Kansas City brain injury patients may face a variety of different long term health effects following their original injury.  One of the least understood conditions that victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI) can experience is called pseudobulbar affect (PBA).  PBA triggers involuntary emotional outbursts; sometimes inappropriate laughter, sometimes unexplained tears.  An estimated one million people, who are either victims of TBI or some other neurological condition, are plagued with PBA.

The exact cause of PBA is unknown, although structural damage to the brain appears to be at the root of the issue.  Researchers believe that a short circuit in the brain triggers the involuntary outbursts.  Over three million people in the United States are afflicted with disabilities from TBI, and some estimate that nearly eleven percent of those individuals suffer from PBA as well.  Others suggest the number to be quite higher - closer to 33% or one-third of all TBI victims.  Either way, the number of individuals suffering from pseudobulbar affect is quite staggering.

Patients living with PBA face great difficulty.  The symptoms of the condition can alter an individual's quality of life significantly.  Outbursts can occur anytime, regardless of social situation.  PBA sufferers wrestle with feelings of embarrassment, lack of control, anxiety, and depression.  The hallmarks of the condition make life difficult.  They include the following:

  • 1. Inability to control or stop crying
  • 2. Overcome easily by fits of laughter, even in inappropriate situations
  • 3. Unable to control the laughter once it has begun
  • 4. Feeling fine one minute, slipping into a fit or crying for no apparent reason
  • 5. Funny or happy thoughts entering the mind out of the blue

These symptoms can lead to social isolation and depression.  Recognition and acceptance of the unpredictable episodes of crying or laughter as conditions of PBA can help victims understand their disability.  The more PBA suffers and their families understand about the condition, the better their chances for avoiding the shame and stress that often accompanies the condition.

The often negative side effects of PBA can be somewhat decreased by learning to manage some of the symptoms.  Stress management and controlling emotions can be problems associated with TBI victims; those suffering with PBA as well must learn to be open and honest about the condition.  Discussing all symptoms with a doctor can go a long way in understanding PBA, and finding strategies to manage the outbursts.

Proactive management tips may help patients begin to take back some control over their lives, although there is still no known treatment or medicine for PBA. Coupled with the treatment advice of a physician, the following coping strategies may prove helpful:

  • 1. Explain what is going on. If you are crying for no reason, let your family in on what is happening.
  • 2. Try distractions. If you feel an outburst coming on, take a deep breath; concentrate on blowing air out completely out of your lungs. Keep this up until you feel that you have regained control.
  • 3. Change the way you stand. Or, distract yourself by counting objects on a shelf, the wall, or another boring, non-stimulating thought process.
  • 4. Concentrate on relaxing the muscles that tend to tighten up when you cry. Your forehead and facial muscles, shoulders and other muscle groups should remain loose.

Have You Or A Loved One Suffered A Brain Or Spinal Cord Injury?

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.