About one five-year-old in seven, and one child in 20 children aged 10 wet the bed, and it is more common in boys than girls. It can be caused by medical conditions such as cystitis or diabetes, or by some children’s inability to produce enough of the antidiuretic hormone, ADH, which controls the production of urine at night, or just by the fact that some children develop bladder control later than others. It may also have a psychological cause, because of problems at school or at home, for example.

Andrew overcame his bedwetting by means of hypnotherapy, which involves using hypnosis to treat medical and psychological problems. “He was approaching his seventh birthday and desperately wanted to go to Cub camp and sleepovers,” says Joanna. “He was still wetting the bed, though, and felt embarrassed, ashamed and even angry with himself. I’ve always wanted my son to believe he can accomplish anything he set his mind to, but with his bedwetting, his confidence levels were low. He was a bright chap, with a reading age of 9 or 10 when he was only 7, yet because of his bed-wetting, he felt like a failure. Then I read an article on hypnotherapy, which ended up being Andrew’s route to feeling good about himself again.”

According to the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis, being hypnotised feels like being in a trance state, similar to daydreaming, or like the moment before we fall asleep, in which there’s a deep sense of relaxation. During hypnosis, beneficial corrections may be given directly to the unconscious mind, which is a reservoir of unrecognised potential and knowledge, and the unwitting source of many of our problems.

“We discovered hypnotherapy after trying several conventional treatments from the age of 3, including sedatives,” Joanna says. “When Andrew was nearly 7 we saw the school nurse, who did a bladder test and told us that he had a small bladder. He was given the enuresis alarm, which wakes a child as he begins to wet the bed, but it soon woke everyone else but him!

“After four months with very little success, Andrew was then prescribed Desmopressin, a drug that inhibits the production of urine through the night. This had little effect either. Meanwhile, Andrew continued to be more and more demoralised.”

Waking up with a smile:-

Then Joanna came across Lynda Hudson, a clinical hypnotherapist with 15 years’ experience, who specialises in treating children as well as adults. Having trained at the London College of Clinical Hypnosis, Hudson also has an honours degree in psychology, teaches hypnotherapy to medical students and is currently writing a book on hypnotherapy for children. She is one of the few hypnotherapists in the country who treats them. “About 40-45 per cent of children I see come to me for bedwetting or other anxiety-based problems, which is why I produced a CD called I’m Dry at Night. This aims to change the mindset of a child who wets the bed, telling them that they can take control at the unconscious level. They can also listen to the CD in the safety of their own bedroom before they go to sleep at night,” says Hudson. Although Joanna knew a bit about hypnotherapy, she was a little apprehensive about Andrew being treated person-to-person.

“Using a CD felt different, though. I listened to it myself first, and it seemed so positive. Andrew was keen to give it a go, so he started to listen to it before he went to sleep. By the third night, he slept right through and was dry in the morning. Within a month, he was continuously dry but continued to fall asleep to the CD for the next three months because he found it so relaxing. He started to wake up with a smile on his face and rapidly regained his confidence,” she says.

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On the CD, Hudson uses guided imagery. “I have used the idea of locking up the bladder with a large, strong and colourful key and standing sentry outside it. I’ve also included powerful suggestions for signals to be sent from the bladder (via the sentry) to the brain for the child to wake if necessary, or to keep those muscles tightly closed until morning. I can’t promise that this approach will work for every child, but it does for the vast majority,” she says.

It worked well for Andrew. “He’s a thinking child, who wanted it to work, and the fact that hypnotherapy gave him back control of the situation was the catalyst for change,” says Joanna.

Where Andrew was once withdrawn at school and in social situations, he now has high self-esteem, and even put himself up for school council this year. “But the best testament to his new-found confidence is that he agreed to be featured and photographed for this article,” says Joanna. “I warned him that he might be ridiculed for being a bedwetter, but he said, ‘Well, I did it, Mum. I don’t wet the bed any more’.”

Hypnotherapy It clearly worked for Andrew Tan and there is some limited support from clinical trials to suggest that it is an effective treatment. A 2005 review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that there is some weak evidence that hypnosis could treat bedwetting, but it was less effective on children between 5 and 7. Effectiveness 2/5

Drugs There are two broad drug-based approaches: a category of antidepressants called tricyclics, and synthetic antidiuretic hormones, normally desmopressin. It’s not clear how the tricyclics work, but the desmopressin reduces the amount of urine produced overnight. There is good evidence that both produce quick results, but a review of 22 clinical trials, published in 2000, found that children tended to relapse when the drugs were stopped. These are available only on prescription and must be taken under medical advice. Effectiveness 3/5

Acupuncture There is some evidence to suggest that acupuncture might help, but again that evidence is weak. The same Cochrane review that examined hypnotherapy concluded that there was similar, weak evidence for acupuncture. A more recent report, published in 2006, describes treating 56 children with 96 per cent effectiveness. However, this was not a clinical trial and, while it might suggest further exploration, it should not be taken as strong evidence. Contact the British Acupuncture Council (020-8735 0400), acupuncture.org.uk, for practitioners in your area; from £35. Effectiveness 2/5

Alarm A bedwetting alarm is one of the commonest treatments used and it seems to work for many children. A 2005 review of all studies carried out between 1980 and 2002 showed that alarms were successful in anything up to 80 per cent of cases, but that up to 50 per cent of children showed some degree of relapse. However, the evidence suggests that an alarm has a greater long-term effect than the common drug treatments. A Cochrane review suggests that as well as an alarm, giving your child additional tasks such as changing his bedsheets and getting him to go to the toilet repeatedly is better than an alarm alone. There are also suggestions that other combinations, such as drugs and alarm, are also more effective than single interventions, but the data is insufficient to draw firm conclusions. The Enuresis Resource and Information Centre can help, from £65. Effectiveness 3.5/5

Click to see:->Stop Bed-Wetting Deep Trance Now Hypnosis Programs

Sources: The Times: June7,’08

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