We’ve all done it. In a moment of stress, you might very well let fly a profanity. There is no shortage of commentary on how profanity is a sign of low intelligence or limited vocabulary. If you’re smart, you should be able to come up with a different word, right?
But maybe you don’t want to. Maybe swearing actually has its place — and could benefit you. Over the past few decades, researchers studying profanity have come to the conclusion that swearing can help you cope with stressful situations, and even increase your tolerance for pain.
Swearing as Stress Relief
A recent study indicates that swearing can provide stress relief. When you swear, it can act as a coping mechanism, whether you are at work or at home. However, you still need to be careful about the profanity you use. It’s not as effective if you are harassing people; you should really use it as a way to blow of steam in place of physical violence.
I’ve been known to occasionally let a profanity fly. And it does sometimes provide an emotional release. And, as someone who works with words for a living, I can tell you that sometimes there is no way to sum up intense emotions, or precisely describe a situation, as well as a single, well-placed profanity. It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes knowing when profanity is called for is just as important as being able to fish for another word.
Not only can swearing help reduce your emotional stress, but it can also alleviate some of your pain. Studies indicate that you can actually reduce your pain when you swear after hurting yourself. Interestingly, the studies find that when you substitute replacement words (think darn for damn), it doesn’t work as well. The emotional release that comes with actual swearing is something that helps you better tolerate pain.
However, there is a caveat to all this swearing: The more you do it, the less effective it becomes. If you get to the point where profanity is just words, and part of your regular vocabulary, it won’t help reduce pain, and it may not serve as a sufficient emotional release. Effective swearing requires that it be used sparingly. Just as you can build up a tolerance for some substances, apparently you can also build up a tolerance for swearing. So don’t start swearing every other word if you want to use your profanity to maximum efficiency.
Keeping It To Yourself
Plus, sometimes, it’s best to keep it to yourself. Swearing can be problematic when you direct it specifically at other people, as when you might escalate a confrontation after a traffic accident, or when you angrily swear at a child or your partner. And, of course, there are times when swearing is socially unacceptable. You do need to keep it to yourself sometimes. You can’t just be a potty mouth and expect to see no consequences.
But, sometimes, it might make sense to go ahead and let that profanity out. It might help you feel better.