Why Using Humor as a Coping Mechanism Can Actually Be Dangerous?

When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? Sometimes a joke, knowing glance, or coincidental mishap can make you burst into tearful laughter. For many, pure, genuinely laughter can be a huge release of emotion. Laughter releases dopamine into the bloodstream and reduces your cortisol levels, which is, quite literally, de-stressing. 

It’s common and natural to rely on humor to help you destress. After a long day at work, maybe you put on your favorite episode of “The Office” and let your troubles melt away. However, you can have too much of a good thing, even with humor.

What might have started out as a coping mechanism may actually be doing you more harm than good.

Humor as a Coping Mechanism

Read on to learn why relying on humor can actually be a toxic coping mechanism. 

A Mask for Reality

Humor can often be used to help people connect more deeply. Share a well-timed quip with someone and, even if just for a moment, your guard drops.

Humor can be amazing for providing space for people to just be themselves with each other and enjoy the moment.

This is a social strength, and so some people use humor as their go-to method of interacting with others. And while this can be endearing, crack too many jokes and you may start to push people away. 

Because humor naturally makes light of a situation, you risk trivializing true feelings when you use it. If your primary method of interacting is trying to get others to laugh, you may be missing genuine chances to connect.

This is doubly the case if you also use humor as your primary coping mechanism for your own emotions. If your first instinct when you feel something challenging is to laugh it off, you risk hindering your emotional wellness. 

Feeling the full weight of your emotions and expressing them accordingly is often part of the natural healing process. Cover-up or dismiss your true emotions too often and you risk subconsciously minimizing an important part of your psyche.

This can cause substantial mental damage over time and hinder your personal growth. If you struggle to process your emotions, consider seeking help, like talking to a therapist or trying mental health rehab.

Because of humor’s seeming innocuousness, the guise of a lighthearted joker can be a simple trap to fall into. 

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A Dark Dependence

There are a few ways that your sense of humor can be warped over time into something more sinister. A good laugh injects a rush of serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good hormones into your body.

So, just like any other method of enjoying chemicals, rely on it too much and you may begin to form a dependency. Depend on it too much, and you can potentially develop a full-blown addiction. 

It may sound a bit far-fetched, but look at other addictive methods of experiencing these feel-good hormones. Alcohol, sugar, and pornography are notorious for getting people hooked on them for years, if not a lifetime.

And, worst of all, the more someone abuses these substances, the more of them they need to get the same effect. That is, an alcoholic needs to drink much more alcohol than a casual drinker to feel the same relief. 

Believe it or not, the same can happen with your sense of humor. Rely on it too much and you may end up finding yourself needing to laugh more and more to get the same kick. Or, like with pornography, you could become desensitized to dark or cynical scenarios.

Overtime, your sense of humor could turn increasingly dark, cynical, and sadistic, and you’d seek more intense or extreme forms. 

Similarly, consistent exposure to cynical, sadistic humor can potentially influence your worldview, making it easier to see the negativity in situations.

That’s why it’s important to use humor, especially dark humor, sparingly. While there’s no right way to laugh, be cautious of the kinds of comedy you let color your thoughts. 

Another Way

While it may seem silly at first, as you can see it’s quite possible to rely on your sense of humor too much. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be the main lens through which you interact with the world. Stopping your overreliance on humor does require an intentional, continuous commitment to exploring alternative ways of processing your emotions. 

Breaking any unhealthy dependence first begins with self-awareness. Pay attention to yourself and recognize when humor is your first response to a difficult feeling or experience. This may take practice, as humor is likely more of a reflex than a considered choice.

Engage in mindfulness practices like yoga, journaling, or meditation to expand your self-awareness. This will give you more power to choose how you want to respond to a given situation. 

Next, you’ll need to embrace vulnerability. While being vulnerable can be challenging and painful, it’s also an essential human quality.

The more vulnerable you can be, the better you’ll be able to connect with your true self and with others. Recognize that it’s natural to experience a wide range of emotions. You don’t need to rely on just one to be okay in life. 

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A Brief Reflection

Were you the class clown in school? Do you still embody that persona? If you identify with that label, you may be over-reliant on humor as a coping mechanism. 

Of course it’s okay to laugh when it’s natural to. Even better, laugh so hard you cry! However, if your first response in any situation is to find the comedy in it, pause and reflect on why. Rely on your sense of humor too much and you may deprive yourself of the vase range of experiences life has to offer.

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