Does Written Emotional Disclosure about Stress Improve College Students’ Academic Performance? Results from Three Randomized, Controlled Studies.

J Coll Stud Ret. 2010;12(4):407-428.

Radcliffe AM1, Stevenson JK, Lumley MA, D’Souza P, Kraft C.

Several early studies and subsequent reviews suggested that written emotional disclosure (WED)-writing repeatedly about personal stressful experiences-leads to improved academic performance of college students. Yet a critical review of available studies casts some doubt on this, so we conducted three randomized, controlled experiments of the effects of WED versus control writing on grade point average (GPA) of college students. In all three studies, WED writing was implemented effectively-it contained more negative emotion language and generated more negative mood than did control writing. In Study 1, WED did not influence GPA during either the writing semester or subsequent semester among 96 students with headaches. In Study 2, WED had no effect on GPA compared with either control writing or no writing conditions among 124 students with unresolved stress. In Study 3, WED did not influence GPA or retention among 68 academically at-risk ethnic minority students, although secondary analyses suggested some benefits of WED among students who wrote more than once, particularly men. These three studies challenge the belief that WED improves academic performance of college students, and research should examine subgroups of students who might benefit from WED.

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3082942/

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Emotional disclosure interventions for chronic pain: from the laboratory to the clinic.

Transl Behav Med. 2012 Mar;2(1):73-81. doi: 10.1007/s13142-011-0085-4.

Lumley MA1, Sklar ER, Carty JN.

Life stress and the avoidance of negative emotions may contribute to chronic pain. The technique of written or spoken emotional disclosure can reverse emotional avoidance and improve health, and 18 randomized studies have tested it among people with chronic pain. We review these studies to provide guidance for the clinical use of this technique. The benefits of emotional disclosure for chronic pain are quite modest overall. Studies in rheumatoid arthritis show very limited effects, but two studies in fibromyalgia suggest that disclosure may be beneficial. Effects in other populations (headaches, cancer pain, pelvic pain, abdominal pain) are mixed. Moderator findings suggest that some patients are more likely to benefit than others. Emotional disclosure has been tested in well-controlled efficacy trials, leaving many unanswered questions related to translating this technique to practice. Issues needing further study include determining disclosure’s effects outside of randomized controlled trials, identifying the optimal pain populations and specific individuals to target for disclosure, presenting a valid rationale for disclosure, selecting the location and method of disclosure, and choosing between cognitive-behavioral or emotional disclosure techniques.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22905067

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419371/

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