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Learning About Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)

What is pseudobulbar affect (PBA)?

Pseudobulbar affect (say "soo-doh-BUL-ber AFF-ect") is a problem in the brain that causes you to laugh or cry for no reason. Sudden fits of tears or laughter can come from nowhere. This behaviour usually has nothing to do with what you're feeling. You can't control it.

Normally, the "feel" and "express" parts of your brain work together. But with PBA, the expressive part of your brain can trigger behaviour on its own. This behaviour tends to cause awkward social situations. Living with PBA can be very stressful.

PBA can happen along with certain health problems that affect the brain, such as Parkinson's disease or damage from a stroke. There is medicine that can help improve PBA symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

When you have PBA, you may suddenly cry or laugh for no reason and may have trouble controlling how long or intensely you cry or laugh. You may also feel none of the usual relief after crying or laughing.

How is PBA treated?

PBA is treated with medicines that affect certain brain chemicals, such as antidepressant medicines.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Having PBA can be frustrating. Try to be patient and kind to yourself. Talk with people close to you about your condition. Ask for help when you need it. Consider joining a support group. It can help to talk to others who are dealing with the same problem.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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