Written Emotional Expression About Traumas

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (investigator's abstract): The overall aim of this application is
to extend work on a new psychological phenomenon that may have direct clinical
relevance for a variety of somatic diseases. The basic finding of interest
relates to observed relationships between a brief writing task that creates
emotional expression about past traumas, and salutary effects on some
affective, psychophysiological, physiological, and symptom outcome measures.
Participants examined in the majority of previous studies were typically
healthy. In one previous study, however, the writing task produced reductions
in symptoms in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. The proposed
experiment attempts to extend such work as such a demonstration could suggest
that treatment procedures based on the writing task be developed and employed
in these and other medical conditions. A shift in affect, and presumably
cognitive processes as well, apparently occurs in the interval between the
written emotional expression and subsequent assessments. Current theorizing
about this observation focuses on the idea that the cognitive representation of
traumatic memories is altered in this period, resulting in reductions in
negative affect and physiological arousal although there is no documentation of
any such process. The primary goals of the study are to (1) determine the
effect of written emotional expression on subsequent symptomatology, mood, and
disease status in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis, and (2)
establish what psychological and/or social pathway(s) the manipulation may be
operating through. Patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis will be
assigned randomly to either experimental (writing about the most traumatic or
stressful event they remember) or control condition (writing about neutral
topics). Affect, cognition, social contacts, and symptoms will be assessed
several times a day using palm top computers for one week prior to and two
weeks following the manipulation. Disease status will be measured every six
months for a period of two years, and quality of life measures will also be
Effective start/end date3/1/012/28/08


  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: $226,500.00
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: $226,500.00
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: $226,500.00
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: $226,500.00


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