Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

2011 Edition
| Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Emotional Lability

  • Nicholas Bolt
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_991



Emotional lability is a disorder characterized by involuntary emotional displays of mood that are overly frequent and excessive, often the result of various neuropathologies.


Historically, emotional lability has been difficult to categorize as a distinct psychological disorder. The term is often used interchangeably with pseudobulbar affect (PBA), although PBA more generally refers to excessive emotions that may or may not correspond with the underlying mood. PBA also encompasses a broader range of emotions including anger and irritability, while emotional lability generally refers only to emotions characterized by laughing and crying.

Although the definitive cause is still unknown, most hypotheses point to the loss of voluntary, cortical inhibition over brainstem centers that produce the facio-respiratory functions associated with laughing and crying as the...

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    Arciniegas, D., & Topkoff, J. (2000). The neuropsychiatry of pathologic affect: An approach to evaluation and treatment. Seminar for Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 5, 290–306.Google Scholar
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    Schiffer, R., & Pope, L. (2005). Review of pseudobulbar affect including a novel and potential therapy. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 17, 447–454.Google Scholar
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    Wilson, K. (1924). Some problems in neurology. II: Pathological laughing and crying. Journal of Neurology and Psychopathology, 4, 299–333.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Bolt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFordham UniversityBronxUSA