Do you suffer from uncontrollable emotions after stroke, like random bouts of laughter or crying?
If so, then you may have a condition known as pseudobulbar affect (also known as emotional lability).
Treatment for pseudobulbar affect is often a simple prescription of medication. But is there a better, natural way?
Let’s find out.
The Cause of Pseudobulbar Affect
Pseudobulbar affect is caused by damage to the emotion center of the brain after stroke.
It can trigger emotional outbursts like crying, laughing, anger, or sadness. Typically, these emotions are triggered by something irrelevant to the emotion.
For example, a stroke survivor with pseudobulbar affect may find themselves laughing at a boring situation or crying because of something funny.
Pseudobulbar affect is very unpredictable, which can make it tricky to cope with. But there are still ways to cope!
Medical Treatment for Pseudobulbar Affect
A common way to treat pseudobulbar affect is with medication. This treats the symptom, but not the cause.
However, if pseudobulbar affect is reducing your quality of life and/or your motivation to recover from stroke, then talk with your doctor about treatment.
They may prescribe medication that has been proven to help with pseudobulbar affect.
But if you don’t want to add any more medication to your regimen, there is a natural alternative treatment for pseudobulbar affect:
Natural Treatment for Pseudobulbar Affect
Since pseudobulbar affect is caused by damage in the area of the brain that controls emotion, then you can treat pseudobulbar affect naturally by rewiring your emotion center of the brain.
After stroke, the brain is capable of rewiring itself to get healthy parts of the brain to take over. This process is known as neuroplasticity.
With neuroplasticity on your side, you can train a new part of your brain to control your emotions! It just takes repetition.
How to Rewire the Brain and Control Emotion
To explain how it works, let’s compare improving emotional control to improving mobility after stroke.
If you want to get better at moving your legs after stroke, your physical therapist will prescribe leg rehab exercises and ask you to practice them daily (or frequently).
The goal is to rewire the brain and get a new part of the brain to control leg function. With repetition and practice, you will get better at moving your legs.
The same concept can apply to emotion! With repetition and practice, you can get better at controlling your emotions.
Since pseudobulbar affect is caused by your brain’s inability to control your emotions, practicing emotions can help you gain better control over them.
How to Rewire Your Emotions
This sounds pretty weird, we know. Not many people are talking about practicing emotions as a treatment for pseudobulbar affect.
But it makes sense when you think about it. The more you practice emotions, the better you get at them. Which begs the question, how can you practice emotions?
You can practice emotions the same way you would practice anything else: through consistent practice every day.
A great time to practice your emotions is during regular, routine activities that trigger a specific emotion.
For example, playing with your pet should make you happy; watching a comedy skit should make you laugh; watching a sad movie should make you sad.
During these activities, try to feel your emotions on purpose.
You can achieve this by telling yourself, “I feel happy right now.” Or, “I feel sad watching this.” As long as you’re making the connection in your brain between your emotion and the activity, then you will start to rewire your brain.
And by linking your brain to your emotions like this, you can start to slowly regain control of your emotions.
For a deeper look into emotionally rewiring your brain, check out our book Healing & Happiness After Stroke.
Pseudobulbar Affect Treatment
If you suffer from uncontrollable emotions after stroke, then know that there are treatment options that can help. Pseudobulbar affect is absolutely NOT a hopeless condition.
If you choose to go the medical route, your doctor knows which medications may help.
For a natural alternative, practicing your emotions can help rewire your brain and improve pseudobulbar affect. You can also try combining these two methods to see how it works for you.
We wish you the best of luck as you begin your emotional practice, and don’t forget that our book Healing & Happiness After Stroke contains more detailed advice that can help.