Have you ever felt like crying, but ended up laughing instead? Has this ever happened at a moment that may have seemed inappropriate? If you answered yes to these questions, rest assured that you are not alone.
Even though it may seem inappropriate, psychologists say that uncontrollable nervous laughter is normal. It is typically a physiological response to a tragedy or event, such as a funeral.
So why is it sometimes people cry to the point that they laugh, or laugh so hard they cry? Because laughing and crying provide the same kind of physiological stress release. It can often be a defense mechanism when feeling uncomfortable in a situation, or when one is overwhelmed. Holding back tears hinders the body from relieving the anxiety that is building, so the human body discharges the energy by causing laughter instead. In these situations we usually laugh in a subconscious attempt to reduce stress and calm down. However, it often works otherwise. Nervous laughter is typically perceived not to be genuine, and can ultimately heighten the awkwardness of the situation.
If you see someone laughing during a stressful or tragic situation, please keep in mind that they probably cannot control it. They are simply overwhelmed to the point where the body needs to release it. If you find yourself laughing instead of crying, take deep breaths and try to calm down. It is a common reaction, and with the exception of a bit of embarrassment, everything will be fine.