Psychological Affects of being a Compulsive Complainer

Rafay Hiraj
4 min readJan 8, 2022


What harmful effects do complaining have on the brain?

Compulsively complaining is one of the major tendencies of narcissism. No one likes a narcissist right? Well, aren’t we all narcissists in some way? It seems like everyone complains about something in their life. That’s just it. Research has backed the fact that complaining about things tends to have psychological effects on the brain!

How Complaining Affects the Brain

Reducing the size of the hippocampus

Constantly complaining reduces the size of the hippocampus. For those unaware of the hippocampus, it is a structure in the brain responsible for memory and logical reasoning. This was found out by research done by Stanford University. The reason behind this is that repeating a behavior like complaining causes neurons to make information easily transferable so it does not have to be processed again and again.

When a certain behavior such as complaining is repeated, the information bridges, if you will, make such an activity easily transferable. This results in complainers constantly having pessimistic and negative thoughts all the time.

This also means that listening to someone complain has negative effects too. Constant complaining also means that pessimists tend to have a lower life span than optimists. This is not a coincidence by any means.

Producing cortisol

Complaining causes the brain to produce cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone as it is produced in times of stress. It acts by constricting blood flow to nonessential processes in the body. High levels of cortisol that result from compulsive complaining can cause obesity, anxiety, depression, and heart disease.

Is venting bad for you?

It isn’t unusual for someone to experience trauma in their life. Moreover, some people tend to keep their emotions on their chests but not on their tongues. Storing emotions and not letting them out can be a dangerous game because if the person holding them gets overwhelmed by them, he will explode by screaming them out. As a result, people tend to vent.

Venting is in fact good for you! It works as a coping mechanism. Consequently, it is better for your mental health. That is why therapy happens to work for the majority of people who attend it provided the therapist is a good one!

Difference between venting and complaining

Venting and complaining are not the same things. When venting, the venter knows he is responsible for his emotions unless, of course, he lashes out at someone. When someone vents their emotions, they are basically tossing it out to the room. If the person venting does not lash out at the one listening then it can be the basis of a supportive and genuine relationship between the two.

Complaining, on the other hand, represents narcissistic tendencies as I stated before. The complainer throws the emotions to the other person and wants to make them feel responsible for it. No wonder it leads to the psychological problems it leads to! The common and maybe understated belief associated is that the whole world revolves around them and must tend to them and their needs. This is an unproductive way of thinking and unsurprisingly does not lead to much when such people step out into the real world.

How to stop yourself from complaining/making excuses?

Winners never complain and complainers never win

Every one of us has complained at some point in our lives. It is almost natural but it isn’t completely natural. So how do you stop complaining?

Complaining and making excuses happen to be passengers of the same bus. Since it is easier to make an excuse rather than have others think you are imperfect, we tend to be attracted to it. We all have a self-identity and when we fail at something others didn’t expect us to fail at, we make excuses as to why that happened. In order to stop complaining, we must understand why we do that. For most of us, it is almost like a reflex, so the logical thing to do is think before we speak.

When someone asks you a question about certain negligence on your part or underperformance of some kind, think about the question. Take a few seconds and then answer. We tend to answer immediately and that causes us to say things we shouldn’t have or make promises we can’t keep.

Silence is a powerful tool. Between every stimulus and response, there is a gap and that gap represents your thoughts. If they are well thought of or disciplined it can go a long way to produce a response or action that is in fact satisfactory for you.

We don’t want to disturb our self-identity and that probably comes from a desire to be perfect. Accepting one’s imperfection can be a good tool in not complaining and making excuses. Maybe try calling people close to you and asking them what you can improve about yourself!

We must learn to accept that there are things that work on a level beyond our control. People tend to complain mostly about these things. People use recent deaths or occasions as an excuse for low productivity and use that to emotionally blackmail other people This is not the right thing to do and it comes from us making promises we can’t keep in the first place!