Why Do Some People Laugh At Everything
There are many things that can cause someone to laugh nervously – from the most innocent jokes and stories, to more serious topics like war and politics. Nervous laughter is often associated with embarrassment, but there are other causes too. Why do some people find certain situations so funny?
Some researchers suggest that our bodies use nervous laughter as an emotional self-regulation technique. They say that when we’re feeling uncomfortable about something, our body releases hormones that make us feel happy in order to calm ourselves down and return to normalcy. This explanation makes sense because it helps to explain why laughing at something embarrassing actually feels good. The release of those endorphins would help you feel better after experiencing discomfort. However, other studies have shown that nervous laughter isn’t related to hormonal responses. In fact, one study found that people who laughed nervously were less likely to release oxytocin (a hormone released during orgasm) than those who didn’t laugh nervously. So what does cause nervous laughter then?
The answer could lie in another type of response — one that doesn’t involve releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. According to this theory, nervous laughter comes from a physical reaction that occurs when we’re faced with stressors that might make us feel vulnerable or weak. We’ve all experienced a stressful moment where we felt overwhelmed by anxiety over a difficult situation or thought. When that happened to me recently, I was really struggling with my feelings about being overweight. It wasn’t just weight on my mind; I also had a lot going on emotionally with family issues and work problems.
I’d been thinking about how hard it must have been for Jesus Christ when he saw people suffering every day on their journey toward crucifixion. What if I asked God to give me a sign that He understood my pain? What if He allowed me to see myself dying on the cross next to him? That idea alone made me start shaking uncontrollably and caused me to break out in tears. My heart started pounding and I couldn’t stop crying. What was happening? Was I having a panic attack?
Afterward, I went through a period where I felt completely different. No matter what I did, whether it was watching comedy movies or reading humorous books, I ended up breaking out in nervous giggling. This surprised even my closest friends. One of them said she hadn’t seen me giggle before. But I’m not sure why I reacted that way or if I needed to seek medical attention, since no doctor ever mentioned anything unusual.
This kind of thing certainly isn’t limited to me. There are plenty of people I know who seem to react to stressful moments with nervous laughter. A friend of mine told me that when she first moved to New York City, her boss used to tell dirty jokes at his desk whenever they met. She said that hearing these types of jokes while she was trying to focus on her work made her feel incredibly awkward and embarrassed. Another person I respect talked about how she reacts to the news anchor David Gregory’s “funny” comments and questions about gay marriage. She said that sometimes, instead of laughing politely, she’ll start laughing hysterically right along with the rest of the audience.
So why do these experiences leave us feeling so distressed and uncomfortable? Is it possible that nervous laughter is actually a form of protection? Read on to find out.
What Happens During Nervous Laughter?
One researcher believes that nervous laughter is a bodily response designed to protect us from emotional overload. His hypothesis is based on the observation that animals respond to threats with fight, flight or freeze behavior. Humans don’t typically engage in any of these behaviors unless forced to do so by danger or threat. For example, your dog will run away from danger or aggression, whereas humans tend to hide from conflict or negative emotions. If an animal behaved this way, it wouldn’t survive very long. Animals that live in packs show this same behavior — they flee from predators rather than engaging them.
In addition, animals that hunt for food usually take action quickly once confronted with prey. On the other hand, humans spend time thinking and weighing options before making decisions. Studies have shown that human beings aren’t always effective hunters, and they tend to procrastinate rather than taking immediate action to avoid danger. Researchers believe this tendency is rooted in the fact that humans evolved to live in large groups. Our brains have developed ways to keep us safe by helping us resist doing things that may harm others. Based on this information, Dr. Robert Provine, author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation,” proposed that nervous laughter functions similarly. He suggested that when we encounter something scary or distressing, our brain sends signals to our diaphragm that tells it to relax. As a result, our chest expands outward, which creates space between our vocal cords. This allows air to escape freely without constricting our lungs. By relaxing its muscles, the diaphragm prevents the glottis (the part of the larynx behind the vocal folds) from closing, leaving our vocal chords open. When we talk, our voice becomes breathy and relaxed. This explains why we sound silly when we laugh. Because our voices become loose and raspy, we unintentionally produce sounds that resemble a series of squeaks and squeals.
Dr. Provine’s hypothesis has yet to receive widespread acceptance among scientists. However, some researchers have studied the phenomenon further. One group conducted experiments using functional MRI scans to measure blood flow in the brain during periods of nervous laughter. Their results showed increased activity in areas of the brain responsible for processing visual stimuli. Another study found that subjects’ pulse rates decreased during nervous laughter compared to periods of relaxation. These findings support the view that nervous laughter protects us from fear.
But what exactly happens inside our heads when we get anxious? Find out on the next page.
Are You Having An Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety attacks occur when we feel extreme worry, dread or fear. Sometimes we call such episodes panic attacks or simply panicking. Most people who experience anxiety attacks eventually learn to control them through various methods. Medication, therapy and behavioral modification techniques are common treatments.
However, the possibility exists that our nervous system responds differently to fearful events. One theory proposes that our brains contain structures similar to the sympathetic nervous system. This system controls involuntary functions like breathing and heartbeat. It also regulates our fight-or-flight response. While the parasympathetic system works to relax the body after a burst of energy, the sympathetic system acts to increase energy levels. For example, the sympathetic system prepares us physically for battle or flight by raising our heart rate and increasing muscle tension.
Another interpretation of the sympathetic system focuses mainly on the brain stem. It says that the brain stem contains neurons called nociceptors that detect painful sensations. Once stimulated, these nerves send messages via synapses to motor neurons that stimulate the contraction of skeletal muscles. Nerve cells in the reticular formation monitor the incoming messages. When the intensity of the message reaches a particular threshold, the reticular formation activates the hypothalamus and sends a distress signal to the amygdala. The amygdala interprets this signal as a warning that the body is under threat. Through a process known as diffuse neurovegetative syndrome, the amygdala stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that prepare the body for emergency measures. This includes increasing heart rate, respiration, temperature and pupil dilation. All of these reactions allow the body to mobilize its resources and prepare for action.
It seems plausible that this response would include nervous laughter. After all, our laughter is controlled by the medulla oblongata, which is located near the base of the brain. Like the brain stem, the medulla monitors sensory input and relays commands to the spinal cord. Also, the neural pathways involved in producing laughter appear to overlap with those activated by the brain stem. And finally, it’s known that the pituitary gland secretes hormones that influence mood and affective states. Perhaps nervous laughter arises when the medulla detects an impending threat and sends a distress signal to the amygdala. In response, the amygdala triggers a cascade of neurological events that prepare us to deal with the situation. First, we tense our facial muscles and breathe faster. Then we may begin to shake, sweat or tremble involuntarily. Finally, our eyes dilate and pupils contract. With each episode, our laughter becomes louder, higher pitched and more intense.
If you think you might have an anxiety disorder, consult your physician immediately. Treatment options vary depending on the specific condition.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to see similar ones.
Please click on this link!