Sharing Problems Boosts Girls' Anxiety

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Teenaged girls who bond over gripe sessions and sharing each other's problems may be doing more harm than good emotionally.

A new study shows that friendships based on complaining about each other's
problems may raise anxiety levels among teen girls and potentially increase the risk of depression.

Researchers found that girls who bond by sharing their problems were more likely than boys to develop anxiety and depression as a result of their extended gripe sessions.

"These findings are interesting because girls' intentions when discussing problems may be to give and seek positive support. However, these conversations appear to contribute to increased depression," says Amanda J. Rose, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri Columbia, in a news release.

Researchers say the study shows talking excessively with another person about problems, such as rehashing and dwelling on negative feelings associated with them, can have both benefits and risks for people dealing with difficult issues.

Risks of Letting It All Out
In the study, published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology, researchers followed a group of 813 third through ninth graders in the Midwest for six months.

The students were questioned about whom they considered their closest friends and what they most often discussed in their conversations.

The results showed that girls who talked excessively about their problems were more likely to report having high-quality close friends. But these girls were also more likely to have symptoms of anxiety or depression, which in turn led to more talking about problems and negative feelings.

But boys of the same age didn't seem to suffer the same negative emotional effects of letting it all out.

Researchers say sharing problems and dwelling on negative feelings may cause girls to think about problems in a way that is different from boys, and that is more closely linked to emotional problems.

For example, Rose says girls may be more likely than boys to take personal responsibility for their failures.

  • How does your teen daughter interact with her girlfriends? Talk about it on our Parenting: Preteens and Teenagers message board.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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