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Violence Vict. 2005 Dec;20(6):717-28.

Psychological impact of writing about abuse or positive experiences.

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  • 1University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5025, USA.


Writing often helps people deal with trauma. To see if writing about childhood physical or sexual abuse, or positive experiences, helps, psychology undergraduates wrote for 20 minutes on 4 days about their abuse, a positive experience, or a trivial topic. Among 102 who began and 85 who completed pre-, post-, and 4-week follow-up measures of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideas, abuse writers were more likely to discontinue, and positive writers were more depressed and anxious. Compared to pretest, all completers were less depressed, anxious, and suicidal at follow-up, but nonsignificantly different in health visits. Completers who wrote about abuse rated the study as more valuable than did those who wrote about positive experiences. College students who wrote about childhood physical or sexual abuse benefited from any type of structured writing assignment (where they interacted with a researcher and got extra credit) in terms of reduced anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideas, but they found value in writing about their trauma more than writing about innocuous topics.

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