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survivor of encopresis


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I'm a 22 yr old young woman who was an encopretic child for the first 9 years of my life. Parents play THE MOST critical role in helping your child feel safe enough to conquer this dehumanizing and extremely embarassing condition. In the 80's, doctors had no clue what to tell my parents who were so frustrated with my encopretic symtoms. They tried mineral oil (don't try that as a laxative, your child's colon is stretched with several hard "poop rocks." the mineral oil just seeps around the rocks, and will soil your child's underwear and that is discouraging, and not useful). No one in my family knew that my condition even had a name, nevermind other cases like me. So, they did the best they could,...but they now wish they had done it better because of the feelings I grew up with, and how much it emotional stress this condition will induce. Your child needs to understand that it is NOT HIS/HER FAULT and that there are MANY other children who also have problems with pooping. That's important so your kid doesn't think there's something wrong with him and feel ashamed or embarrassed at what's going on. Also, don't make your child's encopresis a family secret and not talk about it. My family NEVER talked about it. I was 13 before I ever heard my mother mention "when you used to hold it and I'd get mad.." Secrets won't help anything. INformation and communication about how your child feels and was it hard to poop today is very useful so your child can feel safe enough to ask you as parents for help. If your family doesn't make encopresis a comfortable subject to talk about in the house, your child could grow up feeling like he's the family's embarrassment, or feel ashamed or that he's the family's disappointment. This WILL DEFINATELY effect your child's sense of self as he or she matures. NEVER NEVER NEVER!! punish your child for soiling. You need to understand what goes on in your child's head: first of all, he's afraid to poop because a long time ago, he got constipated, and the poop hurt to push out, so therefore, holding it seems to be a temporary solution. Problem is, holding it makes the poop bigger and harder, and will hurt more in the long run. But they're kids, and don't think about those consequences, they just care about the fact that pooping means pain, so they avoid pooping in the toilet at all costs. That's it, that's all that your child is thinking. Your child is NOT DISOBEDIANT, NOR LAZY, NOR DIRTY, NOR ABNORMAL OR UNINTELLIGENT. Parents need to adopt that philosophy so as not to freak out every time your child soils. So, never never PUNISH your child for soiling. My folks were so frustrated with me, that they told me I'd get a spanking any time I soiled. Not only did I grow up feeling like the cause of my family's frustration, but since no one told me this wasn't my fault, I thought that I was a wierdo, and felt enourmous shame and guilt and am now in therapy learning how some of my childhood feelings have carried over into my adult life and are affecting my everyday life. Being punished made me quickly learn to lie to my parents to avoid feeling like a "BAD girl." I would hide my soiled underwear and tell my parents I pooped in the toilet today, even though I hadn't gone in about 2 weeks. I still have a compulsive habit of lying, and am working on that in therapy. I can remember feeling so embarrassed when in school or over a friend's house and I knew I had to change my undies. I thought my whole family regarded me as disgusting and incompetant. This is not true, my family is wonderful and they all love me very much. They did the best they knew how to cope with this difficult issue, but my mom says she wishes she had done it differently because she sees how the emotional stresses and traumas of encopresis can affect an encopretic child even after the encopresis stops and that child grows into an adult. So, parents, my advice to you is: tell your child it's not his fault. Be loving and encouraging. I wish instead of yelling at me and locking me in the bathroom until I had pooped, My mom would have come in with me and held my hand until the pain of pooping had stopped. It's important to remember that after chronic constipation, your child has lost control of his bowel muscles and may not even feel the urge when he has to go. Many kids say "they didn't know it was coming." They're telling the truth. It's important to strenghten those bowel muscles again and a child can only do that if he feels safe enough to go on the toilet and try with your support. There is a support group called "The Poop School," in Boston. I live in Boston and often think of volunteering to help with the kids and parents who go. I think there should be more of the support groups. In fact, I wish there were support groups for survivors of encopresis, the children who used to live with encopresis and are now all grown up. I'd like to meet people like me and talk about the characteristics of self esteem, and dependence, and anxiety. A lot of kids with encopresis grow up and have anxiety, like me. I'd like to help anyone understand what it feels like to be an encopretic child. I feel like if parents could understand what their kids are going through, than it is more possible to help stop encopretic symptoms, and help your child to prosper with pride instead of shame. I welcome all questions and stories (especially if you were an encopretic kid too! I've never met anyone who grew up like me.)Parents, feel free to write. It's ok to feel frustrated too. This is not easy and a letter is a good way to vent and share helpful strategies. I hope this letter has been useful to you and good luck. Sincerely, Elizabeth


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