What Causes Inappropriate Laughing After Every Sentence?

Reader’s Question

I would like to ask if there is a disorder for laughing after every clause or words. If so, would you mind telling me what is the proper name for the disorder? I am trying to find a way to deal with an issue like this in my office. It bothers my colleagues and me tremendously.

Psychologist’s Reply

I wish your short question had a short answer…but it doesn’t. Inappropriate laughter is often viewed as a form of emotional dysregulation. Our outer emotional expressions should be directly related to our inner mood and/or our thoughts. If we talk about something funny, we should be smiling and even laughing. If we talk about something sad, our facial expression should be sad. When we have emotional expressions that are unrelated to the situation, conversation, or mood at the time, our emotions are poorly regulated and controlled. Mental Health professionals have proposed a diagnosis of “Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder” (IEED) for this condition. In short, what you are seeing in the office is unusual…but what might cause it?

  • We often encounter this situation as a form of anxious or nervous laughter. Normally shy and introverted folks who find themselves the center of conversational attention often become “giddy” with nervous laughter. It’s like their emotions are overloaded. This should not happen every time, however, and would not appear in brief conversations.
  • Neurological disorders can produce this condition. When there is a history of cerebral vascular accident (stroke), especially in the frontal lobes of the brain, this can develop. Many neurological conditions that create structural damage to the brain can produce inappropriate laughter as an exterior symptom. Certain types of brain injury create an “organic smile” — a smile that never goes away and is present when the individual is resting. In rare cases, it can be a form of seizure disorder.
  • Inappropriate laughter that follows a phrase or sentence can be a sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or even Tourette’s Disorder — as a type of vocal tic.
  • Lastly, this type of inappropriate laughter can be related to psychiatric disorders that have Hypomania (a lesser state of Mania) as a symptom. If this is the case, the individual will be too happy most of the time and will also be loud, hyperactive, attention-seeking, and overly energetic. If the laughter is the only symptom — this is unlikely.

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Clinical keys:

  1. If the laughter takes place during a discussion of a funny event — it’s just too much — then it’s likely a type of hypomanic mood which could be related to the use of antidepressant medications (called SSRI-Induced Hypomania).
  2. If the laughter occurs automatically following each sentence — despite the mood or conversation involved — then it’s likely to be a neurological issue, OCD, or Tourette’s.
  3. If the individual has always been shy/bashful and appears also nervous when talking, then it’s likely to be nervous laughter.
  4. If this situation just recently surfaced — then your employee is probably in medical trouble and should be encouraged to seek a medical and/or neurological assessment.

If it’s bothering fellow employees, it’s worth bringing to his/her attention in a professional manner. One approach might be to print this response and let him/her know that you wrote this psychologist in England and he said… This type of laughter can be treated depending upon the type of disorder. Again, the problem isn’t laughing — it’s a dysregulation of the emotional expression and response system, which is no laughing matter.

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