Teenager Faints Every Time She Laughs


| LAST UPDATE 06/30/2021

By Molly Houghton

They say laughter is the best medicine. Well... for Billie Hodgson, it's the exact opposite. In fact, for her, it could be pretty dangerous.

This poor girl suffers from a rare brain disorder that makes her faint anytime she experiences a strong emotion such as laughing.


Billie is 17-years-old and suffers from something called Cataplexy. It is a condition described as "a sudden and uncontrollable muscle weakness or paralysis that comes on during the day".

So, because of this, she has to avoid her funny friends to protect herself from collapsing in the middle of the school.


"I'm a bubbly person so to go from that to feeling like I can't laugh is really strange. I feel like I can't be me," she said. My friends try not to be funny and if they make me laugh they feel like they have to apologize.

When I'm with them, I tend not to be as involved in funny situations to avoid Cataplexy and especially in front of those who are not as familiar with it."


"We joke about it like friends do because t's a funny thing in itself, and I have to make light of it. If we're eating and everyone is laughing around the table, everyone tries to stop but then the silence makes you laugh."

To be fair, there's nothing that makes a person laugh more than knowing they shouldn't be laughing. However, Billie admits that in these moments where she collapses, it can be a pretty scary experience.


"You have no control over your body. I can't speak or respond to anything - but the most frustrating thing is that I'm conscious. I shake, and I can't hold things," she said. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Billie's condition. There is only medication that can reduce the sensitiveness of the triggers.


"At first we didn't think it was that serious and the doctor told me everyone shakes when they laugh. But when I was diagnosed, I felt mixed emotions," she said. I was relieved that I finally knew what it was and could then start treatment, but at the same time scared because I didn't know how much it would affect my life.

It's also a lifelong illness which meant it was quite a big thing to accept."