Pay close attention to your emotional responses or the people that surround you. Do you notice frequent mood swings or irregular emotional reactions? Are these responses somewhat an exaggerated reaction to a situation? 

If you notice this scenario on yourself or a loved one, this may be a sign of a labile mood or emotional lability. If you want to know more about labile mood, keep reading and you may know what the coping tips are.

What Does a Labile Mood Mean? 

Labile mood or emotional lability is a condition that causes uncontrollable crying or laughing at an improper time or situation. The definition of the word ‘labile‘ is “readily or continually undergoing chemical, physical, or biological change or breakdown“, in other words, unstable. It’s not a personality disorder, but it’s a possible symptom of a personality disorder.

This mood has other terms such as rapid emotional incontinence, emotional lability, emotional dysregulation, emotionalism, pathological crying and laughing, pseudobulbar affect, affective lability, or involuntary expression of emotions. 

It can often lead to harmful or self-destructive behaviors as manifested by aggression, screaming, angry tantrums, throwing objects, or violence towards others. But it doesn’t mean that a person with a labile mood can’t function well in their everyday life. There are coping mechanisms and treatments to control a labile mood. 

Is Labile a Mood or Affect?

Probably you’re wondering, ‘Is labile a mood or affect?’. Labile mood and labile affect are used interchangeably, and here’s why. The mood is a temporary feeling or state of mind, while affect is an outward expression of your emotional state.

As per the definition of the term ‘labile,’ it is both a combination of mood and affect. A person with a labile mood will cry out of nowhere, with no reason at all. That is why labile mood and labile affect are the same. 

guy with a labile mood in front of the mirror

What is Affective Lability?

There’s another common term heard most of the time: affective lability. Have you seen a person diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? ADHD and other anxiety disorders often have a change in mood out of nowhere during inappropriate times. You can witness that they are emotionally unstable or have erratic behavior at times. That is affective lability – a classification of affective disorders affecting the mood of a person with ADHD. 

What Causes Labile Moods?

When it comes to mental health conditions, there will always be a reason for the occurrence of these psychological diseases. The following include types of mental illnesses that cause mood swings or a symptom of an underlying disease. 

  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): A mental illness involving a pattern of ongoing mood swings, impulsive actions, problems in relationships, and self-image disturbance.
  • Bipolar Disorder: According to the American Psychiatric Association, bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that leads to frequent and unusual changes in mood, activity levels, level of concentration, energy, and performing tasks of daily living. 
  • Brain Injury: Stroke, blunt trauma, skull fracture, contusion, hematoma, brain swelling, oxygen deprivation to the brain, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, ALS.
  • External Factors: Too much stress, anxiety, too much noise or too many people, death of a loved one, traumatic experiences

As you notice the list, the labile mood might be a symptom of an underlying disease or a mental illness. But the big question is: Does emotional lability go away?

Does Mood Lability Go Away?

The good news is, mild cases of mood lability may not need therapy or treatment. But to manage your health, there are coping tips that can be done every day to avoid these types of episodes. Coping tips can be put to use so you can manage inappropriate mood or mood lability.

But what if it already causes stress or affects your activities of daily living? What if there’s aggression or violence already involved? Something has to be done before it’s too late, and that is why there are medications and interventions available. Without intervention, this can worsen the conditions and may induce clinical disorders.

Also, when mood lability is one of the symptoms of an underlying disease or mental illness, the treatment must be approached differently. The symptoms need to be addressed first, so the mood swings may be managed properly. 

How Do You Deal With Emotional Lability?

For some, it is frustrating to deal with emotional lability. There may be situations where you might feel awkward in participating in social gatherings, or you may be too conscious of being around other people. You may also be afraid that other people won’t understand your condition. These are common emotions you experience. However, if an emotion leads you to process other emotions like anger, it’s important to be aware. What experiences make you show inappropriate behavior? How often is that response elicited?

When you can’t make yourself calm, that can often be an example of unstable emotions. Do not let emotional lability affect your relationships and living your everyday life. There’s always a way to deal with this. A healthcare provider will most probably prescribe mood stabilizers or antidepressant medications to manage emotional lability. Some emotions can be managed through therapy, meditation, and other psychology-related techniques.

Mood stabilizers are medications that can manage mood swings and prevent depressive or manic episodes—examples such as carbamazepine, divalproex sodium, lamotrigine, lithium, or valproic acid. To reduce the intensity of emotional outbursts and mood changes, low doses of antidepressants are most likely to be prescribed.

How to Cope With Mood Lability?

The next time you catch yourself in a tricky situation, and you’re aware of your mood lability tendencies, take a step back, and remember these coping tips. 

  • Pause and take a break: Sometimes, all you need is to step back and calm yourself. Take a break, take a walk, distance yourself, breathe, and pause for a while. You need to manage yourself in social situations that will cause your stress. 
  • Breathing Techniques: The wonders of breathing techniques will always keep you in awe. If you focus on your breath and practice slow breathing, you will find yourself calmer, reducing tendencies of a labile mood. 
  • Be aware of what triggers the intense mood swings: Sometimes, the ultimate secret to prevent mood swings is to prevent situations or circumstances that trigger them. Figure out what triggers your mood swings and prevent it as much as you can. Your response is a key to help you manage your emotions.
  • Find a distraction: If you can’t prevent your mood swings’ triggering factors, you can always find a distraction. Maybe you can change activity or count your breath. 
  • Be Positive: Do not overthink your mood swings and stop dwelling in the past. Develop a positive mindset that you can overcome your mood swings.
  • Explain to others your situation: Sometimes, all you need is a brief explanation so other people can understand your situation. You can say like “After my stroke, I giggle at times. If you see me do it, just ignore it,” That simple! They will understand. 

How Can Counseling Help Your Labile Mood?

One of the most important interventions for mood lability is counseling. During counseling, a mental health professional helps you figure out how and why this happened to you. 

Then you may be able to figure out what triggers your labile mood, how you can avoid it, and how you can deal with it. There’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help. Seeking help is the first step to finding a better you. 

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