Could It Be the Pseudobulbar Affect or Am I Just Happy?
I was playing a nice, calm game of Hearts with my kids and grandkids when I started laughing. Again. My outburst was not out of the ordinary, unless somewhat irrepressible mirth counts as abnormal.
I’ve experienced several bouts of uncontrollable laughter in the last few months. I have noticed that it happens during my exercise class, when I’m with family, and at other times. People usually think that I am up to something. But I am not, I just can’t help smiling.
The pseudo … what?
The pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a condition sometimes seen in people with Parkinson’s disease. It is distinguished by a loss of control when it comes to laughing or crying. One moment the person with PBA is sitting with you, having a normal conversation, and the next, they are laughing or crying uncontrollably. At least that’s how I would imagine it would play out. Their outbursts don’t correspond to the emotions they are displaying; for example, laughing when they’re grieving, or crying when they’re telling a joke.
So, does smiling count when it comes to the pseudobulbar affect? I don’t usually indulge in self-diagnosis, and I’m not looking to entertain another disorder. However, I find this condition to be fascinating.
With Parkinson’s disease, we are often battling a “stone face” and trying to find our lost smiles. I have experienced both ends of the smile spectrum. I have had people admonish me, telling me to smile, when I am having a perfectly super day, but my smile — or lack thereof — seems to suggest otherwise. Equally, I have received several compliments from people saying that I have a beautiful smile.
What to do?
I have learned while attending physical therapy to do everything BIG and intentionally — as I wrote in my column, “I’ve Made BIG Improvements with Parkinson’s Therapy Program.” I believe that smiling is just as important as good balance. Your smile is often your calling card in life.
I don’t believe that I have PBA — but who knows? Perhaps it is the beginning of this strange condition, but I don’t think so. I smile because I am happy and filled with unspeakable joy. And I don’t intend to wipe that feeling off my face anytime soon.
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