Smile In Pain

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Smile In Pain

What does it mean to smile in pain?

1. Introduction – There is now a substantial body of literature showing that people in pain evince a number of specific facial movements, with a set of at least three or four distinct facial actions showing a close linkage to pain, However, this core set of pain-indicative facial actions is often blended with a range of seemingly incongruent expressions.

  • Among the most frequently reported—in experimental as well as clinical studies —is the action of the zygomatic major muscle, which pulls the lip corners upward obliquely,
  • This finding appears surprising because the action of the zygomatic major is better known as the principal movement in the most common human facial expression—the smile,

Given that facial expressions occurring during pain have been shown to not only impact social interactions (by eliciting solicitous behaviors and empathic responses in observers) but also impact pain diagnostic and pain treatment we believe it is important to investigate this seemingly incongruent facial expression, namely, “smiling during pain.” Although one might initially associate a smile with happiness or at least with a marker of a positive, non-painful affective state, it has been shown that there are different types of smiles and, interestingly, many of them appear not to be signs of felt happiness,

In a recent comprehensive article on smiling, the authors suggest that there are three different types of smiles which have discrete functions. One group of smiles, labeled ” enjoyment smiles,” is believed to indeed be readouts of positive emotions like happiness. Another group, labeled as ” dominance smiles,” refers to the smiles that reflect a dominant social status or control.

The third group, labeled as ” affiliative smiles,” refers to those smiles that express positive social motives and serve the purpose of creating and maintaining social bonds, To which of these categories do smiles occurring during pain belong? By definition, pain is an unpleasant experience (IASP, 1986) and thus, it seems unlikely that smiles occurring during pain are enjoyment smiles that are readouts of a positive emotion.

However, from the perspective of the opponent process theory —which assumes that the arousal of a primary affect (e.g., pain) also initiates the arousal of a consequent opponent process (e.g., positive affect)—smiling during the experience of pain could indeed reflect the arousal of an opponent positive affective state, arising from an inherent homeostatic adjustment to the arousal of a negative affective state.

Smiling during the experience of pain could indeed reflect the arousal of an opponent positive affective state arising from an inherent homeostatic adjustment to the arousal of a negative affective state. However, it seems even more likely that smiles occurring during pain belong to the group of affiliate smiles that express positive social motives.

  • These social motives are believed to be the creation and maintenance of social bonds,
  • In the context of pain, which is often a threatening, distressful, and highly arousing experience, social bonding might be especially important in order to engage social support.
  • In the present studies, we addressed the question of whether smiles occurring during the experience of pain really belong to this group of socially motivated affiliate smiles,

To answer this question, we tested participants in different social settings. If smiling during pain does indeed serve social motives, then smiles in response to painful stimulation should be significantly affected by social context manipulations. The empirical definition of “social” in facial expression research, however, is rather vague and has varied from simply altering the presence of another person (e.g., alone versus with the experimenter) to manipulating specific aspects of the social interaction (e.g., eye contact) These variations can be arranged on a continuum ranging from no sociality (being alone) to moderate (nonvisual interaction) and high sociality (visual interaction).

Besides these more quantitative variations in the level of sociality, social situations can also differ qualitatively depending on the type of relationship between interactants. In the present studies, we investigated the impact of varying levels of sociality as well as of different properties of the social relationship on the occurrence of smiling during pain.

In study 1, which employed a between-subject design, we investigated whether even slight variations in the degree of sociality affect the occurrence of smiling during pain by comparing situations with high and moderate sociality. In both conditions, an experimenter was always present.

  1. In the high sociality condition the experimenter did and in the low sociality condition, the experimenter did not have visual contact with the participant.
  2. In study 2, which employed a within-subject design, we not only modified the degree of sociality but also varied properties of the social relationship.

Participants experienced pain while alone, with a significant other, and with a stranger. In addition to applying painful stimulation, we also applied nonpainful stimuli in order to assess the degree to which smiling was indeed specific to painful experiences.

Should I smile through the pain?

Have you ever noticed someone smiling while telling a traumatic story? Ever had an experience where someone having chronic pain appeared to be more cheerful than you would expect? Ever noticed someone was crying from emotional or physical discomfort, then stop when around their loved ones as if it disappeared? Does it mean they are faking their experience? What do we believe to be true? In my 25 plus years working in health care, I saw this all the time.

I also see it now in my therapy practice. The palliative care patient experiencing pain switch their focus and put on a smile when loved ones enter. The firefighter who, while sharing the horror of a difficult rescue, smiles. The client who smiles while recounting a traumatic life experience. Confusing perhaps, but now I understand what this apparent phenomenon entails.

Typically, we would assume people should have an expression that is consistent with their lived experience. I see that this is not always the case as in my work, when the door is closed to the outside world, when they feel comfortable that I can handle hearing their actual pain, the mask comes off.

They no longer must put in the energy into pretending, and they then can permit themselves to share their distress. The smile and external façade are a defense mechanism, attempting to hide their true experience of emotional and/or physical suffering. Another way to think about the smiling affect amide emotional or physical pain is to see it as wearing a mask.

People who are suffering may offer no hint of their problem to the outside world. Still, they nonetheless are, in fact, suffering. Underneath the mask can lie sadness, fear, dread, panic, and various pain experiences, to name just a few. In a comprehensive article on smiling, the authors suggest that there are three different types of smiles which have discrete functions, which are:

E njoyment smiles : believed to be displays of positive emotions like happiness indeed. D ominance smiles : refers to the smiles that reflect a dominant social status or control. A ffiliative smiles : refers to those smiles that express positive social motives and serve to create and maintain social bonds.

So which category do smiles occurring during pain belong to? Since pain is an agreeably unpleasant experience, likely, smiles during pain are not enjoyment smiles. Dominance smiles could emerge as the person experiencing pain takes on that the distress as an “opponent” and smiles in the face of that pain.

The person may see pain as an adversary and something to be controlled. Recall the phase like the term “smiling in the face of danger”? The article finds that more likely, smiles that occur during pain tend to belong to the group of affiliate smiles predominantly. What this means is that the smile is motivated by social factors to create and maintain social connections.

Social connections are vital for all humans. Brene Brown reminds us that “we are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it, there is suffering.” People crave to feel connected, particularly when they are in pain.

  • This is often why many first responders and health professionals do not share their work trauma with their loved ones.
  • They do not want to feel alienated by others, particularly if they think that others can’t cope with the truth of what they endure.
  • Smiling can actually create good emotions and moderate bad ones.
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One of the first major studies investigating the benefit of smiling was published in 1983 in the journal Science. University of Washington psychologist Marsha Linehan and her colleagues found that when people altered their facial expressions on a purely muscular level, their emotions were affected.

Smiling, even with no emotion behind it, may help people tolerate pain. Smiling can create good emotions to counteract and cope with the negative pain experience. Smiling may act as a protective mechanism to avoid alienation by others who are not comfortable with distress. Smiling may act to reconnect to the part of themselves that previously the “happy self.” The smile may be a mask to protect the person against the chronic nature of their experience. The person may just need a break from the continual experience of misery. You may be missing important clues and assume someone does not need support.

Can a smile hide pain?

Hiding pain under a smile is not easy. It can be one of the hardest things to do. You do it when you care about others more than you do for yourself. But remember, a smile can hide so much; anxiety, fear, pain, sadness, tears.

Why do I smile when I’m sad?

The Secret Pain of “Smiling” Depression

Smiling depression is appearing happy to others while internally suffering with depressive symptoms. The smile and external façade is a defense mechanism. Suicide can be a particular threat for individuals suffering with smiling depression.

Source: Shutterstock / arvitalyaa By Rita Labeaune, Psy.D. How many people do you imagine look happy, but struggle with depressive thoughts on a daily basis? Typically depressed people are depicted as being bedridden and incapable of functioning. What may or may not be surprising is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, that approximately 10 percent of the United States population is suffering from, which is 10 times more than those suffering from (1 percent) and schizophrenia (1 percent).

  1. Not everyone experiences depression in the same way.
  2. Some might not even realize that they are depressed, especially if they seem like they’re managing their day-to-day life.
  3. It doesn’t seem possible that someone can be smiling, chipper, functioning, and at the same time depressed.
  4. In my practice, those who are most surprised to realize they’re experiencing some form of depression are those suffering from “smiling depression.” Most people haven’t even heard of the term.

The definition of smiling depression is: appearing happy to others, literally smiling, while internally suffering from depressive symptoms. Smiling depression often goes undetected. Those suffering from it often discount their own feelings and brush them aside.

They might not even be aware of their depression or want to acknowledge their symptoms due to a of being considered “weak.” The hallmark of smiling depression is sadness. The smile and external façade is a, an attempt to hide their true feelings. A person could be experiencing sadness about a failed relationship, challenges, or lacking what they view as a true purpose in life.

The sadness might also manifest as a constant overall feeling that “something just isn’t right.” Other common symptoms of smiling depression are feelings of, fear,, fatigue, irritability, hopelessness, and despair. Those suffering from this and other forms of depression may also experience problems, a lack of enjoyment in pleasurable activities, and a loss of libido.

  1. Everybody’s experience is different.
  2. It’s possible to feel just one or many of these symptoms.
  3. Another way to think about smiling depression is to see it as wearing a mask.
  4. People suffering from smiling depression may offer no hint of their problem to the outside world.
  5. They often maintain a full-time job, run a family household, participate in sports, and have a fairly active,

With their mask on, everything looks great, even at times perfect. However, underneath the mask, they are suffering from sadness, panic attacks, low,, and, in some cases, thoughts. Suicide can be a particular threat for individuals suffering from smiling depression.

Typically, people suffering from classic, severe depression might have suicidal thoughts, but not the energy to act on their feelings. However, those suffering from smiling depression have the energetic ability to plan and follow through. This is why smiling depression can be more dangerous than a classic form of severe depression.

If you or anyone you know might be suffering from smiling depression, the good news is that help is available. This is one of the most treatable mental health problems. Whether through counseling or, it is possible to successfully navigate out of this state of mind and be freed from the sadness. Aside from counseling or psychotherapy, those suffering can start by opening up to those around them. Choosing one close family member, friend, or confidant, and making it a practice to discuss feelings and concerns can help alleviate symptoms. It’s important not to be concerned about being a burden.

Sometimes we forget that those around us are happy to support us in the same way we would them. Opening up and sharing feelings is a key element in coping with depressive thoughts. As long as you continue to deny or avoid what makes you feel empty, it will be near impossible to fix the problem. When depressive thoughts and feelings aren’t addressed, they typically build up and become worse.

What matters most is to reach out. Rita Labeaune, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Beverly Hills. She treats adults dealing with smiling depression and other forms of depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. More from Psychology Today Get the help you need from a therapist near you–a FREE service from Psychology Today. : The Secret Pain of “Smiling” Depression

What’s a word for a sad smile?

Dolorous, lachrymose, lugubrious, plaintive, tearful. regretful, rueful.

Why is a smile so powerful quotes?

Smile is extremely powerful, Just remember when you come back from work with off mood, how your little one’s smile refreshes you and you forget about all other things. And, when you put a smile on your face in reciprocation, it brings a new positivity in the surrounding environment.

  1. Smiling reduces stress that your mind, body or soul feel.
  2. Smiling has countless positive effects on us.
  3. It stimulates the brain, awakens the positive vibes, makes you come across as friendly, and brings happiness to the surrounding people.
  4. Whether you say ” good morning ” to a stranger you pass in the mall or wave hand towards your neighbor while you’re on morning walk, adding a sweet and cute smile to these simple acts of kindness can make someone’s day.

Today we have curated some sweet, cute and famous smile quotes n sayings to remind you that a smile goes a long way.

Does a nice smile matter?

How it affects the people around you – Many people say that a person’s face and countenance seems to change when they smile. In fact, in many psychological tests, people are more likely to feel better about someone who appears with a smile as opposed to a person who has a neutral expression on their face.

This is because a person is seen as more attractive when they smile. People tend to behave differently around smiling, attractive people. Studies in Penn State University have found that smiling people appear immediately as more trustworthy, relatable, courteous and reliable. People trust you more as it gives you the appearance of sincerity and joy, and people are drawn to these qualities in a person.

Medical studies have reported that when a human sees another smiling face, the area of their brain called the orbitofrontal cortex responds in a way that is a lot similar to receiving a “reward.” People feel good when they see other people happy or smiling, even if they are not the direct cause of them doing so.

Furthermore, face research has reported in 2011 that when tested, both men and women were far more likely to gravitate towards images of people who are smiling, as opposed to those who did not. Smiling is also rather contagious. In the same way that someone with a particularly “infectious” laugh can have other people laughing, a person with a great smile is able to affect others and perhaps induce them to smile as well.

Research in Uppsala University in Sweden have even found evidence that frowning at someone who is smiling, while possible, is actually more difficult than just smiling in return at the other person. Human brains are wired to be sociable, so someone smiling is more likely to get smiled at in return, which causes an improvement in the “reward” cortexes of our brains, and benefiting both people all around.

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Passed around in a room, the area immediately lifts. The mirror neurons in their brains will light up, and the mood immediately becomes brighter. Behavioral scientists, since 1924, have commented and documented how smiling affects us and the people around us. No matter what we are doing or where we are doing it – from solemn errands to truly pleasurable activities such as listening to music – human facial expressions, particularly smiling, make a great impact not just in our mental and emotional states, but also our physical states.

And these good effects are passed on to the people around us. Smiling may in fact be the easiest way that we can help ourselves and others have a great day.

Can a smile be fake?

Other Ways to Tell if it is a Real Smile – Many people can intuitively tell if someone is faking an emotion. However, you can easily hone your skills! Here are a few tips to determining if a smile is sincere or not:

Watch for eye movements : Real smiles cause the eyes to move. It is fake if the rest of the person’s face stays still while they are smiling. Watch for bottom teeth : When a person has a genuine smile, they are less likely to expose the bottom row of teeth. A fake smile is more likely to include both rows of teeth. If it helps, think of how you might smile when forced to take a picture. Watch for crow’s feet : When you notice someone smiling, look to the corners of their eyes. Are there crow’s feet there? If there are, then it is more likely to be a real smile, since they are using more of their face muscles to do it.

If you want to know if a person is actually smiling for real, then keep these three criteria in mind. If it all matches up, then they are happy and smiling because of it.

Can people tell a fake smile?

How to spot a fake smile: It’s all in the eyes We all know that smiling faces sometimes tell lies, even without, But now there’s proof that those fake smiles may not be worth as much as the genuine article. In a study conducted at Bangor University in Wales, researchers had 36 undergrads play a game in which they won money from four opponents, each of whom would indicate the participants’ wins by displaying either a genuine or a polite smile.

In a later phase of the game, participants chose which opponent they wanted to play. “The really surprising finding was that they preferred genuinely smiling opponents to politely smiling ones even when the politely smiling ones had a greater chance of paying out,” says psychologist Erin Heerey, lead author of the study.

“Our research has found that genuine smiles are worth more to us than polite smiles.” But how can we tell a real smile from a fake one (unless of course, you’re watching an episode of the Real Housewives)? According to Heerey, it’s all in the eyes – or at least the area around the eyes.

  1. The key feature differentiating these types of smiles is the presence of so-called ‘laugh lines,’ the tiny wrinkles that appear at the corners of the eye during smiling,” she says.
  2. These are produced by the action of a muscle called the orbicularis oculi, which rings the eye and contracts when people produce genuine, but not polite smiles.” Differentiating between the two can be difficult, though, says, a professor emeritus of UC San Francisco who helped develop the Facial Action Coding System to help scientists distinguish between genuine and fake smiles.

“If it’s a very large smile and the lip corners are pulled up intensely then all of those signs will be produced by either a genuine or a non-genuine smile,” says Ekman, author of numerous books about facial expressions and how they reflect our emotions.

“The only place that will reveal the difference in a broad intense smile is the skin between the eyebrows and the upper eyelid. That will move slightly down in the genuine smile and will not move in the social or false smile. Everybody can voluntarily make their lips smile, but very few people can contract the muscle that surrounds the eyes.” Seattle photographer Lance Wagner says he thinks there’s one other thing that differentiates a fake smile from a real one.

“When you’re shooting someone you can tell when they’re doing a forced smile,” he says. “The mouth will go up but the eyes don’t tighten up, like when you laugh a little. With a real smile, you’ll see a sparkle in the eyes that you don’t get with a fake smile.

What is the rarest smile?

The Complex Smile – Complex type of smile. The rarest smile type is the complex smile, with only an estimated 2% of the population possessing this smile. This smile is rare because it requires three muscle groups to work simultaneously when smiling. If you have this smile, the two muscles used in the cuspid and commissure and the lower lip will pull downward, resulting in a double chevron shape.

Although similar to a commissure smile, the complex smile is much broader, and people with this smile type commonly show more of their upper and lower teeth when they smile. Famous examples of the complex smile are Marilyn Monroe and Julia Roberts. Unfortunately, smile makeovers are a tad more challenging for those who have a complex smile type because these smiles reveal more teeth at the top and bottom.

A dentist will likely recommend lower and upper teeth procedures if you have a complex smile.

Do people smile when they are depressed?

You won’t find smiling depression listed in the official diagnostic manual for mental disorders. But it’s a very real condition. Mental health professionals use the term when you’re depressed or anxious but look and act happy. If you have smiling depression, you might tell others that you feel fine and power through your daily activities as usual.

  • So your family and others may not realize you may need help.
  • Smiling depression is like a high-functioning form of this mood disorder,
  • You may be more likely to have smiling depression if you tend to be a perfectionist or are ambitious.
  • Eeping up appearances is important to you.
  • You may be very good at faking.

Smiling depression can mimic the manic phase of manic depression. You might overdo the laughter and stay highly productive at work. But on the inside, you may actually feel like a fraud. At the same time, you may feel ashamed about feeling down. The stigma in turn may prevent you from confiding in others or getting medical help.

One way that smiling depression differs from other types of depression is that it’s often invisible. Others may be unaware that you’re depressed, and you may not realize it yourself. That’s one reason smiling depression sometimes can be more dangerous than the “classic” form of depression. Suicide is a big risk.

People may not know you need help without the common signs of depression such as withdrawal, low energy, or lack of pleasure. People with smiling depression mask all those feelings well. You also have the energy to plan and follow through with a plan to die by suicide.

Have back pain or headaches Lack many friends or confidantsTurn to alcohol or other drugs

The good news is that smiling depression is very treatable. If you think you might have it, first see a psychiatrist or another mental health professional. Many people with smiling depression keep a false front even with therapists. That makes it more difficult for you to get the help you need.

Share your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one. It may lift the weight of hiding your true feelings.Spend time outside with nature. Exercise – even just 10-15 minutes a day be enough to lift your mood.Listen to music, make art, or do other activities you enjoy.Meditate.

Being your authentic self can be an important first step toward recovery from smiling depression.

Why can’t I stop smiling when I cry?

Pseudobulbar affect is a nervous system disorder that can make you laugh, cry, or become angry without being able to control when it happens. PBA has also been called:

Emotional dysregulationEmotional incontinenceEmotional labilityInvoluntary cryingPathological laughing and crying

If you or someone you love has pseudobulbar affect, you might notice:

Sudden, intense fits of crying or laughter that aren’t controlledCrying or laughter that doesn’t seem right for the situationOutbursts of frustration and angerFacial expressions that don’t match emotions

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The outbursts can happen several times a day or many times a month. Symptoms aren’t linked to mood. In other words, you may feel happy but start crying and not be able to stop. Or you could feel sad but start to laugh when you shouldn’t. You might just cry or laugh a lot.

Some people say the symptoms come on so quickly it’s like a seizure, It’s easy to mistake the symptoms for those of depression or bipolar disorder, If you have PBA, you might get anxious or embarrassed in public. You might worry about a future episode and be tempted to cancel plans with friends or family.

It can also lead to depression or anxiety. If you’re caring for someone who has it, you might feel confused or frustrated. The emotional toll of the condition can greatly affect recovery and quality of life. It’s important to seek care and treatment from a qualified doctor.

  1. Scientists believe that pseudobulbar affect may result from damage to the prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain that helps control emotions.
  2. Damage to other parts of the brain as well as changes in brain chemicals linked to depression and hyper moods ( mania ) could also play a role.
  3. An injury or disease that affects your brain can lead to pseudobulbar affect.

Other brain conditions commonly linked to PBA include:

Alzheimer’s disease Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Brain tumor Dementia Multiple sclerosis Parkinson’s disease Traumatic brain injury

If you or someone you love is crying or laughing a lot and you don’t know why, talk to a doctor. PBA is hard to diagnose because it mimics other problems like depression or other mood disorders, Tell the doctor about any symptoms, including when they happen and how long they last.

Pathological Laughing and Crying Scale (PLACS): The doctor asks you questions about the episodes, including how long they lasted, how they were tied to your mood and social situation, and how upset you felt afterward. Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale (CNS-LS): You answer questions about your symptoms. How often do you have them? How do they make you feel? For example, “I find myself crying very easily” or “I’m easily overcome with laughter.”

Doctors might prescribe antidepressants to control symptoms of pseudobulbar affect. In 2010, the FDA approved dextromethorphan / quinidine ( Nuedexta ), the first drug for PBA. Studies show it helps control outbursts of crying and laughing in people with MS and ALS. To help you and your loved ones ease anxiety during a PBA episode, and to feel more in control of your health, try these steps:

Talk to people around you about PBA and how it affects you and your family. This will help keep them from being surprised or confused when an episode happens.Track your episodes in a diary, including what set them off and how long they lasted. This will help when you talk to your doctor about possible treatments.Talk with other people who have PBA. They understand what it’s like and might have other tips that might help you.Shift position. If you feel a laughing or crying attack coming on, change how you’re sitting or standing. Breathe slowly and deeply. Keep doing this during an episode until you feel in control.Relax. A flare-up is emotional and can make your muscles tense. Relax your shoulders and forehead after one happens.

What is lazy smile?

A lazy movement or smile is slow and relaxed.

What is a brutal smile?

A contemptuous or mocking smirk or laugh.

Why do people hide their pain behind a smile?

Although “smiling depression” isn’t a clinical diagnosis, for many people, it’s a real problem. Typically, smiling depression occurs when individuals who are experiencing depression mask their symptoms. They hide behind a smile to convince other people that they are happy.

  1. Consequently, this type of depression often goes undetected because when most people imagine a depressed individual, they think of someone who looks really sad or cries a lot.
  2. And while it’s true that sadness and unexplained bouts of crying are common characteristics of depression, not everyone looks sad when they’re depressed.

Individuals with smiling depression often look happy to the outside world and keep their depression a secret.

What does smiling while crying mean?

A yellow face with open eyes, a thin closed-mouth smile, and a single tear falling from one of its eyes. Can be used to express a wide range of emotions and expressions including gratitude, tender happiness, an attempt to look happy when actually sad, or smiling through pain.

Why do I find happiness in pain?

Pain Builds Pleasure – An excellent example of how pain may enhance pleasure is the experience commonly referred to as “the runner’s high.” After intense physical exertion, runners experience a sense of euphoria that has been linked to the production of opioids, a neurochemical also released in response to pain.

Other work has shown that experiencing relief from pain not only increases our feelings of happiness, but also reduces our feelings of sadness. Pain may not be a pleasurable experience itself, but it builds our pleasure in ways that pleasure alone simply cannot achieve. Pain may also make us feel more justified in rewarding ourselves with pleasant experiences—just think how many people indulge themselves a little after a trip to the gym.

My colleagues and I tested this possibility by asking people to hold their hand in a bucket of ice water and then offering them the choice of either a Caramello Koala or a fluorescent highlighter to take with them as a gift. Participants who did not experience any pain chose the highlighter 74 percent of the time.

Why do I smile when I’m nervous or sad?

Nervous laughter may be your brain’s way of dealing with negative emotions or events. It may also be a symptom of an underlying condition. Therapy may help if you find nervous laughter disrupts your life or relationships. You probably know the feeling: You’re in a tense situation and suddenly feel an insanely powerful urge to laugh.

  1. Don’t worry, you’re not strange for doing this — it’s a phenomenon called nervous laughter.
  2. Nervous laughter is called an incongruous emotion.
  3. This means that you experience an emotion when the situation doesn’t necessarily call for it.
  4. Nervous laughter happens for a number of reasons.
  5. Some research suggests that your body uses this sort of mechanism to regulate emotion.

Other research has found that nervous laughter may be a defense mechanism against emotions that may make us feel uncomfortable. Either way, it’s pretty weird to experience. Uncontrollable nervous laughter may also be a symptom of an underlying condition.

  1. Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted one of the earliest and most infamous studies with data about nervous laughter in the 1960s.
  2. His study revealed that people often laughed nervously in uncomfortable situations.
  3. People in his study were asked to give electric shocks to a stranger, with the shocks becoming increasingly powerful (up to 450 volts).

But the “strangers” in this case were researchers involved in the study — they weren’t actually being shocked. But participants were more likely to laugh at the violence of the situation the higher the volts went. Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran explored this idea in his book ” A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness,” He proposes that laughter first appeared in human history to indicate to those around us that whatever made us laugh wasn’t a threat or worth worrying about.

Ramachandran also suggested that laughter helps us heal from trauma by distracting ourselves from the pain and associating that pain with positive emotion. This could be why nervous laughter can happen even at funerals or other sad and traumatic events. A newer 2019 research also suggests that laughter or mirth is a way for us to reduce fear, anxiety, or stress.

The researchers theorize that mirth can help us turn off a negative reaction to uncomfortable or illogical things we encounter. A 2015 study from a team of Yale researchers also found that people tend to respond with a variety of unexpected emotions in response to strong outside stimuli.

  1. The researchers discovered an association between the strong emotions you feel when you see a cute baby, like wanting to pinch its cheek and speak to it in weird voices, and the urge to laugh when you’re nervous or anxious.
  2. So nervous laughter may also just be part of a larger pattern within the brain to react with strong emotions of all sorts to emotionally provocative stimuli, no matter if it seems appropriate.

Uncontrollable laughter that seems like nervous laughter could also result from an underlying medical condition. Here are a few of the most common possible causes of nervous laughter.