Classification and external resources
ICD-10 R15 F98.1
ICD-9 307.7, 787.6
DiseasesDB 4221
eMedicine ped/670
MeSH D004688

Encopresis (from the Greek κοπρος (kopros, dung), also known as paradoxical diarrhea) is involuntary fecal soiling in adults and children who have usually already been toilet trained. Persons with encopresis often leak stool into their undergarments.



The estimated prevalence of encopresis in four-year-olds is between one and three percent. The disorder is thought to be more common in males than females, by a factor of 6 to 1.


Encopresis is commonly caused by constipation, by reflexive withholding of stool, by various physiological, psychological, or neurological disorders, or from surgery (a somewhat rare occurrence).

The colon normally removes excess water from feces. If the feces or stool remains in the colon too long due to conditioned withholding or incidental constipation, so much water is removed that the stool becomes hard, and becomes painful for the child to expel in an ordinary bowel movement. A vicious cycle can develop, where the child may avoid moving his/her bowels in order to avoid the "expected" painful toilet episode. This cycle can result in so deeply conditioning the holding response that the Rectal Anal Inhibitory Response (RAIR) or anismus results. The RAIR has been shown to occur even under anesthesia and voluntary control is lost. The hardened stool continues to build up and stretches the colon or rectum to the point where the normal sensations associated with impending bowel movements do not occur. Eventually, softer stool leaks around the blockage and cannot be withheld by the anus, resulting in soiling. The child typically has no control over these leakage accidents, and may not be able to feel that they have occurred or are about to occur due to the loss of sensation in the rectum and the RAIR. Strong emotional reactions typically result from failed and repeated attempts to control this highly aversive bodily product. These reactions then in turn may complicate conventional treatments using stool softeners, sitting demands, and behavioral strategies.

The onset of encopresis is most often benign. The usual onset is associated with toilet training, demands that the child sit for long periods of time, and intense negative parental reactions to feces. Beginning school or preschool is another major environmental trigger with shared bathrooms. Feuding parents, siblings, moving, and divorce can also inhibit toileting behaviors and promote constipation. An initiating cause may become less relevant as chronic stimuli predominate.


The psychiatric (DSM-IV) diagnostic criteria for encopresis are:

  1. Repeated passage of feces into inappropriate places (e.g., clothing or floor) whether voluntary or unintentional
  2. At least one such event a month for at least 3 months
  3. Chronological age of at least 4 years (or equivalent developmental level)
  4. The behavior is not exclusively due to a physiological effect of a substance (e.g., laxatives) or a general medical condition, except through a mechanism involving constipation.

The DSM-IV recognizes two subtypes with constipation and overflow incontinence, and without constipation and overflow incontinence. In the subtype with constipation, the feces are usually poorly formed and leakage is continuous, and occurs both during sleep and waking hours. In the type without constipation, the feces are usually well-formed, soiling is intermittent, and feces are usually deposited in a prominent location. This form may be associated with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, or may be the consequence of large anal insertions, or more likely due to chronic encopresis that has radically desensitized the colon and anus.

Traditional treatment

Many pediatricians will recommend the following three-pronged approach to the treatment of encopresis associated with constipation: 1. cleaning out 2. using stool softening agents 3. scheduled sitting times, typically after meals.

The initial clean-out is achieved with enemas, laxatives, or both. The predominant approach today is the use of oral stool softeners like Movicol, Miralax, Lactulose, mineral oil, etc. Following that, enemas and laxatives are used daily to keep the stools soft and allow the stretched bowel to return to its normal size.

The child must be taught to use the toilet regularly to retrain his/her body. It is usually recommended that a child be required to sit on the toilet at a regular time each day and 'try' to go for 10–15 minutes, usually soon (or immediately) after eating. Children are more likely to be able to expel a bowel movement right after eating. It is thought that creating a regular schedule of bathroom time will allow the child to achieve a proper elimination pattern. Repeated voiding success on the toilet itself helps it to become a releasor stimulus for successful bowel movements.

Alternatively, when this method fails for six months or longer, a more aggressive approach may be undertaken using suppositories and enemas in a carefully programmed way to overcome the reflexive holding response and to allow the proper voiding reflex to take over. Failure to establish a normal bowel habit can result in permanent stretching of the colon. Certainly, allowing this problem to continue for years with constant assurances that the child "will grow out of it" should be avoided.

Dietary changes are an important management element. Recommended changes to the diet in the case of constipation-caused encopresis include: 1. reduction in the intake of constipating foods such as dairy, peanuts, cooked carrots, and bananas; 2. increase in high-fiber foods such as bran, whole wheat products, fruits, and vegetables; 3. higher intake of water and liquids, such as juices, although an increased risk of diabetes and/or tooth decay has been attributed to excess intake of sweetened juices; 4. limit drinks with caffeine, such as cola drinks and tea; 5. provide well-balanced meals and snacks, and limit fast foods/junk foods that are high in fats and sugars; 6. limit whole milk to 16 ounces a day for the child over 2 years of age, but do not completely eliminate milk because children need calcium for bone growth and strength.

The standard behavioral treatment for functional encopresis, which has been shown to be highly effective is a motivational system such as a contingency management system[1] In addition to this basic component, seven or eight other behavioral treatment components can be added to increase effectiveness[2]

Internet intervention

While effective encopresis treatments combining medical and behavioral components exist, there can be barriers to treatment delivery. These barriers include lack of professionals trained in both the medical and behavioral elements of encopresis treatment, geographic location of specialty providers, the amount of time and costs spent in delivering treatment (this includes doctor fees, transportation, and time away from both work and school), and the distress involved for children and parents to engage in treatment. (e.g., embarrassment, child’s fear of treatment).[3]

One potential method to help overcome some of these barriers is the use of “Internet interventions.” Internet-delivered interventions are typically behavioral-based treatments that have been designed for delivery over the Internet. They are often self-guided and highly structured, and are usually based on effective face-to-face treatments.[4][5] There is a relatively small, but growing, scientific research literature focused on pediatric disorders using the Internet,[6] and an Internet intervention for encopresis has been developed. Clinical trial data shows that an Internet intervention designed to treat encopresis can help reduce fecal accidents.[7] Additional research is being conducted to further examine the effectiveness of Internet-delivered treatment for encopresis.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Patrick C. Friman, Kristi L. Hofstadter and Kevin M. Jones (2006): A Biobehavioral Approach to the Treatment of Functional Encopresis in Children. JEIBI 3 (3), Page 263–272 BAO
  2. ^ Patrick C. Friman, Kristi L. Hofstadter and Kevin M. Jones (2006): A Biobehavioral Approach to the Treatment of Functional Encopresis in Children. JEIBI 3 (3), Page 263–272. BAO
  3. ^ Ritterband, L. M. & Palermo, T. M. (2009). eHealth in Pediatric Psychology. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 34, 453–456.
  4. ^ Ritterband LM, Gonder-Frederick LA, Cox DJ, Clifton AD, West RW, Borowitz SM. Internet Interventions: In review, in use, and into the future. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice. 2003; 34(5):527–534.
  5. ^ Barak A, Proudfoot JG, Klein B. Defining Internet-supported therapeutic interventions. Ann Behav Med. 2009.
  6. ^ Stinson J, Wilson R, Gill N, Yamada J, Holt J. A systematic review of Internet-based self-management interventions for youth with health conditions. J Pediatr Psychol. 2009; 34: 495–510.
  7. ^ Ritterband LM, Cox DC, Walker L, Kovatchev B, McKnight L, Patel K, et al. An Internet intervention as adjunctive therapy for pediatric encopresis. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003 Oct;71(5):910–917
  8. ^ http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00767403?term=encopresis&rank=1

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • encopresis — f. psicol. Incapacidad para contener las heces en los niños que padecen algún tipo de trastorno psicológico. El tratamiento psicoterápico suele combinarse con la toma de medicamentos neurolépticos. Medical Dictionary. 2011. encopresis …   Diccionario médico

  • Encopresis — Inability to control the elimination of stool (fecal incontinence). Encopresis can have a variety of causes, including inability to control the anal sphincter muscle or gastrointestinal problems, particularly chronic diarrhea and Crohn’s disease …   Medical dictionary

  • encopresis — n. incontinence of faeces. The term is used for faecal soiling in a child who has gained bowel control but passes formed stools in unacceptable places. The underlying problem is behavioural and treatment is difficult, often requiring the input of …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • encopresis — {{#}}{{LM E43283}}{{〓}} {{[}}encopresis{{]}} ‹en·co·pre·sis› {{《}}▍ s.f.{{》}} {{♂}}En medicina,{{♀}} incapacidad de controlar la expulsión de las heces …   Diccionario de uso del español actual con sinónimos y antónimos

  • encopresis — encopretic /en keuh pret ik/, adj. /en keuh pree sis/, n., pl. encopreses / seez/. Psychiatry. involuntary defecation. [ < NL < Gk en EN 2 + kópr(os) dung + esis, as in ENURESIS] * * * …   Universalium

  • encopresis — noun fecal incontinence in children …   Wiktionary

  • encopresis — n. unintentional excretion of feces …   English contemporary dictionary

  • encopresis — [ˌɛnkəʊ pri:sɪs] noun Medicine involuntary defecation, especially associated with emotional or psychiatric disorder. Origin mod. L., from Gk en in + kopros dung …   English new terms dictionary

  • encopresis — en·cop·re·sis …   English syllables

  • encopresis — noun involuntary defecation not attributable to physical defects or illness • Hypernyms: ↑mental disorder, ↑mental disturbance, ↑disturbance, ↑psychological disorder, ↑folie …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”