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Scott Lotan, a man who suffers from uncontrollable laughter

In the dimly lit corners of a bustling restaurant, amidst the clinking of glasses and the murmur of conversation, a man’s laughter rises above the din. It’s not the laughter of joy or amusement, but rather an uncontrollable, jarring cackle that draws uneasy glances from nearby diners.

This is the daily reality for individuals like Scott Lotan from Virginia Beach, who live with Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) – a neurological condition characterized by involuntary and inappropriate outbursts of laughter or crying.

The condition, which affects countless individuals worldwide, has recently been thrust into the limelight by the portrayal of Arthur Fleck, the titular character in the popular movie ‘Joker’ and its anticipated sequel.

Played by Joaquin Phoenix, Fleck’s struggles with PBA become a central theme in the narrative, resonating with those who experience similar symptoms in real life.

For Scott Lotan, PBA is more than just a plot device; it’s a formidable challenge that complicates the simplest of daily activities.

His experiences, such as being refused service at restaurants or inadvertently provoking confrontations, highlight the social stigma and misunderstandings surrounding the condition. The public’s perception of PBA is often mired in confusion, with many mistaking the laughter for mockery or insensitivity.

“I have had issues with not being served at restaurants and been asked to leave because waitstaff were uncomfortable,” he previously told LadBible. “Many times if I am out for a drink with friends, there is someone with low self-esteem that believes I am laughing at them and they will try and start a fight.”

The condition gained further attention when Lotan recounted the harrowing experience of uncontrollable laughter at the scene of a tragic car accident that claimed the lives of his mother and fiancée.

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“I remember being at the scene laughing and being questioned by police,” he said.

The incident, which occurred in 2003, underscores the profound impact PBA can have on personal tragedies, often leaving those affected feeling isolated in their grief.

“At the wakes for both my mother and my fiancee I would have to separate myself from everyone as I would burst into laughter at times.”

PBA is typically associated with other neurological conditions, such as brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. It arises from disruptions in the neural pathways that regulate emotional expression, leading to episodes that are incongruent with the individual’s actual feelings.

While treatment options, including medication and therapy, can help manage symptoms, there is currently no cure for PBA.

The portrayal of PBA in ‘Joker’ has opened a dialogue about the condition, offering a rare opportunity for awareness and understanding.

As the sequel to ‘Joker’ approaches, it is hoped that the conversation around PBA and similar conditions will continue, fostering empathy and support for those like Scott Lotan, who navigate life with laughter in the shadows.

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