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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chronic pain represents a wide-spread and costly problem that is often not treated effectively with traditional biomedical approaches (Turk et al., 2011). The literature emphasizes the importance of using psychological interventions that encourage self-management of pain. This study tested the effectiveness of two brief, online writing interventions that can be used by chronic pain patients in a wide-spread and cost-effective way (Kerns et al., 2001). Writing interventions have been found to produce beneficial psychological and physical outcomes for those with pain (e.g., Frattaroli, 2006,). This study added to the literature by using positive variations of the expressive writing paradigm that focused on self-compassion and self-efficacy, and testing the moderator variable of pain catastrophizing. Ninety-three participants with chronic pain were recruited from chronic pain forums and completed the writing intervention. Participants were randomized to either self-compassion or self-efficacy writing and wrote for 20 minutes once a week for three consecutive weeks. Participants completed baseline and post-intervention measures of pain severity, illness intrusiveness, pain acceptance, pain catastrophizing, depression symptoms, life satisfaction, self-compassion, and chronic pain self-efficacy. Results indicate that participants in both writing conditions reported significantly less pain, less depression, and greater self-compassion after the writing. Moreover, participants reported feeling more positive after each writing session. One significant difference emerged between the two types of writing: participants in the self-compassion condition reported less intrusive pain, whereas those in the self-efficacy condition reported more intrusive pain after the writing. In conclusion, although both types of writing have beneficial effects on psychological and physical health for those with chronic pain, the self-compassion writing may be even more favorable than the self-efficacy writing.
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