Pseudobulbar Affect

What is Pseudobulbar Affect?

Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) is an unwanted behavior condition that may appear following a stroke. It often takes the form of uncontrolled crying or laughing, sometimes in inappropriate settings.

Stroke or another brain injury can impact the part of the brain that regulates how emotion is expressed. Instead of signaling for the correct emotion to be displayed, the brain sends incorrect signals to the face and other parts of the body, triggering the inappropriate or prolonged emotional outburst.

In addition to stroke, you may show signs of PBA if you have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or another disease that impacts the brain and neurological pathways.

What are the Symptoms of Pseudobulbar Affect?

If you have pseudobulbar affect, you display unusual emotional outbursts that are not related to how you really feel. Often, this may take the form of crying, and may be mistaken for depression.

People who have PBA may show other signs of depression that are related to their brain disease or injury. You may begin to isolate yourself from other people because of the fear of displaying an inappropriate emotional response.

How is Pseudobulbar Affect Treated?

The treatment for PBA can vary depending on how severe the symptoms are. For most people, PBA impacts the quality of life, so treating it is important. Many doctors prescribe an antidepressant at a low dose, which helps to regulate the brain and prevent the “short circuit” that may cause inappropriate displays of emotion. In other cases, a medication called Nuedexta may be prescribed to help prevent PBA episodes.

If your emotional outbursts interfere with your day-to-day life, an occupational therapist may be able to help you develop strategies for working around episodes of PBA.