Why swearing makes you feel better
It may be hard to believe, but those dirty words you’ve been told all your life are bad are actually good for you. Ever stub your toe and let loose with a barrage of cussing that would make a sailor blush? Ever cut your finger and immediately unleash a demonic onslaught of curse words that would make your mother cry? A recent study suggests that because of the link between curse words and emotional response, the release of dropping an F-bomb might just help you cope with pain better. It turns out, it might even ease pain to let loose with curse words when you’re wounded.
Brought about by one of the researchers noticing that his wife let loose with long bursts of cussing during childbirth, he was interested in learning if such utterances actually helped ease the pain of birthing a baby.
Scientists gathered a group of study participants and formulated an experiment to seek answers to just that question. The study was conducted by asking participants to write down five words they might use after striking their thumb with a hammer. Of these five words, people who used their favorite pejorative as a mantra after receiving a painful stimulus (holding their hands in icy water for as long as possible) were able to withstand that pain for a greater length of time. Not only were they able to withstand pain for a longer time, but they reported decreased perception of pain. They were not able to take the painful stimulus as long while repeating a more benign word than their cuss word of choice.
The study also found that women are more affected by the release offered by cussing than men, showing elevated heart rates more often than men. Women indicated a larger drop in perceived pain after experiments with holding their hands in cold water and cussing. This is believed to be because of the fact that in general, women curse less. Also, the study seems to indicate that cussing might signal the start of a flight-or-fight response in women, raising endorphins and heart-rate, allowing women to be able to tolerate or ignore pain better.
From a scientific standpoint, swearing is a fascinating subject that is certain to be studied more. Its benefit for pain relief and tolerance open a number of doors towards lessening the need for pharmacological aids, for one thing. From a strictly moral standpoint, however, it doesn’t seem that cussing is going to become the norm any time soon.
The connection between cursing and pain relief is certainly unclear, and many more studies will be required before researchers fully understand the phenomenon. It also raises questions such as why do we curse? When did it start? Why is it socially unacceptable, and has it ever been acceptable? Certainly, researchers are discovering that curse words, as opposed to “normal” words, are capable of eliciting responses from the right, emotional side of the brain. According to the scientists, the emotional response brought about by cursing is certainly worth further exploration.