Effects of disclosure of traumatic events on illness behavior among psychiatric prison inmates.

J Abnorm Psychol. 2000 Feb;109(1):156-60.

Richards JM1, Beal WE, Seagal JD, Pennebaker JW.

To assess the health effects of writing about traumatic events in a clinical population, 98 psychiatric prison inmates were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions in which they were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding upsetting experiences (trauma writing condition), write about trivial topics (trivial writing control), or go about their daily routine without writing (no-writing control). Both writing groups wrote for 20 min per day for 3 consecutive days. Participants in the trauma condition reported experiencing more physical symptoms subsequent to the intervention relative to those in the other conditions. Despite this, controlling for prewriting infirmary visits, sex offenders in the trauma writing condition decreased their postwriting infirmary visits. These results are congruent with predictions based on stigmatization and inhibition.



Does writing about the bereavement lessen grief following sudden, unintentional death?

Death Stud. 2000 Mar;24(2):115-34.

Range LM1, Kovac SH, Marion MS.

Writing about traumatic events produces improvement in an array of areas including physical and psychological functioning. To see if these improvements extended to improved bereavement recovery after the accidental or homicidal death of a loved one, 64 undergraduates (51 women, 13 men) began, and 44 completed, a writing project. At pretest, they completed measures of depression, anxiety, grief, impact, and non-routine health visits. Then, they were randomly assigned to write about either the bereavement experience (profound condition), or innocuous topics (trivial condition). They wrote for 15 minutes a day for four days, then completed the same measures a second time (posttest). Six weeks later, they were mailed the same measures again (follow-up). A 2 (CONDITION: Profound versus Trivial) x 3 (Time: Pre-, Post-, or Follow-up) MANOVA yielded a significant main effect for time, but no main effect for condition and no interaction. Follow-up ANOVAs indicated that, across conditions, from pretest to follow-up testing participants reported less anxiety and depression, less impact, greater grief recovery, but about the same health center visits. A 2 (CONDITION) x 4 (Writing Day) MANOVA and follow-up tests indicated that those in the profound condition reported less subjective distress from Day 1 to Day 3, compared to those in the trivial condition. Combined with Kovac and Range (1999), present results suggest that writing projects may be more beneficial to those experiencing the unique bereavement of suicidal death, rather than those experiencing the nonintentional death of a loved one by accident or homicide.


Writing projects: lessening undergraduates’ unique suicidal bereavement.

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2000 Spring;30(1):50-60.

Kovac SH1, Range LM.

To assess if writing projects lessen undergraduates’ grief following a loved one’s suicide, 40 students whose loved one died by suicide in the past 2 years wrote on four occasions over 2 weeks about profound topics (e.g., events and emotions surrounding the death) or trivial topics (e.g., description of the previous meal). All participants completed pre- and posttest measures of grief and self-reported health visits, and 75% completed the same measures at 6-week mailed follow-up. As expected, individuals in the profound condition reported less grief associated with suicide at follow-up than those in the trivial condition. However, the trivial and profound groups were not significantly different in general grief or health visits. Writing about grief associated with the suicide of a loved one appeared to reduce suicidal grief associated with this event. However, this benefit did not extend to general grief or physical health.