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What is the Treatment for Emotional Lability?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Emotional lability is characterized by frequent mood changes and emotional outbursts. Nearly everyone experiences varying moods and emotions from time to time, but people who suffer from this condition typically experience more frequent mood swings and intense emotions that often manifest physically, such as bouts of crying, uncontrollable laughter, or angry outbursts. Treatment focuses on teaching patients to manage their symptoms through cognitive-behavioral therapy. Prescription medications can also help control symptoms in some individuals.

Many different conditions and problems can lead to emotional lability. The condition is frequently seen in patients who have suffered from a brain injury or a neurological condition. It is usually diagnosed as a secondary condition in people who have Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors or injuries, or in people who have suffered a stroke or other brain trauma.

Patients are often able to learn to control their symptoms through therapy and relaxation techniques, regardless of the underlying cause of the condition. Counseling and support groups can help people who suffer from emotional lability learn to detach themselves from the situations that lead to their symptoms. Other techniques many patients use to help them gain control of their emotions include counting to ten, meditating, practicing deep breathing exercises, or engaging in other relaxation techniques, such as stretching or yoga.

Insulin imbalances in diabetic patients or hormonal imbalances in those who have a thyroid problem are sometimes responsible for frequent mood swings as well. In these cases, adequately treating the underlying condition with diabetes or thyroid medications usually helps relieve the emotional symptoms. Diabetic patients in particular should be monitored if they suffer from this condition, since some diabetes medications can actually make the symptoms worse. Other medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, asthma medications, and beta blockers, can also cause exaggerated emotional responses. Symptoms may subside after a doctor alters the dosage or changes the patient to a different medication.

Women with premenstrual syndrome or who are going through menopause sometimes suffer from emotional lability as well. The hormonal changes that occur prior to a woman's menstrual cycle and during menopause can make it difficult for them to control their emotions. These symptoms often subside with time, though hormonal replacement therapy can help menopausal women avoid severe emotional control problems.

If treating the underlying cause of the issue fails to relieve symptoms, or if a specific cause cannot be identified, doctors may treat emotional lability with antidepressants, such as citalopram or fluoxetine. These medications do not work for all patients. Crying and laughing bouts may both be controlled by these medications.

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