Pseudobulbar Affect – Symptoms, Treatment, Coping Strategies And More

Have you ever come across someone who cannot control his laughter in situations where there’s nothing even remotely funny? Or cries incongruently? This condition is called the Pseudobulbar Affect or PBA.

Such behavior doesn’t only confuse onlookers but also the person who experiences it. An individual with PBA is likely to feel embarrassed about it. He may also try to avoid social situations to avoid awkward moments. The condition has nothing to do with the actual feelings or mood of the patient.

Who Is At The Risk Of PBA?

People who have a neurological condition or head injury may experience PBA. Commonly people with the following health problems have this condition:

  • Brain tumors
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • ADHD
  • Grave’s disease

Symptoms Of The Condition

This pseudobulbar affect typically impacts people in such a way that they cry uncontrollably. They may find themselves in tears at something that is not tragic or sad. Or in a situation where this reaction is uncalled for. Same goes for laughing. An episode of PBA can last several minutes, and can happenmany times a day.


PBA can limit the social life of the people who have it. It can interfere in the personal and professional life of the person who experiences it. The condition can be especially tough for those who are already struggling with a neurological condition. It may also lead some people to anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

Diagnosis of the condition

Internists, neurologists, and neuropsychologists, and psychiatrists are specialists who can diagnose the condition. Often PBA can be misdiagnosed as epilepsy or depression. Some also mistake it for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder. In order to correctly diagnose the condition, you must mention all the specific symptoms that you are facing.

Currently there is no cure for PBA. There are treatment options though. Your doctor may suggest antidepressants. However, those are not approved by the FDA to be used for the treatment of PBA. Other than this, the drug Nuedexta is also used. It works faster and doesn’t have as many negative side effects of use.

How To Cope With An Episode

When you have an uncontrollable and incongruent emotional outburst coming on, try these following coping mechanisms that can help reduce the severity or occurrence of it:

  • Change your position. If you are lying on bed, turn your body to either side.
  • Do the opposite. Immediately divert your attention to something else. If you are crying because of PBA, watch something funny. If you are laughing too much, remind yourself of something sad.
  • Take slow breaths. By taking deep breathes you may be able to calm yourself down.
  • Relax your body. Release the tension pent up in your muscle groups.
  • Distract yourself. Put yourself to such work that takes your mind off the episode of crying or laughing that you are having.

Inform your loved ones about this condition if you have it. People who understand your condition and know that the sudden outbursts are not intentional can make the condition seem less challenging. Living with PBA can be tough but every time you have an episode remind yourself that it will pass.