Quick Facts

  • A lack of emotional control refers to difficulties with managing/withholding urges
  • Emotional control is an executive function, regulated by the frontal lobes
  • Can occur in mild, moderate, and severe brain injuries

What does it
look like?

  • Moving from one emotional state to the other very quickly and to the extreme (called emotional lability)
  • Become angry quickly
  • Uncontrolled laughing, crying, anger, and fearful responses
  • Appearing self-centered

Possible Causes and Complications

Possible causes:

  • Damage to the frontal lobes, or areas of the brain that regulate emotion (i.e. limbic system)
  • Lack of awareness or insight to the impact of their injury
  • Managing grief and loss within oneself and between loved ones
  • Making comparisons to former self

Possible complications:

  • Poor emotional regulation can further reduce cognitive functioning
  • Symptoms can increase in combination with other conditions (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance misuse)
  • May have a negative impact on relationships
  • Reduced self-esteem and/or embarrassment

What can we do?

  • Remain calm and balance understanding with being directive in your response
  • Encourage the person to take a break; leave the situation when possible and return later
  • Encourage the use of relaxation techniques throughout the day
  • Support the individual to plan, prioritize, and pace prior to activities, particularly ones that are highly stimulating, unfamiliar, or overwhelming
  • Redirect the individual by changing the topic or the activity
  • Support other individuals to understand and ignore challenging behaviours
  • Have self-compassion and set healthy boundaries with these behaviours
  • Be mindful of your own self-care; don’t feel guilty if you attend an activity that the person in unable to
  • Monitor possible triggers such as overstimulation, stress, and fatigue
  • Medication and counselling can help with coping and stabilizing mood

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor. Consult a health care provider regarding specific medical concerns or treatment.