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Pseudobulbar Affect

What is pseudobulbar affect? 

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a condition that is characterized by episodes of laughing or crying that one cannot control. Affected individuals feel emotions normally, but have trouble expressing them in appropriate ways; expression is exaggerated. 

What are the symptoms of pseudobulbar affect?

The major symptom is episodes of uncontrollable laughing or crying. One may express an exaggerated response, like laughing loudly for several minutes at something that they did not find that funny. They may also laugh or cry in situations that are not funny or sad. Crying is more common in PBA. 

People with PBA may feel socially isolated or anxious, and this has the potential to lead to depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders. 

What causes pseudobulbar affect?

A neurological condition or injury is often the reason for PBA. Common causes include multiple sclerosis, ALS, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury. 

How is pseudobulbar affect diagnosed?

A neurological exam is necessary to diagnose PBA. Unfortunately, this condition is often misdiagnosed as personality disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, or something else. 

What are the treatments for pseudobulbar affect?

Doctors will typically prescribe either antidepressants or dextromethorphan hydrobromide and quinidine sulfate, which is the only treatment developed specifically for PBA. 

Where can I find out more about pseudobulbar affect?

PBA Articles