The ability to control expression of emotions exists in most people. On occasion a person gets a fit of the giggles or finds himself crying over something that isn’t very sad; worse yet, anger can fly out of control if people do not understand how to keep it check. While these experiences are common, regular occurrence of emotional displays that are disproportionate to what is occurring, also called emotional lability, is not that usual. Being labile — unsteady or subject to quick change — emotionally tends to suggest the presence of a number of conditions that may involve the brain.
The symptoms of emotional lability might vary among individuals and in frequency of occurrence. Fits of laughter or crying jags are two examples. Some people do evidence this most with explosive tempers, and there can be instances where people will experience all three emotionally excessive expressions at varied times. When these expressions occur, it’s often daunting for the people undergoing them because many people know that their emotional response is in excess to the circumstances. It can even get embarrassing for some individuals or be a condition that makes them withdraw socially.
Causes of emotional lability are diverse. People may experience this condition after suffering head trauma or after having a stroke. It can be a symptom of degenerative brain disorders like multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Those who have Alzheimer’s disease may develop emotional lability. It’s also sometimes seen in common learning disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or the symptoms might be suggestive of postpartum depression or psychosis. Other causes can exist.
Symptoms of emotional lability tend to be most likely to occur at certain times. Sudden excessive displays of emotion tend to be especially common when people are tired, under pressure, in unfamiliar situations, or feeling stressed. Worry about sudden emotional expression may actually prompt it, making matters more challenging. Part of treatment for this disorder is to help people find coping strategies and ways to be in social situations that give them back some control. For instance, asking someone to ignore a behavior like nervous laughter might be a way of bringing that laughter under control more quickly.
There are other treatments for quickly changing emotions. These could include medications that help slightly dull emotional response, particularly certain forms of antidepressants. Additional treatment for emotional lability might be had in the form of work in therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. Relaxation techniques can be useful too in bringing the person out of the labile state, too.
Not everyone is able to receive psychological, relaxation based, or coping strategy treatment. If severe brain deterioration has occurred, emotional lability may simply be tolerated, provided it doesn’t harm the person suffering it. This might be the case with those with advanced stages of dementia, severe retardation or irreparable and massive brain damage.