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There’s a Medical Condition Causing People to Crack Puns 24/7 – and It’s No Joke

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Everybody loves a good pun but excessive and disruptive wisecracking is another thing. It turns out there’s a serious neurological condition called Witzelsucht, a compulsive urge to crack jokes and tell inappropriate stories day and night. And no, we’re not kidding.

One of the earliest documented cases of this pathological joking is from 1929 by German neurologist Otfrid Foerster. While operating on a male patient, Foerster started manipulating the cancerous growth. The patient, who was conscious throughout the procedure (a common practice at the time), started delivering pun after pun after awful pun.

Witzelsucht is a medical condition in which a person develops an obsession to wisecracking.

Source: Birgit Kulbe

The same year, psychiatrist Abraham Brill reported observing patients who joked about “anything and everything” even when they weren’t being operated on. Many other cases have been reported since, and doctors believe this condition could be the result of brain damage in the frontal lobes.

Witzelsucht is believed to be the result of brain damage in the frontal lobes.

Source: Getty Images

The brain processing for humor appears to take place in a network of regions around the frontal lobes. Damage in this area, according to experts, seems to disinhibit some of the signaling between the frontal lobes and the pleasure centers. While people suffering from Witzelsucht may find it difficult to comprehend other people’s complex jokes, their brains may trigger a dopamine kick and have them rolling on the floor laughing at their own bad puns and simplistic comedy.

Those with Witzelsucht also fail to realize the inappropriateness of their actions, so they become unresponsive to other people’s reactions.

In a BBC article, a man diagnosed with Witzelsucht suffered two strokes five years apart, and these strokes caused massive changes in his behavior. His once subdued sense of humor, for example, turned into compulsive joking. It drove his wife nuts.

Pathological joking can disrupt communication and ruin relationships.

Source: Getty Images

He would wake up his wife in the middle of the night because he just had to tell her his jokes. His wife, at one point, asked him to simply write down all his thoughts, so she could get some sleep. This resulted in 50 pages of puns and other witticisms. Not all of them were funny, but for him, they were all comedy gold.

People with Witzelsucht may not find other people’s jokes funny but could get hysterical about by their own witticisms.

Jason Warren at University College London recently asked his frontotemporal dementia (a rare form of neurodegeneration that affects people at the prime of their life) patients to judge different cartoon strips. He then compared the results to scans of the patients’ brains. As he expected, many were bad at detecting more complex jokes and instead preferred simpler slapstick comedy. It also turned out that the harder the patients found the task, the more damage they showed in the “humor network.” Warren believes his findings in this experiment can help in studying Witzelsucht further.

Sudden change in sense of humor could signify bigger neurological problems.

Source: MichelleNMS

Doctors and family members should pay attention to any changes in their patient’s or family member’s sense of humor, as these changes could signify a serious neurological condition.

It seems that laughter, in this case, may not be the best medicine.

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