I was recently made aware of a new (anti-laughter) drug “Neurodex” that treats a newly created disorder called Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder (IEED) or Emotional Lability, and asked to share my thoughts about it.
My humble guess is that the person asking the question wanted me to say that this new drug is one more illustration of how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is primarily driven by the psychopharmacological industry and pathologizes normal behavior, such as grief, sadness, shyness, healthy rebelliousness, and now…laughter.
Things, however, are not that simple.
Understanding the context
There are 5 main categories of laughter
From a medical and therapeutic point of view there are 5 main kinds of laughter:
- Genuine or spontaneous laughter. (Humor is a part of this.)
- Self-induced simulated laughter. (Easiest way to introduce laughter into your life.)
- Stimulated laughter. (Someone tickles you.)
- Induced laughter. (You take something.)
- Pathological laughter.
Pathological laughter is not healthy
Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder (IEED) is a disorder characterized by involuntary emotional displays of mood that are overly frequent and excessive. In the laughter world it is part of a form of pathological laughter that include the Pseudobulbar affect, (aka pathological crying and laughing) and Gelastic Seizures. People suffering from these conditions find themselves laughing uncontrollably at something that is only moderately humorous, being unable to stop themselves for several minutes or longer. (It is not infrequent for people subject to this to laugh themselves into exhaustion.)
Check the stats. It is more frequent than you may know: Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder is most commonly observed after brain injury, people with dementia expressing a psychosis of some sort, or degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig disease), people with pseudobulbar palsy, and approximately 10% of multiple sclerosis patients. Prevalence estimates place the number of people with PBA between 1.5 and 2 million in the United States alone.
While the risk of massive abuse exists with such a drug (e.g., in a mental hospital “Tommy gets on my nerve when he laughs, let’s give him some neurodex to have some peace”), you can reasonably conceive that in some specific cases, say someone who wants to socialize yet can’t control their laughter/crying, such a drug can be justified as a short term solution.
I can only pray that the trained medical professionals who will be prescribing Neurodex will do so very wisely.