J Abnorm Psychol. 2000 Feb;109(1):156-60.
To assess the health effects of writing about traumatic events in a clinical population, 98 psychiatric prison inmates were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions in which they were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding upsetting experiences (trauma writing condition), write about trivial topics (trivial writing control), or go about their daily routine without writing (no-writing control). Both writing groups wrote for 20 min per day for 3 consecutive days. Participants in the trauma condition reported experiencing more physical symptoms subsequent to the intervention relative to those in the other conditions. Despite this, controlling for prewriting infirmary visits, sex offenders in the trauma writing condition decreased their postwriting infirmary visits. These results are congruent with predictions based on stigmatization and inhibition.
J Lesbian Stud. 2008;12(4):501-17. doi: 10.1080/10894160802278663.
Br J Health Psychol. 2008 Feb;13(Pt 1):53-6. doi: 10.1348/135910707X251180.
This experimental study examined expressive writing (EW) in a community sample with social constraints on self-expression. Gay men (N=62) were assigned randomly to describe gay-related thoughts and feelings (EW) or to write objectively (CTRL). Self-reported symptoms and physician visits were assessed at baseline and 1- and 2-month follow-ups.
Significant GroupxTime interaction for somatic symptoms indicated buffering effect of EW. EW reduced gay-related avoidance, relative to CTRL. Avoidance and symptom changes were significantly, positively associated.
Consistent with inhibition theory, EW reduces chronic avoidance and buffers stress-related physical symptoms in stigmatized groups.