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Health Psychol. 1998 Jan;17(1):84-92.

Expression of stressful experiences through writing: effects of a self-regulation manipulation for pessimists and optimists.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Saint Joseph's University, USA.


This study assessed the effectiveness of a writing task designed to foster self-regulatory coping with stressful experiences to reduce medical clinic visits and to promote adjustment. Students entering college (N = 122) who were classified as optimists or pessimists by using a dispositional optimism measure participated in a self-regulation task (expressing thoughts and feelings about entering college and then formulating coping plans), a disclosure task (expressing thoughts and feelings only), or a control task (writing about trivial topics) for 3 weekly writing sessions. Among optimists, both the self-regulation task and the disclosure task reduced illness-related clinic visits during the following month; among pessimists, only the self-regulation task reduced clinic visits. In general, the self-regulation task beneficially affected mood state and college adjustment whereas the disclosure task increased grade point averages.

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