Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To Laugh or To Cry ............ That Is The Question!

June 26
Do you ever wake up and you are crying?  I have, quite a few times.  I have not had a bad dream and nothing is more wrong than normal, I am just crying. It is very unnerving, especially when you can’t make heads or tails of a reason.

Some people say they have bouts of laughing.  For no apparent reason, they just burst out laughing and cannot stop.  They say it is very embarrassing and I can imagine that it would be.  I have not done that yet and hope I don’t.

These types of outbursts, laughing or crying, is called pseudobulbar effect.  According to Psychology Today, “people with PBA are subject to uncontrollable episodes of crying or laughing without an evident reason. While the exact causes of the disorder are not fully understood, it appears to be associated with injuries to neurological pathways in the brain that control emotional response. Diseases like ALS, MS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and brain trauma resulting from stroke are all linked to PBA, and according to the latest research, approximately 50 percent of patients suffering from those diseases also suffer from PBA. In some cases, a patient with PBA has an underlying brain injury he or she wasn't even aware of. Dr. Jonathan Fellus, a neurologist and expert on PBA, says that one of the reasons why PBA is misunderstood is that it's so often mistaken for depression. "Well-meaning medical professionals misinterpret symptoms and tell patients they are depressed and just don't know it. They then prescribe an antidepressant, which in most cases won't work and the patient continues to suffer. To determine if a patient is suffering from depression or PBA (or possibly both), Dr. Fellus has developed a screening method that focuses in on what triggers the emotional response. During the course of a calm discussion with the patient, he narrows down the topics--perhaps having to do with family members or situations at work--and eventually he and the patient come across one that elicits unexpected crying or laughing. Once triggered, the response is uncontrollable and ends quickly.  One of the main things that distinguish PBA from depression is that the emotional episodes are unpredictable and very short, ranging from seconds to minutes, and they occur multiple times a day. They require a great deal of energy to hold back. The side-effects for PBA sufferers include feelings of emotional exhaustion and, frequently, social isolation. Without realizing that they have a medical problem, people with PBA often adapt their lives to avoid things that trigger the response, including interacting with others unless they absolutely have to. With social isolation comes more negative emotion that can over time manifest as depression. While all of this may sound like new knowledge about a recently discovered disease, PBA has actually been well-documented in the medical literature for more than 100 years, though it has been labeled at least ten different things during that time. One of the earliest terms for the condition was "reflex crying" (a term now associated with babies' sudden, uncontrollable bouts of crying). Even Charles Darwin described the disorder in his seminal text, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 130 years ago. Until recently, however, PBA patients suffered without hope of treatment. About 15 years ago, a medication being tested to treat ALS patients was found to stop the episodes of laughing or crying these patients regularly experienced. As it turned out, the treatment was not approved to treat ALS but was subsequently approved to treat PBA and became available in January of this year. Interestingly, the active ingredient in the medication (called Nuedexta, made by AVANIR Pharmaceuticals) is dextromethorphan--the same drug found in many brands of cough syrup. (You cannot, however, self treat PBA by taking cough syrup; the formulation in Nuedexta is significantly different than anything available over the counter.) The ability to treat PBA can change lives, and it's crucial that more medical professionals get the facts about the disorder and its treatment. According to Dr. Fellus, "Doctors don't screen for PBA because they don't know about it, and patients don't tell their doctors about their symptoms because they don't recognize them as symptoms." That has to change, and when it does thousands of people who would otherwise suffer in silence will benefit.”

Most people with MS have such a wide range of symptoms.  Although we share a lot of the symptoms, some have never heard of other symptoms someone may be having a terrible time adjusting to.  One of the really good things about our MS Family is that we are all sympathetic with each other and try to help each other whether we have experienced that particular problem or not.  Sometimes, we are the only sympathetic ear that someone has.

As with most things involving MS, you have to think in the “box of chocolate” realm.  Not only do you never know what you are going to get, you never know how long it will last and if it will come back when it stops.

I keep a box of Kleenex on my bedside table.  When I wake up crying, I just wipe my eyes, blow my nose and try to go back to sleep.


Muffie said...

Interesting that this happens when you're asleep. If I cry, I know what triggered it. Not knowing the cause would drive me crazy.

Janie said...

It IS a little unnerving, but I guess, like other things with MS, you just accept it and go on!!

Linda said...

Very different that you wake up crying...I guess we can always try to over analyze things. I am your newest follower. I do hope you stop by to say hello.

Janie said...

Yes it is, Linda. If I had a sad dream or was sad when I went to sleep, I could understand it....oh well, such is life with MS! Thank you for your interest in this blog!!

Karen said...

I have never had this happen. Like Muff, if I am crying I know why.