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What is pseudobulbar affect?

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2019 | Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury in New Jersey can have long-lasting and unexpected effects. For example, if you experience a TBI, you may develop a condition called pseudobulbar affect, which results in uncontrollable emotional outbursts, such as laughing or crying, that do not match what you are actually feeling. According to the Mayo Clinic, pseudobulbar affect is treatable with medication. However, due to a lack of understanding, many people may not report the symptoms, and doctors may misdiagnose it. 

It is common for people with pseudobulbar affect to also have depression. However, the two are not the same thing. The characteristics of depression, such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbances and persistent sadness, may not be present in patients with PBA. Because PBA results in sudden emotional expressions inappropriate to what is happening, doctors and laypeople alike may also misinterpret the symptoms as indicative of bipolar or a similar mood disorder. 

Further complicating the matter is the fact that researchers are not entirely sure what causes PBA. It is known that certain neurological pathways in your brain regulate your affect, i.e., your external expression of emotion. The current theory is that pseudobulbar affect results from damage to these neurological pathways. As a result, you may experience outbursts of laughing or crying that have nothing to do with your true emotional state. You may also experience expressions that do match your emotions but are exaggerated compared to the stimulus that provokes them. 

You can help your doctor in diagnosing your condition by describing your symptoms with as much specific detail as possible. Your doctor may find it necessary to refer you to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, neurologist, internist or neuropsychologist. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.