Witzelsucht, from the German witzeln, meaning to joke or wisecrack, and sucht meaning addiction or yearning, is a set of rare neurological symptoms characterized by the patient’s uncontrollable tendency to make puns, tell inappropriate jokes and pointless or irrelevant stories at inconvenient moments. The patient nevertheless finds these utterances intensely amusing. It is associated with small lesions of the orbitofrontal cortex.
It is distinguished from pathologic laughing by virtue of congruent affective experience and expression, and an admixture of irritability and mirth. It is most commonly seen in patients withfrontal lobe disease or injury, particularly right frontal lobe tumors or trauma. Elderly people are very prone to this disorder because of the decreased mass of their gray tissue. For instance, the stereotype of the wise-cracking grandfather may have originated from this as it became a common part of every day life.
^ Mendez, M.D., Ph.D, Mario F (2005). Moria and Witzelsucht from Frontotemporal Dementia. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences.
Wow. I can relate. I think this is a familial disorder, having spent entire days trapped in the back seat of my dad’s car, driving somewhere, while he and my brother traded execrable puns until I cried for mercy. I have a friend who is unable to control his punning, and I fear for him, mainly because I have a fireplace in my house and thus a poker.
I’ve been known to “approach others without apprehension” and to share stories inappropriately with complete strangers. I touch strangers. I laugh at things immoderately.
I suppose this may all have something to do with those little lesions in my head thanks to MS – or maybe it’s damage caused by being raised on a steady diet of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers and Benny Hill and Laugh-In. Obviously there are some strange linkages in my head that have been reinforced – much like learning a new language, where practice makes perfect.
The case report is scary. And here I thought I was just being friendly:
“A 57-year-old right-handed female had a 2-year personality change described as increased gregariousness, excitement, and a tendency to indiscriminately approach strangers without apprehension. She had become the life of the party and would laugh, joke, and sing all the time. The patient had decreased self-care and hygiene and wore the same clothes every day. In addition, she had developed a compulsive tendency, particularly with hoarding of money, and an addiction to ice cream with marked weight gain.”
Of course, I have no evidence of hoarding of money. That just isn’t happening.
But I work at home and have been known to dress similarly day after day. And I love ice cream…
There’s hope for me yet. I haven’t started to pun. Please, stop me before it is too late……;-)
And how I wish I’d named my puppy this….