Do girls really talk (to one another) too much?

Teenage girls who discuss their problems to death may be setting themselves up for anxiety and depression -- or for solid, lifelong friendships.

Published September 12, 2008 4:41PM (EDT)

According to the New York Times, teenage girls' tendency toward "co-rumination" -- i.e., talking (or texting, or Twittering) their problems to death -- could be leading them straight into the bell jar. The problem, some psychologists say, is that "dwelling [on] and rehashing issues can keep girls, who are more prone to depression and anxiety than boys, stuck in negative thinking patterns." However, researchers "also say it is a mixed picture: friends who co-ruminate tend to be close, and those intimate relationships can build self-esteem." Studies have shown that close friendships prove especially helpful in coping with "relational aggression," or "Mean Girls"-style bullying.

So are girls worse off for wallowing or better off for bonding? Psychologists suggest that if the teenagers try to problem-solve together, instead of merely rehashing their problems, they might be able to get the friendship benefits without the pesky anxiety and depression. But as anyone who' has ever been the target of "relational aggression" can tell you, there aren't always clear solutions to the causes of adolescent female angst. Sometimes, all you can really do is rant about it to your girls.

Co-rumination research has so far only shown that anxiety and depression can be a result in the short term, "and has not established a basis for predicting long-term negative effects." So isn't it possible that in the long run, the friendships girls build by talking the hell out of their problems will be a boon that far outweighs the short-term downside? As someone who still consults my besties from high school when I've got a dilemma, I'm certainly inclined to think so. But then, I might just be looking to justify my nasty overthinking habit. Pardon me while I go ask my girlfriends what they think about all this.

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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