Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) is a rare disorder that affects the nerves of the brain and causes outbursts of uncontrolled or inappropriate laughing or crying. These episodes do not generally match the occasion or event that the person might face, and may be triggered by a few incidents like watching a sad movie. However, these emotions cannot be controlled and are intense in most cases. PBA is also referred to by several other names, like ‘emotional lability’, ‘pathological laughing and crying’, ‘compulsive laughing or weeping’, and ‘emotional incontinence’.
For a person suffering from PBA, it can considerably impact their life along with that of their family members and caregivers. This condition can cause severe embarrassment and anxiety to the patient, leading to the patient tending to withdraw from their social circles.
PBA affects both children and adults who already have an underlying neurological condition. According to studies, it is estimated that PBA affects the following categories of people and puts them at a higher risk:
Since PBA is caused as a result of damaged neurological circuitry in the brain, it is best to consider this as a neuropsychiatric syndrome. Alternatively, PBA is a brain condition caused by dysfunctional emotional expression. Since mood is a subjective experience of emotions like sadness, anger, or happiness, people with PBA cannot express their feelings like ordinary people.
The main signs and symptoms of PBA are generally a lot of crying or laughing that does not match the mood or the situation’s intensity. These laughing and crying episodes are often unpredictable, sudden, and involuntary, and they generally happen for no apparent reason, although they can sometimes have a trigger.
Depending on the individual, PBA is likely to affect various regions along with the cerebro-ponto-cerebellar pathway in the brain. This disease can disrupt the neural pathways from specific areas of the brain to its cerebellum, leading to a loss or lack of control over various human emotions.
There’s no cure for pseudobulbar affect, but certain medications available in the market can help to manage the condition. The main goal of any treatment related to PBA is to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes that affect the patient. Some FDA-approved medicines include – Dextromethorphan/ Quinidine Sulfate and a combination of antidepressants, although these doses are generally lower than the doses required to treat Depression.
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