Relaxation training and written emotional disclosure for tension or migraine headaches: a randomized, controlled trial.

Ann Behav Med. 2008 Aug;36(1):21-32. doi: 10.1007/s12160-008-9046-7. Epub 2008 Aug 12.

D’Souza PJ1, Lumley MA, Kraft CA, Dooley JA.

Behavioral medicine interventions that directly reduce arousal and negative emotions, such as relaxation training (RT), are conceptually different from interventions that temporarily increase negative emotions, such as written emotional disclosure (WED), but no studies have directly compared their efficacy. We compared the effects of RT and WED on people with tension or migraine headaches.

METHODS:

College students with either tension (n = 51) or migraine (n = 90) headaches were randomized to one of three groups: RT, WED, or a neutral writing control condition; four sessions were held over 2 weeks. Mood was measured before and after each session, and outcomes (headache frequency, severity, disability, and general physical symptoms) were assessed at baseline and at 1-month and 3-month follow-ups.

RESULTS:

As expected, RT led to an immediate increase in calmness, whereas WED led to an immediate increase in negative mood, for both headache samples. Intent-to-treat analyses showed that, for the tension headache sample, RT led to improved headache frequency and disability compared to both WED and the control group, but WED had no effect. For migraine headaches, RT improved pain severity relative to the control group, but WED again had no effect.

CONCLUSIONS:

A brief RT protocol was effective for tension headaches, but WED had no effect on health status for either tension or migraine headaches. Modifications to WED, such as targeting people with unresolved stress, providing guidance to enhance the potency of the writing, or including additional at-home writing and exposure exercises, may improve its efficacy for people with headaches and other health problems.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18696172

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Effects and linguistic analysis of written traumatic emotional disclosure in an eating-disordered population.

Perm J. 2013 Winter;17(1):16-20. doi: 10.7812/TPP/12-056.

Gamber AM1, Lane-Loney S, Levine MP.

In previous studies, writing about traumatic life events produced positive physical and psychological outcomes in various populations. Specific linguistic trends, such as increasing insight and cognitive words, have paralleled health benefits.

OBJECTIVE:

This study explored the effects of written traumatic emotional disclosure on eating disorder behavior and cognitions as well as linguistic dimensions of the disclosure writings completed by eating-disordered patients.

DESIGN:

Twenty-nine female patients, aged 16 to 39 years, from the Penn State Hershey Eating Disorders partial-hospitalization program participated. Twenty-five subjects completed a traumatic disclosure or control writing task, and 21 completed all writings and baseline and follow-up questionnaires to assess eating-disorder symptoms, emotional regulation strategies, self-efficacy, and motivation to change eating-disorder behaviors. The handwritten essays were transcribed into a word-processed document and analyzed on numerous dimensions using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software.

RESULTS:

Individuals completing the disclosure writing did not differ from those in the control task group on any of the questionnaires at follow-up. However, the disclosure group did use more negative emotion, insight, cognitive, function, and filler words on all writing days along with decrease of tentative words. These changes in word use correlated with previous study findings.

CONCLUSIONS:

Whereas the expected linguistic trends were evident in the disclosure group writings, no correlating health benefits could be found between the disclosure and control groups. Eating-disordered populations, often alexithymic, may have difficulty engaging with the disclosure task and could potentially benefit from guidance in processing traumatic events and their affective states.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23596363