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Brain injuries can cause uncontrollable crying or laughing

Not many people have heard of the neurological condition called pseudobulbar affect or PBA. PBA is caused by neurological issues including stroke, Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's and traumatic brain injuries. PBA causes unpredictable crying and laughing that can be intense and frequent.

The medical community is just becoming aware of this condition. The common symptoms of PBA are often misdiagnosed as depression or caused by the primary neurological disease like a traumatic brain injury. However, misdiagnosing these symptoms can be very dangerous for patients suffering from PBA.

PBA affects almost two million Americans but many are unaware of their condition because they have not been diagnosed. PBA is a neurological condition that causes a "short circuit" in the brain that causes the emotional episodes of laughing or crying. It is not considered to be a mental disease or condition.

Many people with PBA say they often feel embarrassed in public because they cannot control their emotions. PBA causes people to cry or laugh without the ability to stop on their own. Physicians say that some crying or laughing episodes can be so disruptive that it interferes with routine activities and some patients end up avoiding social situations due to their embarrassment.

Patients, their families and caregivers should understand that PBA causes involuntary episodes of laughing or crying and the emotional behavior is out of the person's control. People suffering from PBA need support and understanding from their family and friends to help them not feel embarrassed of their condition.

Individuals who have suffered a brain injury should be aware of the symptoms associated with PBA, which are listed below:

  • Uncontrollable bouts of laughing or crying for no reason
  • Cries or laughs at inappropriate times
  • Has emotional reactions that don't match the context of the situation

PBA is treatable. It is important for people suffering from these symptoms to seek medical attention to understand their condition and receive treatment.

Source: Inside Tuscon Business, "Three Patients, One Common Thread: Coping with unpredictable crying or laughing episodes," Jan. 22, 2013

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