Although laughing at inappropriate times can be embarrassing, it’s actually a natural reaction for some people when they’re facing a highly stressful situation. This could be because laughter makes you feel better about what’s happening, even if it’s a bad situation.[1] It could also be a reaction to help you relieve stress and release your own tension. When inappropriate laughter negatively affects your life, start by curbing your urge to laugh. If this doesn’t work, you may need to treat the underlying causes of your laughter. When you can’t stop laughing, you can cope with it instead.
EditSteps

EditCurbing Your Urge to Laugh

  1. Distract yourself from your urge to laugh. It takes time to learn how to curb your tendency to laugh, but distraction is an easy way to stop yourself, in the meantime. Try one of these options for shifting your thoughts away from what’s triggering your laughter:[2]
  2. Identify what makes you laugh inappropriately. Do you laugh out of nervousness, or do you laugh to cope with painful feelings? Maybe you laugh because you have a lot of energy or have trouble finding the words you want to say. Whatever your reasons for laughing, write down when your laughter is causing you issues.

    • Consider the time, location, occasion, and people who could be causing your laughter. These are called your triggers. Once you know what they are, you can begin to address your habit of laughing.[3]

  3. Choose replacement behaviors for the laughter. What can you do instead of laughing nervously? For example, nod, lick your lips, exhale slowly, or click a pen.
    What you decide to replace your laughter with depends on the circumstances that are causing your laughter.[4]

    • For example, you may laugh nervously during work meetings. If this is the case, click your pen instead of laughing.
    • If you tend to laugh at serious moments, take a deep breath and then exhale at moments when you’d typically laugh.

  4. Create a plan for replacing your laughter. Since you know what’s making you laugh and what you can do instead, tell yourself that you will follow through on doing the new behavior. Reviewing your plan in your mind makes it more likely that you’ll be able to follow through.[5]

    • Tell yourself, “The next time I feel awkward in a work meeting, I will click my pen,” or “When I go to the funeral, I will nod when people share their condolences.”

  5. Learn to cope with social anxiety, if you have it. Social anxiety is a common cause of nervous laughter, so learning to deal with it can relieve your desire to laugh inappropriately.[6] Confronting and accepting your anxieties can help you feel more confident in social situations and have more control over your nervous laughter.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness can help keep you present and aware of your surroundings. This, in turn, can help curb laughing caused by distracting or invasive thoughts.[7]

EditCoping with Inappropriate Laughter

  1. Move to a private location when you start to laugh, if you can. When laughter strikes before you can stop it, excuse yourself. This gives you time to calm yourself and take a few deep breaths before rejoining everyone. Learn to recognize the sensation that comes before you laugh, and try to identify your laughter triggers so that you can excuse yourself in time.[8]

    • Go to the restroom
      if you’re at a funeral or in the office.
    • Walk away or get back in your car
      if you’re at an accident scene.
    • Leave the room
      if someone’s said something inappropriate.

  2. Cover up your laughter with a cough, if don't have time to leave. Put your hand over your mouth and make a coughing sound. If the laughter continues, use the coughing fit as an excuse to go to the restroom, where you can compose yourself.

    • This works well for times you start to involuntarily laugh before you have a chance to stop yourself.
    • You can also pretend to blow your nose.

  3. Apologize for your laughter, if it still happens. Tell the person you often cope with upsetting feelings by laughing, then say you’re sorry if the reaction hurt them. Opening up to them will likely make them understand where you’re coming from,
    and it could help relieve your laughter by making you less nervous.[9]

    • Say, “I’m so sorry for laughing at your father’s funeral. I want you to know that I didn’t find anything funny, I just laugh when I feel sad. I hope that I haven’t hurt you.”

EditTreating Conditions that Cause Inappropriate Laughing

  1. Talk to a therapist to address deeper issues. You may not be able to stop inappropriate laughing on your own, and that’s okay! A therapist can help you identify what’s causing your laughter and recommend better ways to overcome it.
    [10]

    • You can find a therapist by searching online.

  2. Ask if SSRIs may be a good option for you. People may experience periodic bouts of inappropriate, uncontrollable laughter due to conditions like pseudobulbar affect (PBA), bipolar disorder, dementia, stroke, or other neurological conditions. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help some people find relief from recurring bouts of laughter.[11]

    • Your doctor will determine if medication is right for you. SSRIs do not help all patients, and they could interfere with other medications.

  3. Participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy if you have Tourette's or OCD. Both of these conditions can cause you to laugh inappropriately. With Tourette Syndrome, you may experience the laughter as a tic, while Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may cause you to laugh out of habit. Fortunately, you can learn to overcome these behaviors, though it is difficult.

    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to recognize when you may laugh and learn to control it.[12]

EditTipsAdvertisement


  • Don't feel guilty for wanting to laugh. It’s totally normal to feel the urge to laugh at serious or sad occasions, as it makes you feel less upset.
  • Try physically pulling the corners of your mouth down into a frown. This can signal to your brain that you are sad.
  • Stare at something in the room and focus on your breathing. Don't look at anyone else who is laughing or what made you laugh in the first place because then you will start to laugh again.
  • Try to stare at one point in the room and don't take your eyes of that position.
  • Take long and deep breaths only through your nose. Concentrate on not opening your mouth.

EditWarnings

  • If you are unable to stop laughing (or crying) uncontrollably at inappropriate times, a neurological disorder, caused by injury or illness in the brain, may be the cause. If this may be the case, you should visit your healthcare provider.
  • Do not bite down on your lip, tongue, or cheek, as this can cause injury.

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