A randomized controlled trial of emotionally expressive writing for women with metastatic breast cancer.

Health Psychol. 2010 Jul;29(4):460-6. doi: 10.1037/a0020153.

Low CA1, Stanton AL, Bower JE, Gyllenhammer L.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3128513/

 

Objective

To test the effects of emotionally expressive writing in a randomized controlled trial of metastatic breast cancer patients and to determine whether effects of the intervention varied as a function of perceived social support or time since metastatic diagnosis.

Design

Women (N = 62) living with Stage IV breast cancer were randomly assigned to write about cancer-related emotions (EMO; n = 31) or the facts of their diagnosis and treatment (CTL; n = 31). Participants wrote at home for four 20-min sessions within a 3-week interval.

Main Outcome Measures

Depressive symptoms, cancer-related intrusive thoughts, somatic symptoms, and sleep quality at 3 months postintervention.

Results

No significant main effects of experimental condition were observed. A significant condition × social support interaction emerged on intrusive thoughts; EMO writing was associated with reduced intrusive thoughts for women reporting low emotional support (η2 = .15). Significant condition × time since metastatic diagnosis interactions were also observed for somatic symptoms and sleep disturbances. Relative to CTL, EMO participants who were more recently diagnosed had fewer somatic symptoms (η2 = .10), whereas EMO participants with longer diagnosis duration exhibited increases in sleep disturbances (η2 = .09).

Conclusion

Although there was no main effect of expressive writing on health among the current metastatic breast cancer sample, expressive writing may be beneficial for a subset of metastatic patients (including women with low levels of emotional support or who have been recently diagnosed) and contraindicated for others (i.e., those who have been living with the diagnosis for years).

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Does writing about suicidal thoughts and feelings reduce them?

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2002 Winter;32(4):428-40.

Abstract

To assess whether writing with cognitive change or exposure instructions reduces depression or suicidality, 121 undergraduates screened for suicidality wrote for 20 minutes on 4 days over 2 weeks. They were randomly assigned to reinterpret or to write and rewrite traumatic events/emotions, or to write about innocuous topics. The three groups (N = 98) who completed pre-, post-, and 6-week follow-up were not different on suicidality or depression. All subjects reported fewer automatic negative thoughts over the 2 weeks; they also reported higher self-regard but more health center visits at follow-up. Suicidal thoughts may be more resistant than physical health to writing interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12501967