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Educational Activities

Enhancing Approaches to the Identification and Management of Pseudobulbar Affect

Article Abstract

Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a socially debilitating condition that primarily affects people with neurologic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis. This condition is characterized by uncontrolled, exaggerated expressions of laughing or crying—often when the situation does not warrant this behavior. Although the true prevalence of PBA is surprisingly high, this condition remains widely misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed. While its exact etiology is unknown, PBA likely results from disruptions in the brain structures and/or neurotransmitters that regulate emotions. Differential diagnosis of PBA includes ruling out depression or other psychiatric conditions. Treatment of PBA has traditionally centered on antidepressant therapies, but newer therapeutic options include combination agents employing multiple modalities. Therapy should include patient counseling to reassure patients and families that PBA is not the fault of the individual. Counseling should also emphasize safety precautions to minimize adverse events and maximize appropriate adherence to the selected therapies.

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Volume: 77

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