Research reveals that swearing can relieve physical and emotional pain – 05/31/2023 – Mirian Goldenberg

Last Sunday, I was in my room, reading, studying and writing, when I heard my husband screaming in the living room: “Fuck! Shit! Fuck!”. I ran to see what was going on and found my husband cursing at the computer, “Shit! Fuck! I’ve lost two hours of work. What the fuck!”

I was scared thinking he was feeling sick, having a stroke, the beginning of a heart attack, but he was just angry because he hadn’t saved the work he was doing on the computer.

Now I’ve learned not to worry so much about my husband’s angry outbursts because I’ve discovered some research that shows that swearing is good for physical and mental health.

“There are many advantages to using profanity,” said psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the United States, Timothy Jay, who has studied the subject for over 40 years. Cursing is a kind of outlet for anger, pain and frustration.

“Swearing helps you deal with pain,” found psychologist Richard Stephens, a professor at Keele University in England. Swearing produces a stress response that initiates the body’s defensive reflex, triggers an adrenaline rush that increases heart rate and breathing, preparing the muscles for the response known as fight or flight. Simultaneously, it favors a physiological reaction called analgesic response, which makes the body more impervious to pain.

“It makes evolutionary sense, because you’re going to be a better fighter and a faster runner if you’re not being held back by concerns about pain… When you swear, you trigger an emotional response, which produces a reduction in stress-induced pain”.

Research has shown that people who used profanity when dipping their hands in cold water felt less pain and were able to keep their hands in the water longer than those who said neutral words. Another showed that cyclists who cursed while riding an endurance race had more power and strength than those who used neutral words. And a third found that people who cursed while tightening a vise were able to use more force for longer.

Research has also shown that if you stub your toe on a corner and swear a lot, the pain can hurt less than if you use neutral words. And if you close the car door on your finger, you might feel less pain if you say “shit” instead of “booger”.

I decided to do more research on the subject when I received the following message from a 45-year-old teacher:

“Mirian, I loved your books ‘The Art of Enjoying and Freedom, Happiness and fuck!’ You taught me how to turn on the fuck! It was a relief to be able to say to myself, ‘Fuck it! I made a mistake! I screwed up! Everyone makes mistakes, I’m not perfect! It’s impossible to please everyone! Fuck it!’

“Swearing is the best way to vent, it’s a catharsis, an outlet,” she said.

“I’ve always thought that swearing is good for my mental health. Of course, I don’t directly curse the shitty people at my work and even in my family. But I confess that sometimes I tell my husband to shit when he pisses me off, but I soon ask apologies and we laughed about it together.”

For her, cursing, even if only in thought, is a way of venting her anger:

“I have a co-worker who is so mean, evil, manipulative, arrogant, competitive, envious and a rule-breaker that whenever she does something nasty to me, I’m so paralyzed that I can’t react, but I keep repeating in my mind: ‘Disgusting cow! Disgusting bitch! Disgusting bitch!’ disgusting cow to curse this envious slut”.

The teacher then asked me three questions that I don’t know how to answer:

“Do you have any suggestions? What’s the swear word you use when you’re mad at someone and need to vent? Is there a politically correct swear word?”

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