How laughing can kill you

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 15th May 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Public Health

Montrealers can tell you that Readers Digest has a section called Laughter is the best medicine, and most of the time it really is. However, there are times when too much laughter can actually be bad medicine. Believe it or not, there are cases that date back to ancient times that document how people have actually died from laughing.

Death by laughter in ancient times

Chrysippus, the Greek philosopher died in the third century B.C. from excessive laughter. The reason for his laughter was because he gave his donkey wine. What was so funny to him was the donkey tried to eat figs

Note: guess you had to be there to find that one funny.

Pietro Aretino, 16th century author, playwright, satirist, poet, and inventor of modern day pornography died of suffocation because of laughing too much.

Death by laughter in recent times

Alex Mitchell a bricklayer from England laughed himself to death when he was watching an episode of the popular Goodies series in 1975. He laughed for a full twenty-five minutes before his fatal heart attack. His wife wrote a letter to the producers of Goodies thanking them for making her husband's last 25 minutes on this earth so funny.

Note: Hmm how many women would have felt the same way?

Ole Bentzen a Danish audiologist died in 1969 while laughter at the movie, A Fish Called Wanda, (gee that doesn't say much for the movie except that it can kill you).

Back in 1989, Damnoen Saen-um, a Thai salesman died in his sleep at the age of 52. His wife was not able to wake him and he laughed for a complete two minutes before he either suffocated or died of a heart attack .

Note: If you must go then the best way to go, is laughing your way out of this world!

Is there such a think as laughing too much?

Is there such a think as laughing too much?

Pathological laughing

Pathological laughing is a medical condition caused by neurological disorders. Pathological laughing would mean uncontrollable bouts of laughing (Gelastic syncope), where the individual just does not seem to be able to stop.

Some documented cases have shown through MRI's how these patients have lesions in the brain ranging anywhere from the cerebral cortex in the brain all the way down the brain stem. The lesions impair or "disinhibits" the laughing or crying mechanism from actually turning off after a normal laughing or crying session.

Pontine Infarction

Infarction (lack of sufficient blood supply) of the Pons and obdulla oblongata (two areas found in the brainstem) is also associated with incontrolable laughing and crying.

Note the topic of “impaired affect” regarding such psychiatric disorders, as schizophrenia is not being covered in this article. However any physiological reason for pathological laughing in mental illness or other neurological disorders such as possibly Tourette Syndrome would be included.

What can cause death by excessive or extended laughing?

Impairment of the swallowing mechanism:

"If the mechanism of swallowing is disturbed by excessive laugher, talking, swallowing, food, especially the liquid portion, is liable to enter the larynx or nose and cause coughing, sneezing and sometimes serious results..." Yes if not treated, death can occur because the oxygen supply is cut off from the heart and lungs.

Asphyxiation - Lack of oxygen to the lungs

Heart Attack - Caused by insufficient oxygen to the heart

Brain Injury - Again the first cause is due to the airways becoming obstructed. You cannot laugh and breathe at the same time. When you are laughing you are expelling carbon dioxide.

Atonia - This happens when a muscles loses its strength. In this case we refer back to the cerebral cortex and brain centers for laughing and crying where the muscle in these centers have lost their ability to turn on and off at appropriate intervals.

Note: After writing this article,I doesn't know if I want to laugh or cry. Either way it certainly makes you think doesn't it?

All photos taken from the public domain
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Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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