Venting to Cope: How It Impacts You
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 6/30/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Some days, it feels really good to vent to a loved one about your boss or your co-workers. How your boss is always double-checking your work or how your co-worker is continuously touting her accomplishments.
In the same way, it also feels good to talk about your partner and kids with your friends. How boring life has become or how annoying your kids can sometimes be.
We all vent, and it’s not meant to be harmful to anyone. It’s just a way of letting emotional steam out in order to take care of ourselves and regulate our stress levels. But when we continuously vent, it can adversely impact our listeners and us.
What Does Venting Mean?
In psychotherapy and counseling, venting is defined as “a client’s full and free expression of feelings or emotions, especially in session.”
Venting can be more effective when done in a structured manner during a therapy session. In addition, the therapist is trained to listen to venting without getting impacted by it as a friend or family member might.
Venting can happen at an individual level or interpersonal level. Individual venting includes venting on your own by writing your thoughts or using a punching bag. Interpersonal venting involves other people in your venting.
Venting vs. Complaining
Releasing your emotions through expression, as long as you take responsibility for your feelings and want to move forward by focusing on what’s within your control, can be an effective form of venting.
But it’s very hard for us to control our venting. It can become addictive to vent about others and continue to feel victimized. In this case, it becomes complaining instead, and we take no responsibility for what we’re feeling. The listener’s emotions are also generally ignored in the process.
Examples of Toxic Venting
Venting with loved ones can easily turn into toxic venting in the following ways:
- Name-calling and unnecessarily putting down others
- Condemning people who have harmed you
- Acting like you know what others are thinking or “plotting”
- Making unfair comparisons that are mostly unrealistic
- Putting down others and saying things you don’t truly mean
- Disclosing things that others have told you in confidence
- Making fun of those who have not treated you well
- Not showing any empathy for others and not acknowledging what you may have done to provoke them
How Venting Impacts You
1. Overall Health
Excessive venting leads to a negative mindset that can eventually result in chronic stress. Your body’s hormone balance can get disrupted, and your brain chemicals may be adversely impacted. Chronic stress is connected to cardiovascular diseases, digestive disorders, and infections.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Chronic stress from persistent venting can damage your immunity functioning. When you’re recovering from surgery, your immunity plays a huge role in healing wounds, incisions, and operated organs.
3. Mental Health
Research on individual venting has found that different forms of venting like writing, verbal expression, and physical expression reinforce negative thoughts and emotions. This means that your negative feelings may become stronger or more persistent through venting. In addition, toxic venting can also increase your stress as you are ruminating on the negative situation.
Increased stress arising from venting can accelerate your aging. For instance, a study found that women with chronic stress in their lives, on average, aged ten years faster than women who did not face consistent stress.
5. Life Satisfaction
Research confirms that children and teenagers who spent excessive time discussing negative feelings, called co-ruminating, feel more depressed. Both parties — the party venting and the listener — witnessed depressive symptoms. This means that if we continue to vent with our loved ones, our relationships, a critical factor for overall life satisfaction, can suffer as well.
How to stop venting and what to do instead of venting?
Please discuss your venting habits with your doctor and come up with some healthy coping mechanisms to use in place of venting.