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Treating Involuntary Crying and Laughing

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How Alzheimer’s Disease Leads to Uncontrolled Emotions

Medically Reviewed By Nicole Washington, DO, MPH

For people with Alzheimer’s disease (ALZ), managing emotional responses becomes challenging. However, understanding emotional responses can help people with ALZ and caregivers manage these psychological changes.


Alzheimer’s disease (ALZ) is a complex neurodegenerative condition affecting millions of people worldwide. This disorder, which typically gets severe over time, primarily impacts memory, cognitive functions, and behavior.

People in the early stages may experience mild memory lapses, but as the disease advances, it can severely disrupt daily life, making routine tasks challenging. As a result, people living with ALZ may feel restless or confused.

If you or a loved one has ALZ and is experiencing difficulty managing emotions, working with a doctor can help you find ways to improve your quality of life.

Symptoms and stages of Alzheimer’s disease

ALZ progresses through several stages Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source , most often over the course of several years:

  1. Early Stage: In the initial phase, people might notice subtle changes, such as occasional forgetfulness, difficulty recalling names, or misplacing items. At this stage, people with ALZ can still function independently, but it might take more effort to remember recent events or information.
  2. Middle Stage: As ALZ progresses, symptoms become more noticeable. Memory loss increases, making it difficult to recognize familiar faces, remember recent events, or maintain a coherent conversation. People in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease may also experience behavioral changes like confusion, agitation, or wandering.
  3. Late Stage: In the final stage, people with ALZ lose the ability to communicate, recognize loved ones, and perform basic tasks independently. They require full-time assistance with their daily activities and often experience significant cognitive and physical decline.

The link between Alzheimer’s and uncontrolled emotions: Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA)

Uncontrolled emotions in people with ALZ Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source often stem from a condition known as Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA). PBA causes uncontrollable, unpredictable, and exaggerated emotional responses. This leads to frequent outbursts of laughter or crying that are not connected to the situation at hand.

PBA occurs due to disruptions among the neurons that regulate emotions. In people with ALZ, changes to the brain’s structure, which is caused by the disease, affect these pathways. This, in turn, contributes to the development of PBA Trusted Source American Stroke Association Highly respected international organization Go to source .

PBA may also occur in other neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, but its prevalence in people with ALZ is noteworthy.

Managing uncontrolled emotions in people living with Alzheimer’s disease

Addressing uncontrolled emotions in people with ALZ Trusted Source National Institutes of Health Governmental authority Go to source requires treatment that uses a combination of medical therapies, emotional support, and caregiver education.

Guidance from healthcare professionals, especially doctors like neurologists or psychiatrists specializing in Alzheimer’s, may be most beneficial when making a plan to help manage PBA.

To help those with ALZ and uncontrolled emotions, doctors may recommend:

  1. Supportive therapies: Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or counseling may help. These therapies can help people with ALZ and caregivers better understand and cope with the emotional impact of the condition.
  2. Medication management: Some medications, like antidepressants, may help regulate emotions and manage PBA symptoms. However, their effectiveness varies from person to person, and their usage should be carefully monitored by a doctor.
  3. Creating a supportive environment: A nurturing and comforting atmosphere for people with ALZ can be helpful. Try to minimize stressors, maintain routines, and provide reassurance to help manage emotional outbursts.
  4. Caregiver support and education: Caregivers play a crucial role in supporting people living with ALZ. Educating caregivers about the disease and its emotional impacts, and providing resources for managing PBA can help them provide better care.


ALZ affects cognitive functions and significantly impacts emotional well-being. Understanding the symptoms and stages of ALZ is crucial in identifying and managing associated emotional challenges.

By using certain medical treatments and supportive therapies, and creating a nurturing environment, people living with ALZ and their caregivers can manage the emotional complexities of the disease more effectively.

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Medical Reviewer: Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Last Review Date: 2023 Nov 17
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