The Causes of Giggle Fits

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Giggling fits can be fun -- but frustrating when uncontrolled.
Giggling fits can be fun -- but frustrating when uncontrolled. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Giggle fits are usually harmless outbursts of laughter, more common in children than adults. But sometimes, the giggling becomes overwhelming, socially awkward and uncontrollable. Such episodes can be unproductive, embarrassing and indicative of other problems, such as anxiety. The first step to take when fixing uncontrollable giggle fits should be to visit your doctor -- he may be able to tell you the underlying cause.

Humor

The first and most obvious cause of a giggling fit is humor. Someone does or says something hilarious, and the natural human response is to laugh. Giggling fits are more likely to occur in the presence of others than if you are alone.

Anxiety

Chronic anxiety disorders can also cause giggling fits. These are unlike fits that occur because something is funny -- they are an unconscious attempt by the person to find relief from embarrassment or apprehensiveness. Since laughter is a state which decreases tension, the brain overcompensates for an anxious state by causing excessive laughter.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders, such as Tourette's Syndrome, can also cause giggling fits. Tourette's in particular causes victims to have nervous habits or ticks that arise during moments of anxiety. A CAT scan may be necessary to rule out this possibility. Treatment for Tourette's can include various types of medications, as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Acceptance

Giggling fits can be a way to gain social acceptance, especially if everyone else is having a fit or laughing. At times, they can be used to diffuse the anger of an opponent, or someone that the victim -- of the giggles -- feels is threatening to them. This may stem from a misconception that laughing people are friendlier or less menacing than those who are yelling or even have a stern way of speaking.

Attention

Giggling fits may be an attention-seeking measure, often employed by children, but sometimes by adults, who feel they are being emotionally neglected. Often, the fit begins with something the "victim" found genuinely funny, but goes on much longer than ordinary laughter requires. Repeated attempts to get the person to stop laughing are met by outright refusals -- or even more laughter.

Considerations

If a physician cannot find a medical reason for a child or adult's giggling fits, psychological testing may be necessary. In cases where anxiety is present, talking out problems may make giggling fits less likely to occur, because tension in the victim is alleviated by expressing feelings verbally; not by giggling.

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References

  • "Skills Training for Children with Behavior Problems, Revised Edition: A Parent and Practitioner Guidebook"; Michael L. Bloomquist; 2005
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