The Pathology of Complaining

We’ve all had a day where nothing seems to go right and we just want to complain about it to someone. That moment you feel absolutely powerless about a situation and you feel the need to tell someone about it. Or when that one rude or unkind person hurts your feelings or ego and leaves you talking about it to others the rest of the day, and maybe even the next day. That feeling of anger, hatred, bitterness and wanting retribution builds and builds as you talk about and relive the situation.

We know we all do it, once in a while at least. Yet there are those who do it every day, all day. They usually have something new to complain about with every new activity that they participate in throughout the day. These are the ones that cannot find happiness or satisfaction out of anything in life. Even though they may be blessed with a home and a family, they still find it difficult to be happy, with anything.

When we complain we highlight and enhance the negative feelings we have and increase the negativity that surrounds us. The more power we give to negativity the more power it has over us. The more we are susceptible and exposed to negativity the more it affects our mental and, in turn, our physical health. In other words, negativity breeds negativity. Negativity causes injury.

Now I can’t say why this happens more with some people than others. Everyone reacts completely differently and handles situations using the experience and knowledge they have. In my day to day communication with people I have found a correlation to childhood abuse (physical or mental) or negligence in those who complain or talk negatively more often. They experienced negative beginnings in life and do not know how to escape those cycles of thoughts and feelings. It happens more than anyone really knows.

What does this do to the mind and body over time?

Here are some great articles about it.

How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity

By Dr. Travis Bradberry

Research shows that most people complain once a minute during a typical conversation. Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable—such as smoking or eating a pound of bacon for breakfast—complaining isn’t good for you. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future—so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it. Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

Complaining Is Also Bad for Your Health

While it’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage, it doesn’t stop there. When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself. All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.

The Solution to Complaining

There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life.

Does Complaining Damage Our Mental Health?: How the way we complain impacts our mental health.

By Guy Winch, PhD. Posted Jan 19, 2012

So Many Complaints, So Few Results

We complain today more than ever before in history but few of our complaints get us the results we want. Instead we usually find ourselves repeating the same tale of woe or dissatisfaction to one person after the other in an effort to rid ourselves of our frustration. Of course, even if the person is compassionate enough to validate our emotions we typically find ourselves reliving the aggravation every time we tell the tale. The problem is that today we associate the act of complaining with venting far more than we do with problem solving. As a result, we complain simply to get things off our chest, not to resolve problems or to create change, rendering the vast majority of our complaints completely ineffective. Even when we do address our complaints to the people who can do something about them, we tend to be unsuccessful far more often than not.

How Complaining Ineffectively Harms Our Mental Health

When we have so many dissatisfactions and frustrations, yet believe we’re powerless to do much about them or to get the results we want, we are left feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves. Obviously, one such incident won’t harm our mental health, but we have so many complaints, this scenario happens many times a day. This accumulation of frustration and helplessness can add up over time and impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our general mental health.

How Complaining Effectively Benefits Our Mental Health

Think back to when you called a customer service hotline and were successful in resolving the matter, or when you voiced a complaint to your spouse and they responded with an apology and a promise to make better efforts in the future. Do you recall how pleased you were with yourself? How happy that made you in that moment? How empowered you felt? Just as ineffective complaining can damage our mental health, complaining effectively and getting results can be incredibly empowering and it can affect our mood and self-esteem for the better. The next time you call a friend to vent about something that frustrated you, ask yourself if it is something you would like to change. If so, consider skipping the whining and taking positive action to complain effectively and get a result. You’ll be doing something positive for your mental health as well.


As you see, even Doctors know complaining has a direct mental and thus, of course, physical effect on the body. Chronic complaining and negativity leads to mental illness, including depression, and toxin retention that leads to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Negativity affects the entire individual, not just the mind.

Where are toxins stored, you ask? In body fat, as you store toxins in the fat layer and the fat cells fill up the body has to make more room to store more toxins. So the body adds fat tissue to increase its toxin carrying capacity. So, in other words, the more toxins you retain through negativity, the more body fat you will retain as well.

Having trouble losing weight? Stop and take a critical look at your thinking, communicating, and actions. The more negative they are the harder it will be to lose body fat.

Developing health problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc? Think about how you react to life and find more ways to be grateful. You won’t even notice the fat melting away as you find and develop your own personal happiness.

Mother Gaia can help you find ways to be grateful at