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November 1966


Arch Intern Med. 1966;118(5):521. doi:10.1001/archinte.1966.00290170109044

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Recently, for a monograph on rare diseases, I have been reviewing the phenomenon of laughter as a disease. For the most part, this extravagant behavior falls into the classification of hysteria. The disease resembles the collective manias of the Middle Ages with their recurring themes of wandering, perhaps as an escape from the rigid conformity which narrowed the options in everyday life nearly to zero. Pied pipers literally could lead a community into extravagant hysterical reactions—dancing, singing, laughing, and escaping. Much more rarely the act of laughing itself, either by producing irrevocable cough syncope or a fatal Valsalva maneuver, may be the cause of death. But it is not from such points that these essays about laughter are written. While Armstrong pokes fun at some of the highfalutin analyses of laughter, particularly some of the ponderous efforts which have come from what he reckons as narrowly taught psychiatrists or psychologists

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