Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pseudobulbar Affect?      |      Recognizing Signs & Symptoms      |      Differentiating PBA from Depression      |      FAQs

What is PBA?

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a condition that’s characterized by episodes of sudden uncontrollable and inappropriate laughing or crying. Pseudobulbar affect typically occurs in people with certain neurological conditions or injuries, which might affect the way the brain controls emotion.1

Who is likely to be impacted by PBA and why?

Scientists believe PBA may result from damage to the prefrontal cortex — the area of the brain that helps control emotions. Those with an underlying neurological condition may have PBA. An injury or disease that affects the brain can lead to PBA. Other brain conditions commonly linked to PBA include brain tumors, dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease.2

What are the symptoms of PBA?

The primary symptoms of PBA include sudden and uncontrollable emotional outbursts. These can include laughing or crying and can last for several seconds or a few minutes. These outbursts are mismatched to the situation at hand and do not reflect the individual’s actual feelings. For example, a person may cry in response to a joke or laugh during a funeral.

Woman walking in a field
A doctor consulting a patient

Why can PBA be hard to recognize or diagnose?

PBA symptoms mimic other problems like depression, bipolar, or other mood disorders. But with PBA, emotional outbursts come suddenly, and without any connection to the situation the person is in.

Why is it important to diagnose PBA?

PBA is distressing to those who have it and to those around them. However, it is a distinct and treatable condition if diagnosed. Diagnosis can educate family, friends and caregivers about what’s behind the often unusual, upsetting and unpredictable outbursts, and lead to treatment.

Where can I find a provider to help?

PBA can be diagnosed by internists, neuropsychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists.