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When Tickling Is Abuse

Lynnette Thomas

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'Tickled to death, ’ may not be as harmless a statement as most people think.

Only 32% of respondents enjoy being tickled along with another 32% giving neutral responses and 36% stating that they do not enjoy being tickled, are the results from a recent survey of 84 college students.

Being classified as part of the fifth and highest grade of social play by psychologists, tickling normally entails special intimacy or cognitive interaction. It is usually performed in the context of a friendly or loving relationship, intended as a bonding experience.

Laughter is usually a symbol of pleasure, so it is thought that the person being tickled is having a great time. However laughter resulting from being tickled is merely a re-action. The person being tickled is unable to stop laughing.

Scientists do not exactly understand why people instinctively burst into laughter when tickled. However, they do know that laughter is good for the body.

Studies show that laughter increases blood flow and immune response; lowers risk of heart disease, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, anger and stress and induces relaxation and sleep.

Laughter is not funny however, when it takes a form of abusive tickling.

One person explained tickling as “The tickler has hijacked your body and you are powerless. " Some people said they were tickled until they vomited, choked, cried or wet their pants.

Tickling is often done by a person who is bigger and stronger, or sometimes in pairs or groups of ticklers who “gang up" on the victim. That is when it develops into being abusive. This sort of tickling has the sole aim of controlling, or disgracing a victim. Both the Han Dynasty in China and ancient Rome utilized tickling as a kind of torture, as it left no mark on the victim.

There have been reports of people being driven insane through being tickled, or of laughing until they died of a heart attack, aneurysm, or some other pre-existing condition.

It is possible a victim's bad tickling experience may carry over into later relationships. Some grown up children may try to find ways to hit back. It may cause a woman to have difficulty trusting male partners, fearing that they may also turn out to be abusive ticklers.

Tickling which starts out as laughter but ends up in tears is tickling to be avoided at all costs.


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