Do you burst into laughter at funerals? You may have the Joker's condition

The Pseudobulbar affect makes you feel emotions in the same way as everyone else but express them in weird ways

29 September 2019 - 00:05 By
The pseudobulbar affect, which the Joker suffers from, doesn't have a cure.
The pseudobulbar affect, which the Joker suffers from, doesn't have a cure.
Image: DC Comics

You're at the funeral of a loved one. Borne by half a dozen people, the coffin holding your dear one's corpse floats past you to the sound of a requiem. You're so heartbroken that standing feels like the hardest thing in the world to do. In that gut-wrenching moment, you burst into peals of laughter. Full-blown, aching, abdominal guffaws. The kind of hysterics toddlers go into when you tickle them.

If you've ever experienced this or something similar, chances are you are suffering from the pseudobulbar affect (PBA). You're not alone; Batman's nemesis, the Joker, has it too.

Characterised by episodes of sudden and uncontrollable (and often inappropriate) laughter, PBA is a neurological condition that affects the way your brain controls certain emotions.

In essence, if you have PBA you will experience emotions in the same way as everyone else but express them in weird ways, like chuckling when someone tells you their cat has died or bursting into tears when someone tells you a dad joke.

We are not talking about the kind of laughter that lasts for moment. PBA laughter is the kind that rolls on for several minutes.

To go back to our funeral fantasy, by the time you've stopped laughing, the pallbearers will have left the building and returned to carry off your grandmother who has since literally died of shame.

Fortunately (at least for one's sense of decorum) PBA more commonly manifests as crying and as a result is often misdiagnosed as depression. Medically speaking there is no cure, though some have managed to use PBA to their advantage.

The Joker, for instance, uses PBA as an effective branding tool for a successful career in crime and general mayhem. So next time you're at a funeral and feel the PBA chortles and an accompanying sense of dread bubbling up, ask yourself, Why so serious? 


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