What is Mood Lability? How to Cope With It?

Last Update on October 20, 2021 : Published on October 20, 2021
What is mood lability

Understanding Emotional Lability

  • What is Mood Lability?
  • What are the Symptoms of Mood Lability?
  • Factors Responsible for Mood Lability
  • Ways to Cope with Mood Lability

Have you ever met someone who always has an inappropriate reaction to things? A standard example of such inappropriate behavior is when they go all serious in a funny situation and crack jokes or begin laughing in a serious situation.

Sometimes you can have an opposite reaction to a stressful situation because your mind activates the reaction formation coping mechanism. That’s the way some people cope when they are at a deeper end.

The difference between your coping mechanism and a labile mood is that in mood lability the emotional response is often uncontrollable which is not the case in reaction formation.

Let’s understand mood lability in detail…

What is Mood Lability?

We can define Mood lability as a neurological condition that makes a person behave and react in an intense and extreme manner in situations when it is least required. There are highly inappropriate emotional responses to random situations.

If you have undergone an injury to the brain, neurological surgery or have a pre-pre-existing neurological condition then you are most likely to develop a labile mood.

Mood lability is basically quick shifts in mood which are often out of proportion. Now, it’s not always about the emotional response, it’s also about the thoughts and behaviors that change rapidly and uncontrollably.

Other than the neurological conditions it is also related to mental health-related issues like borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and sometimes it is also seen in pseudobulbar affect (occurs after a stroke).

What are the Symptoms of Mood Lability?

The main symptoms are rapid change in mood. The mood shifts can be

  • Sudden (or quick shifts)
  • Exaggerated
  • Unpredictable
  • Uncontrolled

Other symptoms may include:

  • Mixed emotions (laugh becomes cry becomes anger becomes pity and so on)
  • Emotional outbursts (often short-lived)
  • Laugh/cry in situations when the opposite reaction is required
  • extra/unproportionate reactions to situations
  • Out of character intense emotional response
  • No emotional symptoms in between episodes

Also Read: Emotionally Volatile: Symptoms of Volatile Anger To Control

The symptoms can sometimes be very confusing and it’s hard to figure out whether you have mood lability or not. The best way to know your condition is to keep a daily journal. This way you can keep a track of your mood shifts.

If your mood shifts match the above-mentioned symptoms then you are most likely suffering from mood lability.

Factors Responsible for Mood Lability


There are many causes that make you develop a labile mood. Mostly it is because of already existing mental health or neurological conditions. Here is a list of a few of them:

  • Neurological conditions like
  • Alzheimer’s’
  • Dementia and
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seizure disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Ways to Cope with Mood Lability

When you first begin to see some symptoms you can tackle them on your own by using these coping strategies. If things begin to go out of hand it’s best to consult a mental health professional or your doctor.

Here are some coping strategies you can follow:

  1. Make sure your loved ones know about your condition. Be open about your thoughts and feelings.
  2. Don’t suffer alone, let your friends and family help you.
  3. You will know when you are about to have an episode, try to take deep breaths at that time. This will reduce the intensity.
  4. Try to distract yourself if you think you might have irregularities in mood
  5. Try doing muscle relaxation techniques right before you think you might have an episode
  6. Make note of your trigger. Try to avoid coming in contact with your triggers when you are feeling vulnerable.
  7. In case you have already had an episode, don’t sit with it. Move on, you will do better next time.
  8. Take enough breaks so that you have time to achieve calmness
  9. You can also look for support groups they have proven to be of great help

Final thoughts

Mood lability is very common and if often accompanied by some psychological, physical or neurological condition.

Unfortunately, if mood lability is because of some neurological cause then you will most likely always have mood lability episodes. If you are in such a situation, prepare an explanation of a sentence or so. This will help others know about your condition so that they are not left perplexed.

I hope now you know all about mood lability and how you can cope with it.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

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About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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