Humour is known to have positive effects on physical and psychological health. Empirical studies on the use of humour , especially in mental disorder, are lacking.Laughter have physiological ( reduced muscle tension, release beta endorphins) and psychological (create openness, positive mood, reduced rumination, optimism, hope, and positive social support) benefits. Individuals with psychotic disorders may have defects in recognising humour, but once the meaning is understood,it is observed that the appreciation is intact.
Therapeutic humor is defined as “any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression, or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations”.It has been tried in depression and schizophrenia and found to be beneficial (Falkenberg et al.20111)
A structured humour programme ( using McGhee , 1994) was used to enhance humour skills in a sample of 30 inpatients with schizophrenia. Patients were randomised to recreational therapy( handwork) or humour therapy. Humour sessions followed a structure: opening fun activity, specific skill introduction, skill practice , watching videos and home ‘play’. This was done for 5 weeks.
Humour significantly reduced the negative symptom and depression scores.
Limitations: Humour training might help in improving coping abilities, but this has not been studied in this experiment. How much the skills are sustained and how this will be translated in real life situation is unknown. Effect of humor intervention on outcomes like rehospitalisation is also not known. Small sample size limit the confidence in conclusions.
Comment: It would be interesting to see how humour therapy helps in preventing recurrence in depression.
Summary of the article:
Cai C, Yu L, Rong L, Zhong H.J Psychiatr Res. 2014 (Epub).