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How to Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times

April 12, 2019 Family Life

Co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.
There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

Although laughing at inappropriate times can be embarrassing, it’s actually a natural reaction for some people when they’re facing a highly stressful situation. This could be because laughter makes you feel better about what’s happening, even if it’s a bad situation.[1] It could also be a reaction to help you relieve stress and release your own tension. When inappropriate laughter negatively affects your life, start by curbing your urge to laugh. If this doesn’t work, you may need to treat the underlying causes of your laughter. When you can’t stop laughing, you can cope with it instead.


Method 1 Curbing Your Urge to Laugh

  1. Distract yourself from your urge to laugh. It takes time to learn how to curb your tendency to laugh, but distraction is an easy way to stop yourself, in the meantime. Try one of these options for shifting your thoughts away from what’s triggering your laughter:[2]

    Quick Distractions
    Pinch yourself. The slight pain will distract you from your urge to laugh.
    Count backwards from 100. Turning your attention to something banal, like numbers, will calm your emotions.
    Make a list in your head. Groceries, things to do, vacation destinations, favorite movies—choose a simple topic and go with it. The rote listing will help you feel more in control.
    Look for a certain color in the room. Choose any color and see how many places you can spot it in the area. This small goal will shift your focus from laughter and your emotions.
    Sing a song to yourself. It can be as simple as the ABC’s! Thinking of a tune and reciting lyrics is a great way to get your mind off of your emotions and urge to laugh.

  2. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 2 Identify what makes you laugh inappropriately. Do you laugh out of nervousness, or do you laugh to cope with painful feelings? Maybe you laugh because you have a lot of energy or have trouble finding the words you want to say. Whatever your reasons for laughing, write down when your laughter is causing you issues.
    • Consider the time, location, occasion, and people who could be causing your laughter. These are called your triggers. Once you know what they are, you can begin to address your habit of laughing.[3]
  3. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 3 Choose replacement behaviors for the laughter. What can you do instead of laughing nervously? For example, nod, lick your lips, exhale slowly, or click a pen. What you decide to replace your laughter with depends on the circumstances that are causing your laughter.[4]
    • For example, you may laugh nervously during work meetings. If this is the case, click your pen instead of laughing.
    • If you tend to laugh at serious moments, take a deep breath and then exhale at moments when you’d typically laugh.
  4. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 4 Create a plan for replacing your laughter. Since you know what’s making you laugh and what you can do instead, tell yourself that you will follow through on doing the new behavior. Reviewing your plan in your mind makes it more likely that you’ll be able to follow through.[5]
    • Tell yourself, “The next time I feel awkward in a work meeting, I will click my pen,” or “When I go to the funeral, I will nod when people share their condolences.”
  5. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 5 Learn to cope with social anxiety, if you have it. Social anxiety is a common cause of nervous laughter, so learning to deal with it can relieve your desire to laugh inappropriately.[6] Confronting and accepting your anxieties can help you feel more confident in social situations and have more control over your nervous laughter.

    Dealing with Social Anxiety
    Make a list of situations that scare you. Think about what makes you nervous about them and what you can do to combat that. Then, be brave and try them out. Take small steps and bring a friend or someone your trust.
    Write down successful social outings. Focus on what went well, how you overcame your fears, and how great you felt afterwards.
    Identify the negative thoughts that are holding you back. You might try to predict the future, fear the worst, or worry that other people are judging you. Realize when you don’t have control over something, like the thoughts of others, and make peace with it.
    Try encouraging thoughts instead. Anytime you start thinking negatively, stop yourself. Take a deep breath and push yourself to think of something encouraging instead, like “I can’t succeed if I don’t try.”
    See a therapist. If you need help dealing with your social anxiety, make an appointment with a therapist to talk through your difficulties and learn more coping strategies.

  6. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 6 Practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness can help keep you present and aware of your surroundings. This, in turn, can help curb laughing caused by distracting or invasive thoughts.[7]

    Basic Mindfulness Exercises
    Close your eyes and repeat a mantra. Think about a word or saying that focuses you, such as “calm” or “breathe.” Maintain this for 5 minutes a day, allowing thoughts to come and go without focusing on them or passing judgment. Simply breathe and return to your mantra.
    Do a body scan. Notice subtle sensations in your body, like itching or tingling. Let them pass without judging or acting on them. Slowly scan each body part from your toes to the top of your head.
    Acknowledge your emotions. Allow yourself to feel things without judgment. When you notice an emotion, name it, like “sadness” or “discomfort.” Stay relaxed, accept its presence, and let it go.

Method 2 Coping with Inappropriate Laughter

  1. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 7 Move to a private location when you start to laugh, if you can. When laughter strikes before you can stop it, excuse yourself. This gives you time to calm yourself and take a few deep breaths before rejoining everyone. Learn to recognize the sensation that comes before you laugh, and try to identify your laughter triggers so that you can excuse yourself in time.[8]
    • Go to the restroom if you’re at a funeral or in the office.
    • Walk away or get back in your car if you’re at an accident scene.
    • Leave the room if someone’s said something inappropriate.
  2. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 8 Cover up your laughter with a cough, if don't have time to leave. Put your hand over your mouth and make a coughing sound. If the laughter continues, use the coughing fit as an excuse to go to the restroom, where you can compose yourself.
    • This works well for times you start to involuntarily laugh before you have a chance to stop yourself.
    • You can also pretend to blow your nose.
  3. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 9 Apologize for your laughter, if it still happens. Tell the person you often cope with upsetting feelings by laughing, then say you’re sorry if the reaction hurt them. Opening up to them will likely make them understand where you’re coming from, and it could help relieve your laughter by making you less nervous.[9]
    • Say, “I’m so sorry for laughing at your father’s funeral. I want you to know that I didn’t find anything funny, I just laugh when I feel sad. I hope that I haven’t hurt you.”

Method 3 Treating Conditions that Cause Inappropriate Laughing

  1. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 10 Talk to a therapist to address deeper issues. You may not be able to stop inappropriate laughing on your own, and that’s okay! A therapist can help you identify what’s causing your laughter and recommend better ways to overcome it. [10]
    • You can find a therapist by searching online.
  2. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 11 Ask if SSRIs may be a good option for you. People may experience periodic bouts of inappropriate, uncontrollable laughter due to conditions like pseudobulbar affect (PBA), bipolar disorder, dementia, stroke, or other neurological conditions. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can help some people find relief from recurring bouts of laughter.[11]
    • Your doctor will determine if medication is right for you. SSRIs do not help all patients, and they could interfere with other medications.
  3. Image titled Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times Step 12 Participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy if you have Tourette's or OCD. Both of these conditions can cause you to laugh inappropriately. With Tourette Syndrome, you may experience the laughter as a tic, while Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may cause you to laugh out of habit. Fortunately, you can learn to overcome these behaviors, though it is difficult.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to recognize when you may laugh and learn to control it.[12]

wikiHow Video: How to Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times


Article SummaryX

If you get the urge to laugh at a bad time, calm yourself down by thinking of something sad or even scary. Distract yourself by discreetly pinching your arm or biting your lip, inner cheek or tongue. To cover a laugh, exhale completely and cough a bit. For more ways to distract yourself, like silently reciting multiplication tables, read on!

Did this summary help you?YesNo


  • Don't feel guilty for wanting to laugh. It’s totally normal to feel the urge to laugh at serious or sad occasions, as it makes you feel less upset.
  • Try physically pulling the corners of your mouth down into a frown. This can signal to your brain that you are sad.
  • Stare at something in the room and focus on your breathing. Don't look at anyone else who is laughing or what made you laugh in the first place because then you will start to laugh again.
  • Try to stare at one point in the room and don't take your eyes of that position.
  • Take long and deep breaths only through your nose. Concentrate on not opening your mouth.


  • If you are unable to stop laughing (or crying) uncontrollably at inappropriate times, a neurological disorder, caused by injury or illness in the brain, may be the cause. If this may be the case, you should visit your healthcare provider.
  • Do not bite down on your lip, tongue, or cheek, as this can cause injury.


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How to Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times
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