Venting to friends is actually bad for your health, study suggests

Worried angry businesswoman using phone venting
Venting can increase feelings of anger, a new study has found. (Getty Images)

When you are feeling a little irked, or something happens that makes you angry, venting your frustrations seems like a natural response. However, a new study has found that this could actually exacerbate your feelings instead of alleviating them.

Researchers from Ohio State University looked at 154 studies on anger and found little evidence that venting can help these feelings, instead finding that it can often increase anger.

"Venting anger might sound like a good idea, but there's not a shred of scientific evidence to support catharsis theory," senior author Brad Bushman, a communication scientist, says.

Venting is a natural reaction to anger, Ruth Kidzi, psychologist, coach, neuroscience expert, and best selling author of 'How to Feel Better', tells Yahoo UK.​

"I think society tells us to express ourselves, to not keep it all in, and we feel that somehow in sharing our anger it will ease it," she adds. "Also it is a very natural feeling to want to 'expel' anger in this way, but the problem is it is very surface level."

The issue with venting

"Venting is often talked about as a positive action which can help us move through anger – but in fact it can have the opposite effect, as anger itself often isn't the primary emotion," Kidzi says.​

Two medical work colleagues talking. Brain-storming
Instead of venting to your colleagues, maybe reflect on your anger instead. (Getty Images)

"[Anger] is an outlet for other things like sadness, jealousy, disappointment, hurt so by venting on the thing that is upsetting us we are only further fuelling it, unless we have a strategy in place to then help deal with the primary cause and find a solution."

Kidzi adds that venting can raise our stress levels and blood pressure which means that we can become all-consumed by the thing that’s made us angry.

"This then blocks our brain from switching to solutions mode as our body is in fight or flight," she says.

What to do instead of venting

The research team determined that it can be better to reflect when we’re angry, to understand why we get mad and address underlying problems.

"Reflection is so important to help us move forward and find the cause of the anger so we can change our future experiences, rather than just reacting to the surface level anger again and again," Kidzi says.

"If we can take time to reflect we can remove ourselves from the middle of the drama, and see with more clarity what is causing this feeling – then we can go about resolving that."

Kidzi adds that, as part of your reflection, try to identify common themes so that you can practice being more self aware.

"Practicing mindfulness and doing things to slow down the body can help regulate emotions, so we then get out of fight or flight mode and start to operate in a calmer state within both our conscious and subconscious, and then you will start to see solutions," she explains.

Close-up portrait of sportsman in park, hispanic man jogging in park with eyes closed breathing fresh air and resting, jogging with headphones listening to music and online radio and podcasts.
Mindfulness can help to reduce feelings of anger. (Getty Images)

"It may be how you have overcome challenges like this before or it may be you start to see that new ways of interacting or behaving will be required."

Other ways to reduce anger and stress is to incorporate exercise, practice journaling, and to speak to a professional when necessary.

"It's important to take time to consider what is driving the anger and start to understand your triggers," Kidzi says. "If you're angry at someone else, consider what this is telling you about you, and how you feel about yourself. Often our anger at situations can be a mirror that we need to fix something in our own lives.

"Every emotion we feel is valid and is there for a reason. I believe we need to feel the range and recognise where these emotions are coming from."

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