What is a Labile Mood? Everything You Need to Know

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Do you have random emotional bursts that seem to come out of nowhere? Do you start laughing randomly or crying? You might be suffering from Labile Mood.

It’s a neurological condition that is also known by some other names, like, Emotional Lability, Emotional Incontinence, Emotionalism, Affective Lability, Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), and more.

The main thing to remember about this condition is that it usually occurs due to changes to the part of your brain that’s responsible for the control of emotions and emotional responses. 

In a recent study, prevalence rates for Emotional Lability were estimated between 9.4% to 37.5%, which is equal to 1.8-7.1 million affected individuals in the United States.

Even at the lower range, there are more people affected by Emotional Lability than by ALS, Parkinson’s disease, or MS. 

Read on to see what some causes, symptoms, and treatments of Labile mood are.

What Is a Labile Mood 

The main symptom of Emotional Lability is uncontrolled crying or laughing which is disproportionate or inappropriate to the social context. There is a discrepancy between the patient’s emotional experience and emotional expression. 

Also, if you have a Labile mood, you might start laughing uncontrollably while you are upset, or vice versa. So, you have an intense emotional reaction which is unrelated to your emotional feelings, or internal environment. 

You might also switch rapidly between the two, weeping intensely one moment, and laughing uncontrollably the next.

In PBA or Labile mood, there is a disconnect between the frontal lobe, which controls emotions, and the cerebellum and brain stem, where reflexes are mediated. 

This means that with Labile mood, you don’t actually need an emotional trigger to become uncontrollably emotional. Often, it happens without a reason, which is why it is confusing not only to the patient but also to his/her loved ones. 

But the good news is that PBA can be treated. It needs an accurate diagnosis first though.

Causes of Labile Mood 

Emotional Lability often occurs after a stroke. This is one of the commonalities noticed in stroke patients. In fact, 50% of stroke patients have symptoms of Labile Mood, the Journal of Stroke reports. 

Other common neurological conditions that cause Emotional Lability are:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • MS
  • ALS

There are also traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that can cause PBA, like:

  • Skull fracture
  • Blunt force head trauma
  • Brain swelling
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Contusion
  • Laceration
  • Hematoma
  • Penetrating injury
  • Infection

Symptoms of Labile Mood

Labile mood isn’t just mood swings. It has the following symptoms to keep in mind:

  • Laughing that turns into crying
  • Laughing or crying in situations that are inappropriate or don’t fit the emotion
  • Brief emotional bursts lasting a few seconds or minutes
  • No emotional outbursts between episodes
  • Extreme emotional outbursts, over the top for the situation
  • Not your usual emotional behavior

The main thing to keep in mind is that most people tend to misdiagnose or dismiss Labile mood as mood swings or as a minor mood disorder. 

If you are unsure if you have Labile mood or not, it’s a great idea to keep a journal of your episodes, and your mood between episodes. This daily journal will give you an idea of how volatile and extreme your emotional outbursts are.

You can also share this journal with your doctor, so he/she can diagnose you more accurately.

What is a Labile Mood? Everything You Need to Know |

Treatments for Emotional Lability

If you have a mild case of Emotional Lability and it doesn’t actually bother you or your loved ones much, then you don’t need medication.

But if your mood swings are extremely wide, and are disturbing you and your family members with its intensity, then you can try medication. 

  • Nuedexta is the only medication currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Emotional Lability. 
  • Antidepressants, at low doses, can be used to ease your symptoms, by reducing the intensity of your emotional outbursts, but will not actually treat Labile mood.

Coping Mechanisms for Labile Mood

There are some important coping mechanisms to mention that will help ease your symptoms, and also help with loved ones.

  • Be open about your symptoms and your condition with loved ones and friends, so they aren’t surprised when you have an episode.
  • Take slow deep breaths when you feel you are about to have an episode, to control yourself. 
  • If you feel like you are about to have an emotional outburst, try to distract yourself by counting the cars passing by or the number of books on the shelves.
  • Change your body position when you are having an episode or about to have an episode – note your posture down in your journal. 
  • Do a quick body relaxation from head to toes, when you are about to have an episode. 
  • Figure out what triggers your episodes, be it stress, fatigue, or frustration.
  • Prepare a short explanation for strangers who might be around during your episode – “I giggle sometimes when I am tired, just ignore it.”
  • Look for a local support group or an online community of PBA sufferers to find support from. 
  • If you do have an episode, do not dwell on it, and berate yourself for it – you have no control over it. 

Do the best you can when you have an episode, but don’t start isolating yourself from loved ones or friends, because you are afraid you might have an episode around them. 

The most important thing with this to stay social, to stay around loved ones, and to engage their help in dealing with this condition. Isolation is not the answer.

The long-term outlook for people with PBA depends on how severe the brain damage was. If it was quite severe, the emotional outbursts might last the rest of your life.

Labile Mood Needs to Be Diagnosed Accurately

As with all neurological conditions, you need to speak to your doctor and communicate your symptoms with accuracy to gain an accurate diagnosis. 

Labile mood is not depression but can be treated with low doses of anti-depressants. 

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