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Witzelsucht: The Disease That Causes People to Speak in Puns

In Which We Don't Make An Obvious Pun

An upsetting mental disorder has been discovered, and it concerns your brain and the delivery of puns. It’s called witzelsucht, and it causes people to make jokes, puns, and engage in what could be considered inappropriate conversation and/or behavior — and probably annoy people. Which is sad, because being a person who voluntarily makes bad puns all day is one thing. Not being able to control your bad puns is another. Insert your own pun joke here, because I’m far too concerned about many people I know who might be dealing with this already.

I kid, of course. I welcome the bad puns of my friends, especially since it probably means their brains are working just great. Someone with witzelsucht, however, has most likely suffered an injury to the brain or even a stroke, specifically in the orbitofrontal region of the right side of the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain controls our personalities, so you can imagine that any damage to that region will make us do things that we wouldn’t normally do. Though it does matter what side of the brain is damaged, as io9 points out:

People who take hits to the left side of the brain often become depressed and angry, while those who are injured in the right side tend to become euphoric and chipper no matter what.

That almost makes it sound like the best brain damage money can buy. But in fact, a brain injury is still a brain injury. And while someone might enjoy their own jokes if their right frontal lobe is injured, chances are that they are turning off the company. One case described involved a 56-year-old man who not only developed witzelsucht, but a super-enhanced sex drive, causing him to make jokes that were really sexually inappropriate, all the time. So much so that doctors couldn’t conduct tests on him and he was unable to listen to people when they told him to knock it off. Not that he had control over it, though. Another woman, who was 57, got witzelsucht after a minor stroke and became hilarious to her friends — but started to forego personal hygiene.

And just when you think that your poor, brain-damaged friend is suddenly the best thing to bring to a party since alcohol, here’s another negative symptom: they aren’t able to respond to anyone else’s jokes. So, you can forget about the silly banter or impromptu improv party. This will be a one-sided conversation.

This seemingly silly disorder gets even sadder, because there is no real cure. It can be treated with behavioral therapy, helping the sufferer re-learn their old behavior and realize that they are not acting like themselves. That is, if they can get themselves to sit through a session. Another option is mood stabilizing drugs. But keep an eye out for your friends if you suddenly find them making jokes that are way below their own standards. They will need some serious help, and not because their sense of humor has taken a turn for the worse.

(via io9)

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