COMPLAINING – Is It Good Or Bad For You?

Most of us know that certain habits like smoking, eating too much junk food, or lying on the couch all day contributes to an unhealthy lifestyle—right? But, what if I told you that complaining has the potential of being another bad habit that can wreak havoc on your health? Would you be surprised? Let’s look into it.

Three definitions of the word complain

1) To say that something is wrong or not satisfactory — (Cambridge English Dictionary)

2) To express grief, pain, or discontent — (Mirriam Webster Dictionary)

3) To express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault — (

Many years ago my husband and I went out for dinner at a then popular restaurant in town. I ordered a specialty hamburger which looked and smelled delicious when it came to the table. However, after the first bite, (and here I apologize in advance) I discovered a foreign object in my food. Okay, if you really want to know—it was a long black hair. I know! I know! I said I was sorry. 

Of course I complained to the powers that be because something was definitely wrong and needed to be corrected. The waitress was as repulsed as I was. Ironically, my family was unaffected and proceeded to enjoy their meal while I chose to sit and sip my water refusing to get anything to replace the hairy burger. Needless to say even though I knew it was an unfortunate accident, I never could go back there. Truthfully, I might still be a little traumatized by the dining disaster, just sayin!


The venters: Those that express emotional dissatisfaction (frustration, anger, disappointment, etc.) about particular experiences. Venting (blowing off steam) helps to relieve the inner tension they feel from a difficult situation. They vent looking to receive attention and sympathy from their friends. They aren’t necessarily looking for advice or a solution to the problem; they just want validation for their feelings.

The Problem solvers: They look at the problem, know it is important to change it and create a plan for the change. Unfortunately, as one study suggested, these types of complaints make up fewer than 25 percent of all complaints.

Chronic complainers: People that never seem to be satisfied. They love to dwell on the problem and ignore solutions. They really feel their lives are full of hardship and challenges. They also are seeking sympathy and emotional validation.

My complaint at the restaurant obviously fell under the “problem solver” category. However, I will admit I have done my fair share of “venting” in other instances. Complaining comes quite naturally and we all do it to some degree. In fact, without having to be taught we start complaining while we are yet but a mere child. I’m sure every child is familiar with the phrase, “Quit your complaining!”  And Lord only knows how many times we’ve uttered the phrase as a parent. And yet, the beat goes on!

Why Do We Complain?

Well, to begin with, it’s easy. And most people just don’t realize how often they do it. For them, it’s just become an old habit and like most habits it becomes second nature. Others find complaining an easy way to start a conversation or create a bond with those around them (a long line at the cashier, the traffic, the weather, etc.)  Or maybe some complain because it’s easier than trying to find and carry out a solution, thereby avoiding responsibility. But mostly, people are just looking for validation for what they are going through. 

Can You Complain Too Much?

Chronic complainers—you know who they are. When you see them coming you’re weary before they even start talking. Nothing is ever good enough for them and there’s always something wrong. Their focus is totally on the problem and they ignore any kind of solution offered.

Most chronic complainers believe their lives are full of hardships and challenges, always getting the short end of the stick. In truth, some people do have extra challenges in life, however, here I am not speaking about such cases. The perceptions that chronic complainers have of their hardships are deeply seated in their sense of identity. In fact, if you were to come up with solutions to their problems they would not be happy to hear them. For resolving the issues would then take away the public recognition of their hardships and therefore threaten their identity and sense of self. They may even get upset with you and bemoan that you just don’t understand how hard their problems really are.

Could you be sabotaging your health by complaining?

Negative Effects of complaining

Over time constant complaining can have a tremendous although negative impact on your brain function as well as an adverse effect on your physical wellbeing. When you complain repeatedly your brain is actually rewiring itself to make future complaining more likely.  It’s a process that scientists like to describe as, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”  And before you know it, being negative will be easier than being positive regardless of your situation. 

Chronic complaining leaves you with a life full of dissatisfactions and frustrations. And if you believe you are powerless to do anything about your situation it leaves you feeling helpless, hopeless and like a victim. With your life so full of complaints the frustrations and feelings of helplessness accumulates over time and eventually impacts your mood, your self-esteem and your overall mental health.

The effects of all that complaining takes a toll on your physical health as well. How can that be you ask? Well, It’s as simple as this: As you rattle on with all of your complaints, the more your cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase. This over time weakens your immune system, raising your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes and a whole host of other negative maladies.

So now you know why I said at the beginning that complaining has the potential of wreaking havoc on your health. I think it’s also important to point out here that making a complaint isn’t always a negative action. There are times when it is justified. In fact, the tendency to hold in complaints could also have negative consequences both physically and mentally. Research has found that suppressing thoughts and feelings to be associated with long-term stress and health problems as well.

Be sure to check back in on next months blog to learn how to deal with chronic complaining as well as if there is such a thing as “the right way” to complain.  In the meantime though, if you are stuck in a rut of complaining and would like to jump out of it, please call me, (Kris Henderson) at 616-516-1570 or if its more convenient, schedule an appointment online today. I look forward to hearing from you.