You may have experienced this yourself – moments when you cannot help but giggle because you see a cute guy walking down the hallway. Or worse, when you are at the hospital for a close relative who has is a patient there.
No, you’re not cruel or crazy – this uncontrollable fit of subtle laughter is called nervous laughter and it’s a reaction that even scientists have talked about. What makes it really bad, apparently at least, is that it bursts out when inappropriate and also makes you come off as weird.
So, what is it that causes you to break out into a laugh when it is uncalled for? Let’s visit some of the possible causes that science has uncovered:
1 – Discomfort
When we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable in a situation, we often experience nervous laughter. Perhaps this is a way of us telling our raising anxiety to calm down or to hint to the opposite person that we’re not a threat. People tend to have a nervous laugh when they feel weak or vulnerable too.
2 – Healing
Nervous laughter is most common in situations of trauma. There’s nothing funny about pain or feeling hurt, but we find ourselves laughing. Why? Because that’s our way of healing, a cognitive defense mechanism for lowering stress.
3 – Anxiety
As mentioned above, laughter can also come on because you are feeling particularly nervous or anxious. This explains why we have those uncontrollable bouts of giggles when giving a presentation or when on a date.
4 – Dealing
Another reason why nervous laughter may bubble up is when we are experiencing strong emotions. For instance, some people laugh when they are proposed and also simultaneously cry tears of joy. Or when they see a really cute baby.
Therefore, though in the moment nervous laughter may seem problematic, it is actually nothing to worry about. When it happens, you can try deep breathing or direct your focus elsewhere to stop it. If your habit of nervously laughing when inappropriate worries you, there’s cognitive behavioral therapy that you can go for.
Other than being a reaction to an emotion, nervous laughter can also have medical causes behind it. When nervous laughter is consistent, and too overpowering, there can be a medical cause explaining it. Take for instance, the pseudo bulbar affect. PBA is common among patients of stroke of multiple sclerosis.
It results in uncontrollable laughing when a not so funny joke is told or even when it doesn’t seem befitting at all. Other medical causes that can cause consistent and problematic nervous laughter include Kuru, Grave’s disease, and hyperthyroidism.
It can be very difficult, almost impossible for some, to control nervous laughter. However, you can try deep breathing, yoga, and meditation for relaxing your mind. You can also try art and music therapy for diverting your focus and stimulating your brain.