Distinct from faecal soiling or overflow incontinence in chronically constipated children, encopresis is the passage of stools on inappropriate occasions in a child past the age of normal toilet training.

Some children will have had continuous encopresis from infancy.

Uncontrollable leakage of liquid or loose faecal material can occur, soiling underwear. Out of embarrassment, children might hide or throw away clothes.

Encopresis generally results from inadequate toilet training or severe emotional disorder. It can reflect a poor parent-child relationship, or be associated with other psychiatric problems. Faecal soiling may occasionally be a manifestation of sexual abuse.

This symptom nearly always indicates that the child and parents need assessment and help from a clinical child psychologist. This may involve behavioural and individual psychotherapy, parental counselling and family therapy. Children with encopresis respond well to a proper training programme, warmth and encouragement.
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