Seventy one participants aged 18 to 46 completed a questionnaire that assessed swearing frequency. Pain tolerance was assessed by how long participants could keep their hands in icy water. Findings revealed that the more often people swear in daily life, the less extra time they were able to hold their hand in the icy water when swearing, compared with when not swearing. Researchers also saw this effect was four times more likely in the volunteers who do not normally swear.
Researchers also suggested swearing could produce a "fight or flight" response. When we experience excessive stress, whether from internal worry or external circumstance, a bodily reaction is triggered, called the "fight or flight" response. Originally discovered by Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, this response is hard wired into our brains and represents a genetic wisdom designed to protect us from bodily harm.
This response actually corresponds to an area of our brain called the hypothalamus, which when stimulated initiates a sequence of nerve cell firing and chemical release that prepares our body for running or fighting.
When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes. The respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from the digestive tract and directed into the muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. Pupils dilate. Awareness intensifies. Sight sharpens. Impulses quicken and the perception of pain diminishes.