Pseudobulbar Affect: More Than Half Of Stroke Survivors Have It

53 percent of stroke survivor respondents suffer from symptoms of another neurologic condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a condition thought to be caused by structural damage in the brain due to injury or disease, a report released by National Stroke Association shows.

PBA causes involuntary and unpredictable outbursts of laughing or crying, often in socially inappropriate situations. Even though a significant proportion of stroke survivors suffer from PBA, fewer than one in five are familiar with the condition.

Historically, there have been a variety of terms used for the disorder, including pseudobulbar affect, pathological laughter and crying, emotional lability, emotionalism, emotional dysregulation, or more recently, involuntary emotional expression disorder.

Quality of Life Effects

In addition to the potential prevalence of PBA among stroke survivors, the results illustrated the negative effect on quality of life that PBA has on stroke survivors and their caregivers.

About four in 10 respondents reported that PBA episodes interfere with their social activities including spending time with friends and family. Likewise, about one-third of the respondents indicate that PBA episodes have contributed to difficulty in maintaining relationships or becoming housebound.

James Baranski, CEO, National Stroke Association,  said:

“With more than six million stroke survivors in the United States, the prevalence and burden of pseudobulbar affect in the stroke community is significant. Not only are these survivors recovering from a serious neurologic injury, but they are also dealing with the anxiety, embarrassment and social isolation that results from PBA episodes — all at a time when support from family and friends is needed most.”

The survey also found that more than 50 percent of stroke survivors with PBA symptoms consider the episodes of involuntary crying and laughter to be burdensome.