The Effects of Expressive Writing on Adjustment to HIV

Inna D. Rivkin; Julie Gustafson; Ilene Weingarten; Dorothy Chin

DISCLOSURES

AIDS and Behavior. 2006;10(1):13-26.

Previous research suggests that writing about stressful experiences results in better health and psychological well-being. In the present study, a multi-ethnic sample of 79 HIV-positive women and men participated in a structured interview, and wrote about either their deepest thoughts and feelings about living with HIV (expressive writing) or their activities in the last 24 hr (control). Sixty-two participants returned for the 2-month follow-up and 50 returned for the 6-month follow-up interview. Oral fluid samples of beta2-microglobulin were taken at the baseline and follow-up assessments to examine the immunological effects of writing. No effects of writing condition were found, but expressive writing participants who included increasing insight/causation and social words in their writing had better immune function and reported more positive changes at follow-up. Results suggest that cognitive processing and changes in social interactions may be critical to the benefits of writing.

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/536484

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Health effects of written emotional disclosure in adolescents with asthma: a randomized, controlled trial.

J Pediatr Psychol. 2006 Jul;31(6):557-68. Epub 2005 Jul 13.

Warner LJ1, Lumley MA, Casey RJ, Pierantoni W, Salazar R, Zoratti EM, Enberg R, Simon MR.

To test the effects of written emotional disclosure on the health of adolescents with asthma and to examine how language in disclosures predicts outcomes.

METHODS:

We randomized 50 adolescents with asthma to write for 3 days at home about stressful events (disclosure) or control topics. At baseline and 2 months after writing, we assessed symptoms, affect, disability, internalizing behavior problems, and lung function; parents independently rated internalizing behavior and disability.

RESULTS:

Compared with control writing, disclosure writing led to improved positive affect and internalizing problems. Disclosure also decreased asthma symptoms and functional disability among adolescents with baseline elevations of these difficulties. Lung function was not changed. Disclosures with more negative emotion, insight, and causal words–and increased causal or insight words over days–predicted improved health.

CONCLUSIONS:

Written emotional disclosure improves emotional and behavioral functioning among adolescents with asthma, particularly those whose writings suggest emotional processing and cognitive restructuring.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16014820

A pilot study on the effects and feasibility of compassion-focused expressive writing in Day Hospice patients.

Palliat Support Care. 2012 Jun;10(2):115-22. doi: 10.1017/S1478951512000181.

Imrie S1, Troop NA1.

Research has found that writing about stress can confer physical and psychological health benefits on participants and that adopting a self-compassionate stance may have additional benefits. This pilot study evaluated a self-compassionate expressive writing intervention in a Day Hospice setting.

METHOD:

Thirteen patients with life-limiting illnesses wrote on two occasions about recent stressful experiences. Half also received a self-compassion instruction for their writing. Outcome measures were taken at baseline and one week after the second writing session, and text analysis was used to identify changes in the types of words used, reflecting changes in psychological processes.

RESULTS:

Patients given the self-compassion instruction increased in their self-soothing and self-esteem in contrast to patients in the stress-only condition. Happiness broadly increased in both groups although reported levels of stress generally increased in patients given the self-compassion instruction but decreased in patients in the stress-only condition. Those given the self-compassion instruction also increased in their use of causal reasoning words across the two writing sessions compared with those in the stress-only condition.

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS:

Expressive writing appears to be beneficial in patients at a hospice and was viewed as valuable by participants. The inclusion of a self-compassion instruction may have additional benefits and a discussion of the feasibility of implementing expressive writing sessions in a Day Hospice is offered.