Does it help to Scream?


We’ve all reached the point at which we could scream.  It is quite common to hear someone under pressure or dismayed say, ‘It makes me want to scream.’  However, does it help to scream or is this a myth?



The term Catharsis relates to the idea of cleansing, coming from Greek origins; ‘Kathartikós’ meaning fit for cleansing.  Aristotle took the opinion that human being benefited from a process of cleansing; Catharsis.  Thinking that screaming or crying provided a way to let out the stress or upset.  The mechanics of his construct are a little vague, even suggesting that witnessing other people unburden themselves could have a useful effect on the watcher.


With limited knowledge, this does make sense.  If the benefit of watching others unburden themselves feels a little far-fetched, then certainly draining yourself of bad feelings appears to have merit.  There are a few examples of how unburdening oneself feels good.

  • Vomiting may not be nice but the relief often soon follows
  • Having a good scream can relieve tension
  • Sexual tension can be distracting without relief
  • An upset stomach, you get the idea

If you think in physical terms the idea of making space for ‘good stuff’ by emptying out some ‘bad stuff’ makes sense.

With regard to observing others experience catharsis; I wonder whether this is akin to the German term:



“pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune”


So does it help to Scream

It rather depends on what you were trying to achieve in both the immediate and the future.  You will have lived a charmed life not to have been tested to the point of screaming.  In fact, an overly charmed life could mean you hit the screaming point sooner; not used to things going against you.

For most people at the point of boiling over a scream feels good, as you vent your pressure valve.  The reality is that the relief is generally short-lived, and  I have yet to see a traffic jam that magically disappears with a scream.

Of course, if you can feel the pressure building and have the luxury of a little logical thought a scream is preferable to some other behaviours.


It’s not only Screaming

What makes one person feel like screaming can have another getting physical,  I have seen touchscreen computers ‘tapped’ hard enough to crack the screen.  As a hotel manager, I arrived in the kitchen just soon enough to stop the chef smashing our entire crockery inventory.  Sounds over the top, but in fairness, a waiter had called for the wrong main course to be plated, so perfectly reasonable!

While in Japan a hotel in Tokyo launched ‘crying rooms’ where guests could have private space to, let it all out.  Dallas, Texas is home to the Anger Rooms where clients can pay to smash stuff up to relieve stress.  It gets quite bespoke with options to have specific items available for smashing with hammers, baseball bats or another item of your choice.

At times computer printers and fax machines were the most requested items to smash; I think anyone who has worked in an office can relate to that.


What happens when you Scream

In short quite a lot, as a useful strategy, not quite so much.  It is reasonable to view anger as a pressure building up inside, venting this can make us more comfortable.  However little (probably nothing) changes about the problem at hand, your reasoning becomes impaired and you teach yourself that screaming, or your action of choice is a good strategy.  This makes it even more likely that you will follow this route again.

Studies conducted by  Brad Bushman – Social Psychologist at Iowa State University showed that people who have a belief in Catharsis are more likely to seek it out as a way to release stress and reduce anger.  This is just a small finding from a large scale experiment and does not do Bushman justice for his excellent research.

When the road rage descends or your ears pick up displeasing information, venting the pressure will likely feel good; without having any useful effect on the situation.  And next time you will need a bigger scream for the same pleasure reward; the treadmill keeps getting faster.  While you may be able to scream louder and with more conviction if you choose another behaviour you could become more dangerous and destructive.


Hypnotherapy and alternatives

Hypnotherapy can be used as a route to build better strategies for dealing with life’s irritations.  Here are some examples:

  • Undo unhelpful strategies and replace with preferred ones
  • Create quiet space for regular unwinding
  • Create ‘Anchors’ both manual and automatic
  • Apply balanced reasoning
  • Question how you want to respond



In answer to the questions, ‘does it help to scream?’ I would suggest, yes in the immediate providing it is an occasional reaction.  For more regular irritations it makes sense for mental and physical health to build better strategies.  Perhaps the prominent points to remember are that screaming or other cathartic behaviours, impair judgement for several minutes afterwards.  And the law of diminishing returns comes in to play, you need a bigger ‘dose’ of scream for the same relief.