The effects of gossip on your mental health

Don’t let the short-term good overpower the long-term bad, say mental health experts.

07 July, 2024
The effects of gossip on your mental health

Chocolate, good music, and great sex, these are some of the few things that can brighten anyone’s day. But wait, we’ve forgotten another very important thing that brings a smile to our face in no time, gossip. Like it or not, each one of us loves gossiping—either spreading it or receiving it. While we spend hours under the sun gossiping about everyone but ourselves, little do we know about the negative impact that it has on our mind. If you thought gossip is harmless, think again. You might have thought a rumour was harmless, but did you cast your mind on what you believed to be true and how you could directly or indirectly damage a person’s reputation. No, you did not. 


What is gossip to begin with? 

Not everything you say is gossip. What you got to look at over here is the intent. Gossip is aimed to entertain yourself, but criticise or undermine someone (in most cases). Secondly, it is typically personal, sensitive or speculative. The most important component about gossip is that it isn’t verified (which is what makes it very juicy) and it’s exaggerated. The context, too, matters. Normal conversation involves relevant information being given to relevant people. On the other hand, gossip only takes place with selective people and behind someone’s back. These are the places where we can distinguish. 

So why do people gossip?

We humans, as social beings, crave conversation and connection. When we want to get together, we want to talk. Be it positive or negative, we crave the gossip because deep down, we love to compare and feel better about ourselves. For those who feel insecure about themselves, feel superior to those whom they gossip about. Knowing something that not many know about surely feels empowering and that’s the ego boost the gossiper needs. Those who gossip could also have a sadistic personality where they simply find joy out of someone else’s misfortunes. This lack of self-esteem sees them share information about people who aren’t doing well in their lives. By doing do, they validate that their life is so much better. 

Gossipers are bored and also don’t have a life of their own, or anything productive that they feel passionate about. Alongside a feeling of connection that one desires, an individual gossips to feel like they belong to a group. Being the centre of someone’s attention can be compared to buying attention. Knowledge is the currency here. 


The good and the bad

It’s one thing to be grateful and count your blessings when you compare your life and situation with others and another when your only source of happiness is when you gossip about someone else’s misfortunes and problems. The scientific reason why people are addicted to gossip is due to the release of serotonin and dopamine—two hormones that create a sense of happiness. Plus, gossiping is easier on the brain as you leave aside your rational and intellectual thinking and put yourself in a position where you no longer care about facts and believe what you want to. When we like something that makes us happy, there’s every chance we’d do it repeatedly. But remember this, while gossiping creates a sense of pleasure, bonding, and solidarity, all of this is temporary. 

The long-term effects of gossip can bring on exhaustion, anxiety and even depression when they feel that they’re constantly judged for their behaviour and that their reputation is taking a beating. They could also develop feelings of guilt knowing that they’re harming others. Further mental health issues also include the person getting panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder in a worst-case scenario. 

Breaking negative habits

For the short-term trade-off, you’re sabotaging your mental health long-term. So how do you break the cycle? Do so by focusing on the positive, building healthy communication and developing a sense of empathy. Gossip can be positive as well, like sharing news about someone’s accomplishments can motivate you to achieve your goals and give your confidence and self-esteem a much-needed boost. This shift in perspective will do you the world of good. 

If someone’s spreading gossip about you, you can cut the nip in the bid and address the issue with the gossiper. Often, they do not expect to be confronted by the person they’re talking about and you asserting your feelings is the best way for them to realise the impact of their actions. You could also choose to be the bigger person and take the high road by forgiving them. If you think addressing the issue is too time-consuming, ignorance is indeed bliss. Ultimately, rumours become less noteworthy over time, and people generally forget them over time. 

Inputs by Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, and Sherene Aftab, psychologist & founder Serene Hour Counselling and Career Advice Consultancy

Lead image: Netflix

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