Profanities have been dated back as early as the fifteenth century, helping people express their emotions in times where civilised words don’t do it justice. Road rage wouldn’t be the same without saying f*#& a couple of times.
While not everyone swears, there is a time and place it seems to take centre stage without warning and that’s during pain. It is usually an unconscious reaction and occurs at the onset of pain.
Swearing is such a common response to injuring ourselves that it makes us wonder if there is a reason behind it – Does it have certain healing abilities we don’t know about?
Dr Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in Psychology at Keele University decided to test out this theory and asked 64 of his undergraduate students to take part (who all surprisingly said yes).
Each student had to submerge their hand in ice-cold water for as long as possible while either repeating a swear word or a neutral word. The study showed that students who cursed during the experiment could withstand the pain for longer.
It seems swearing triggers a “flight or fight” response in our body that helps us process and better tolerate pain, but this doesn’t mean you should start swearing more frequently.
The study also found that people who swear more often during day-to-day, become desensitised and have less emotional attachment to curse words and as a result, don’t receive the same pain-relieving effect.
How swearing alleviates our pain is unknown, but what is clear; By reducing the amount we put in the swear jar on a daily basis, can help us receive greater pain-relief in times of need.