While the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, and headlines are dominated by disturbing numbers of cases and deaths, here's a story about a man who suffers from a different kind of disease – something similar to what we've seen in one of the last year's list of greatest films.
Now, if you've watched 'Joker' the immensely successful psychological thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix who went on to win an Oscar for the Best Actor for portraying the role of Arthur Fleck aka Joker, you would know that the protagonist suffers from a disorder which makes him burst into fits of "uncontrollable laughter" even when he's not happy.
Turkey's laughing man
A farmer in Turkey who is known locally as the "laughing man" has drawn the attention of the local media and psychiatrists for his uncontrollable fits of laughter just like Arthur Fleck in Joker. A recent report in Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News carried the "tragic" story of a farmer named Kasim Can who lives in a village in the northwestern Turkish province of Kars.
Don't remember ever crying
According to the report, the 48-year-old man could recall having had these fits of loud laughter since his birth, but he never remembers having ever cried. He said that he laughed even when his father died. Although his laughter is not as tragic and dark as Arthur Fleck's in the movie, psychiatrists believe that trauma may underlie in his laughs just like in the movie.
Not so funny
Can said that he lost his mother when he was very young. But he also said that his family loved laughing with him. However, as "funny" as it may sound, he also claims that his unusual and uncontrollable laughter has caused him a great deal of trouble in the past. Recalling one incident, he said that while he was serving in the Turkish military, he was often beaten up by his comrades for his laughs.
Laughter is the best medicine, especially now
But despite the ridicule and trouble his laughter has brought him, Can wants everyone to be blessed with his "feature."
"I laugh more when I see people laugh, I want this feature to be with everyone these days when we need to laugh the most," he was quoted as saying.
Psychiatrist cites Joker movie
Meanwhile, psychiatrist Serhat Tunç from Kafkas University in Kars, said that Can may have been exposed to a psychological trauma during his childhood which could be the cause for his condition. The psychiatrist cited the movie "Joker" and argued that this type of pathological laughter is often associated with behavioural disorders and psychotic symptoms, such as those suffered by the film's main character. "We define this as a neurobehavioral disorder," Tunc said.
Although Can doesn't seem bothered and worried about his condition and he least resembles Joaquin Phoenix's character, the psychiatrist suggests that he should be subjected to a detailed medical neurological and psychological assessment.
The medical terminology for uncontrollable laughter or crying is Pseudobulbar affect or more commonly referred to as "emotional inconsistence." It is a type of emotional disturbance characterized by uncontrollable episodes of laughter, crying or other emotional displays.
According to clinical psychology, the condition results from a neurological disorder or brain injury and affects between 1.5 and two million people in the US, according to clinical estimates.