Jump to content

Emotional lability

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In medicine and psychology, emotional lability is a sign or symptom typified by exaggerated changes in mood or affect in quick succession.[1][2] Sometimes the emotions expressed outwardly are very different from how the person feels on the inside. These strong emotions can be a disproportionate response to something that happened, but other times there might be no trigger at all. The person experiencing emotional lability usually feels like they do not have control over their emotions. For example, someone might cry uncontrollably in response to any strong emotion even if they do not feel sad or unhappy.[1]

Emotional lability is seen or reported in various conditions including borderline personality disorder,[3] histrionic personality disorder,[4] post-traumatic stress disorder,[5] hypomanic or manic episodes of bipolar disorder,[6] and neurological disorders or brain injury (where it is termed pseudobulbar affect), such as after a stroke.[7] It has sometimes been found to have been a harbinger, or early warning, of certain forms of thyroid disease.[8] Emotional lability also results from intoxication with certain substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines.[9] It is also an associated feature of ADHD[10][11] and autism.[12]

Children who display a high degree of emotional lability generally have low frustration tolerance and frequent crying spells or tantrums.[2] During preschool, ADHD with emotional lability is associated with increased impairment and may be a sign of internalizing problems or multiple comorbid disorders.[11] Children who are neglected are more likely to experience emotional dysregulation, including emotional lability.[13]

Potential triggers of emotional lability include excessive tiredness, stress or anxiety, overstimulated senses (too much noise, being in large crowds, etc.), being around others exhibiting strong emotions, very sad or funny situations (such as jokes, movies, certain stories or books), death of a loved one, or other situations that elicit stress or strong emotions.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Service (2011). "Understanding Emotional Lability" (PDF). The State of Queensland (Queensland Health). Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Posner J, Kass E, Hulvershorn L (October 2014). "Using stimulants to treat ADHD-related emotional lability". Current Psychiatry Reports. 16 (10). Springer Nature: 478. doi:10.1007/s11920-014-0478-4. PMC 4243526. PMID 25135778.
  3. ^ Paris J (1993). Borderline Personality Disorder: Etiology and Treatment. American Psychiatric Pub. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-88048-408-4. OCLC 25281982.
  4. ^ Kernberg OF (27 September 1995). Aggression in Personality Disorders and Perversions. Yale University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-300-06508-4. OCLC 25965238.
  5. ^ Schoenleber M, Berghoff CR, Gratz KL, Tull MT (January 2018). "Emotional lability and affective synchrony in posttraumatic stress disorder pathology". Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 53: 68–75. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2017.11.006. PMC 5748357. PMID 29197703.
  6. ^ Fortinash KM, Worret PA (13 June 2014). Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-323-29327-3. OCLC 960964818.
  7. ^ Kim JS (September 2016). "Post-stroke Mood and Emotional Disturbances: Pharmacological Therapy Based on Mechanisms". Journal of Stroke. 18 (3). Korean Stroke Society: 244–255. doi:10.5853/jos.2016.01144. PMC 5066431. PMID 27733031.
  8. ^ Cassara M (2002-08-20). "Hyperthyroidism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-23. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  9. ^ Stark MM, Payne-James JJ (30 April 2009). Symptoms and Signs of Substance Misuse. Cambridge University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-521-13727-0. OCLC 656492372.
  10. ^ Cooper RE, Tye C, Kuntsi J, Vassos E, Asherson P (January 2016). "The effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation on emotional dysregulation, oppositional behaviour and conduct problems in ADHD: A systematic review and meta-analysis". Journal of Affective Disorders. 190. Elsevier BV: 474–482. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2015.09.053. PMID 26551407.
  11. ^ a b Maire J, Galéra C, Meyer E, Salla J, Michel G (May 2017). "Is emotional lability a marker for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and aggression symptoms in preschoolers?". Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 22 (2): 77–83. doi:10.1111/camh.12168. PMID 32680322. S2CID 148130518.
  12. ^ Simonoff E, Jones CR, Pickles A, Happé F, Baird G, Charman T (November 2012). "Severe mood problems in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder". Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines. 53 (11): 1157–1166. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02600.x. PMID 22909395.
  13. ^ Maguire SA, Williams B, Naughton AM, Cowley LE, Tempest V, Mann MK, et al. (September 2015). "A systematic review of the emotional, behavioural and cognitive features exhibited by school-aged children experiencing neglect or emotional abuse". Child. 41 (5). Wiley: 641–653. doi:10.1111/cch.12227. PMID 25733080.