Unstable emotional lability after brain injury can be tense

It can be just a normal day, no particular dramas, but I will have a sudden turn. I might have even been having fun and laughing earlier, but something in me changes. I’ve tried analysing it when it happens, but I don’t think I can really get past the heavy dark feeling. The best I can do when going through emotional lability like this is be quiet so I don’t say something I might regret. 

emotional lability after brain injury

I do empathise with those around me who are confused by my behaviour

We’ve all been there; someone you care about is being unnaturally quiet and you know something is wrong. Your mind moves at a million miles an hour to try to work it out. And the conclusion that usually sticks is “It’s me, I’ve done something, but what?”

The reality is when I have an emotional lability episode there usually isn’t a guilty party, it’s just me and my unhelpful brain injury. I know it would help to try to tell those around me that. But even when I do it just sounds like a cover up, like when someone says “I’m fine.”

Emotional lability can include responses such as laughing, which I previously wrote about in Laughing in the face of brain injury, ludicrously hilarious. (Thanks to all the readers who named the term for me as I didn’t know it before.) But I wanted to talk about the other side which bothers me more.

Excessive crying 

In many ways I have improved dramatically in this area. But still I can be over taken by something, and as no one can understand my speech when I’m crying, it can cause panic.

For example, the other day one of my Dads lifelong friends told me he was going to visit him. He explained how that day he had got the sad news that another of his old friends had lost their battle when cancer. So he didn’t want to keep putting it off, seeing as he and my Dad are in their 80’s there is no time like the present. Seeing as that meant driving well over 100 miles each way to see him, I was touched. I hope when I’m my Dads age I have such loyal friends.

All that was fine, it was when I was trying to tell my partner James what had motivated my Dads friend that got me. I do not know the cancer patient so I wasn’t grieving.  I suppose it was just the sentiment that when someone is in their twilight years, you can’t afford to keep putting things off, as everything can change in a day.

Poor James. He heard the word “died” and had to keep asking me who I was referring too. As I just fell apart, he thought I meant my Dad had died. A few deep breathes and some tea, enabled my to start again.

Emotional lability after brain injury can include lots of tears

Common triggers for emotional lability

We are all individuals, so we all respond to different triggers. But here are some of the most likely ones:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Too much stimulation from noise, light or too many people
  • Feeling under pressure
  • Talking about a subject which is close to the heart
  • Another person being highly emotional 
Possible solutions

When a moment hits you need to take a rest. My quiet moments might be confusing for others, but my brain just can’t keep trying to do everything. So by giving it some time to calm down it’s able to start the recharge process.

Distractions can really work wonders. For example when James realised my Dad was still very much alive, he showed me very cute videos. They always make me smile and feel better. But more importantly in this situation they help me think about something other than what made me upset so I reset.

Doing an activity like walking also helps. As you are using different parts of your brain and experiencing a different environment, this also is a great way to reset your brain.

Other related articles:

How do you make sure your family and friends know it’s not their faulty or take offence? Have you got any tips take help you reset?

I find I can cry even when I'm not sad as my brain injury causes emotional liability now.

signatureFollow me:

4 Replies to “Unstable emotional lability after brain injury can be tense”

  1. For me it seems to be rage, sometimes for some trivial reason, a small frustration can send me into an instant and short lasting rage usually berating the reason for my frustration. I am now trying to come to a full stop with what I was doing and let the angry feelings subside. I find that taking my dog for a walk does wonders for my mood.

    1. Spending quality time with your dog, and allowing your self to reset by gentle excise sounds a great answer to it. It’s horrible and stressful when negative emotions take us over, but nature helps put things back into perspective and ground us.

  2. Don’t forget us girls have the crazy-lady hormones to contend with also. I went from ‘something feels weird’ for 5 minutes once a month, commonly referred to as PMS to ‘OMG! someone’s needs to die!’……….You?

    1. My partner used to say I was ruled by the moon. Apparently I would be down every full moon! And that has stopped now.
      I’m not very observant when it comes to that sort of thing as at the time my behaviour feels rational to me and I don’t make the connection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *