Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. The gradual death of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscles results leads to the weakening of muscles throughout the body.

Most ALS symptoms are movement-related. But some patients can experience frontotemporal dementia or a condition known as pseudobulbar affect that involves an outward expression of emotions that patients are not really feeling.

In addition, those with ALS can experience depression and anxiety.

Frontotemporal dementia

A small number of people with ALS experience frontotemporal dementia, which changes the way they think, communicate and behave.

In general, this form of dementia does not affect memory. But those with the condition can find it difficult to concentrate and learn, which can suggest to others that they have short-term memory problems. Among other symptoms, those with frontotemporal dementia can find it difficult to make decisions, carry out tasks and recognize social cues. And they can become aggressive.

Scientists believe that some cases of the condition stem from a mutation that causes some brain cells to die faster.

Pseudobulbar affect

Some people with ALS experience pseudobulbar affect, a condition that does not alter mood but can generate uncontrollable displays of emotion that do not reflect actual feelings. The displays can include sudden episodes of laughing or crying that are difficult to stop, or inappropriate expressions of emotion.

Because these can occur at inappropriate times, they can make social interaction more challenging. It is important for a patient to discuss the condition with friends and family, so they can offer understanding and support. Medication, such as antidepressants or Nuedexta, helps some but not all patients.

Emotional wellbeing

An ALS diagnosis can generate a range of emotions in patients and their family members because they all must adjust to a new way of life. Maintaining a good support network can help a patients and others manage the vast changes. There is help available on how to have difficult conversations with family, friends, and colleagues about ALS. Such talks can help the patient and others adjust to the new reality.

Those with ALS can also experience depression and anxiety. Scientists don’t know yet if this is related to the progression of the disease, or its emotional impact. Patients can withdraw from social situations and feel isolated due to the symptoms of the disease. Because it can be difficult for patients to recognize signs of depression, it’s important for friends, family, and care givers to be ready to help when needed.

ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.