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Being Pakistani, we know that nothing gets us going than a good ol’ load of swears. But have you ever thought about the science behind swears? If you haven’t, you’re in for a bloody ride!

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The Background

There’s a phenomenon that suggests swearing is actually bad for your pain. When you swear in response to something you get into the mindset of “catastrophising” which inflates your negative feelings. 

swearing reduces pain
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However, Richard Stephens, a psychologist and author of Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad, wondered “why swearing, a supposedly bad response to pain, is such a common pain response?” He understood that swearing is a common reaction so how can it be bad?

The Experiment

Stephens persuaded 67 of his undergraduate students at Keele University in England to volunteer in an experiment. The students had to stick their hands in ice-cold water for as long as bearable. They had to do it not just once but twice, once while swearing and once not.

The Results

The results of this study are surprising at best. Moreover, they paved the way for people to understand that swearing ~actually~ helps.

swearing reduces pain
Image Source: NBC News

It turned out that when they were swearing, the volunteers could keep their hands in the water nearly 50 per cent longer as compared to when they could not. In addition to that, while they were swearing their heart rates went up and so, their perception of pain decreased. To put it simply, they felt less pain from the ice water when swearing! 

What’s The Link Between Pain and Swearing?

Pain has always been thought of as a biological area. However, from this study, we realise it is as much psychological as it is biological. For instance, the same level of injury will hurt more or less in different circumstances, according to Stephen. Consider for example men being tested by a woman in a pain-related questionnaire. They are most likely to lie or discount their estimations to sustain their ego. 

swearing reduces pain
Image Source: Newsfeed

There’s also good news that this direct link works for everyone. Initially, Stephens thought it would only work for those who already swore a lot but he was corrected.

However, the type of swearing might make a difference. Milder swears said in the presence of others might not do the deed. The real game-changers are the strong wears that act as painkillers. You know what to do next time you’re hurt: get swearing!

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