There is no problem with expressing yourself. But expressing yourself during inappropriate times is a problem.
Two million Americans live with emotional lability. That’s two times the number of Americans who live with Parkinson’s disease.
Yet very few people know what emotional lability is. When they have heard of it, they think that it is little more than crying or laughing too hard. But having a labile mood is far more complicated than that.
Understand the nuances of lability, and you can get comprehensive treatment for yourself or a loved one. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of Emotional Lability
Emotional lability involves intense and rapidly changing emotions. They are extreme and fast, with changes occurring with minimal warning.
The emotions themselves can be inappropriate. Someone may start laughing at something that isn’t funny or crying at something that isn’t sad.
The swings may be inappropriate. Someone may start laughing at something funny, then they start crying.
A person may lose their awareness of their own emotions, laughing or crying without control over themselves. They may grow insensitive to other people’s feelings, laughing when someone else is crying. They may also have overreactions to small stressors.
There are several different names for emotional lability. It is sometimes called “emotional incontinence,” “the pseudobulbar affect,” and “involuntary emotional expression disorder.” These terms are used interchangeably in many medical documents.
A labile mood describes a specific feeling a person is having. It is unstable and will pass quickly. A labile mood can involve laughing or crying.
Emotional lability is a neurological condition. It is based within the brain, and it is often caused by brain damage or an underlying medical condition.
Several structures of the brain control emotions. The hippocampus preserves memories, while the amygdala coordinates the body’s physical responses to things that trigger emotions.
A traumatic brain injury or a stroke can damage any of these parts. The pathways amongst these parts can become severed, preventing a person from asserting control.
Emotional lability is often a sign of a psychiatric condition, rather than appearing on its own. Extreme expressions of emotion and sudden mood shifts are found in bipolar disorder and dementia.
The Symptoms and Signs of a Labile Mood
The most prominent symptoms of emotional lability are uncontrollable crying and uncontrollable laughing. A person may want to stop, but they are unable to. They may feel some sadness or happiness, or their expressions may be unrelated to what they feel.
A person may start laughing, then transition into crying. The opposite can also occur. Their emotions may appear for a few minutes and then stop for no clear reason.
The emotional expression may come out of nowhere. A person may be showing no emotions at all, and then they start laughing.
How It Is Diagnosed
Having one labile mood is not enough for a diagnosis. A healthy individual can have a mood swing or an unusual emotional reaction. That is a common response to stress.
There is no clinical test to diagnose emotional lability. The symptoms overlap with many different medical conditions, including depression.
If you believe you have emotional lability, you should contact a doctor. You should get a full medical evaluation, including a physical evaluation of your brain. A person can suffer from a stroke that presents no symptoms besides labile moods.
The doctor will ask you questions about your emotions and recent medical history. It is important to answer these questions fully. Emotional swings can be embarrassing, but your doctor is getting to the bottom of your condition.
How It Can Be Treated
A person with emotional lability can receive treatment in several ways. There are many medications that help regulate moods. Nuedexta affects brain signals, relaxing parts of the brain that respond to stressful situations.
Antidepressants can also help, especially if a person cries a lot. Zoloft and Prozac increase serotonin, a hormone that regulates anxiety and increases happiness.
Support groups can help alleviate stress and feelings of loneliness. Many people live with emotional lability, and each develops strategies for coping with it. Attending a group meeting can help you learn these measures.
You can receive therapy. Yoga therapy teaches control over the body and mind. This can provide a sense of power that makes tackling emotional lability easier.
Try focusing on something else while you are having an episode. Focus on your breathing or on an object on the other side of the room. This may help the episode subside, and it can relieve your distress over having an episode.
Have a short explanation for people who may be confused. “I have a medical condition that causes me to laugh” is all you need to say.
Find out if there is a trigger to your episodes. It may be a stressful situation, or it may be fatigue. Avoid the triggers if you can.
Remain in contact with your doctor. Tell them if your symptoms change or if new symptoms appear.
Get Help From the Best
Emotional lability is no laughing matter. It involves intense expressions of emotion that pass rapidly. Brain damage causes it, but it can be a sign of an underlying condition like bipolar disorder.
A person may struggle to contain their emotions. They may want to stop crying, but they cannot.
There is no clinical test for lability, so go to a doctor if you think you have it. You can take medication, receive therapy, and develop self-coping mechanisms.
Turn to someone with experience in the labile mood. D’Amore Mental Health is Southern California’s leading mental health facility. Contact us today.