Emotional Lability

Emotional lability, or the Pseudobulbar affect, is where a person shows exaggerated or over the top emotional responses that is often not related to the person’s emotional state.

For me this means that I cry, a lot.

Situations that will typically invoke a sad feeling in others where they may frown or shake their head or tut, will make me burst into tears. Situations which are frustrating/ distressing/ confusing/ cause anxiety/ happy/ funny/ etc etc can and do make me cry. Some situations where very little is happening can make me cry too.

I’m not talking about a few tears or a minutes cry to ‘get it out of my system’. I’m talking about proper, ‘my boyfriend has just left me, the world is ending’ tears. Anything can set me off and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

It’s frustrating, annoying, embarrassing, confusing and down right disruptive.

My emotional lability outbursts are stronger, more obvious and last longer than typical people’s responses to emotional situations. I cannot control this and often feel like a prisoner in my own body. I feel like I can’t deal with situations I might normally have the skills to deal with them. I feel angry at myself because I know what I want/need to say but I cannot express this either without crying or because the crying is so severe I cannot speak at all. Many times I shutdown to avoid the emotional lability or because of it. Sometimes I shutdown in conjunction with emotional lability. It’s like a double team ganging up on me. If I’m not crying I have shutdown, If I haven’t shutdown then I’m crying and sometimes it’s both.

Some people experience bouts of laughter in sad situations. Some people cry at happy things. Some people have emotional lability from injuries, MND, changes and/or losses in their life.

I have always had it. I always cry. I can’t control it. I hate it.

Some of my main triggers for emotional lability are listed:

  • sad situations (ranging from slightly sad to distressing)
  • feeling frustrated
  • other people’s expectations
  • needing to speak verbally
  • any emotional situations including how I feel and how others feel
  • changes in plans
  • having to make/take phone calls
  • anxiety
  • being/feeling ignored

Some of the things I already do to help prevent/stop/halt my emotional lability:

  • avoiding triggering situations
  • ignoring/avoiding people
  • ignoring/avoiding emotions/feelings
  • thinking about something else
  • changing the conversation
  • refusing to speak
  • trying to relax/distress
  • avoiding certain topics

Things others can do to help:

  • avoid topics/situations that may cause crying
  • ignore the crying and continue as if there’s nothing happening
  • realise that I can’t control it and asking me/telling me to ‘get a grip’, ‘stop crying’, there’s no need to cry’, ‘what’s wrong’ won’t help me stop crying
  • change the topic and, if it’s important, come back to it later
  • ask yes or no questions or questions that are easy to answer/avoid emotions
  • stick to facts and don’t get emotional yourself
  • explain requests simply and clearly so I understand better
  • try not to change plans last minute
  • sit where you cannot see me then talk to me
  • offer a pen and paper so I can write it down
  • leave me alone to get past it

(NB. It depends on what the trigger is as to which tactic to use to help. If I’m crying at something sad like a film or something someone has said it’s best to use the ignore tactic. If I’m crying because I’m struggling to verbalise then it’s best to use the sticking to facts, asking one answer questions/ offering pen and paper tactics. What works for each person may differ.)

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