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Psychosom Med. 2003 May-Jun;65(3):477-84.

Postoperative course after papilloma resection: effects of written disclosure of the experience in subjects with different alexithymia levels.

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Department of Psychology, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.



The aim of the investigation was to assess the effects on postoperative course after bladder papilloma resection of a technique for the written disclosure of traumatic events in interaction with individual differences in alexithymia.


Forty subjects were administered a general questionnaire and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) the second day after admittance. Twenty subjects were asked to write for 3 days, 20 minutes a day, about their experience of being in the hospital, following instructions developed by J. W. Pennebaker and coworkers. The postoperative course was assessed objectively by the duration of stay in hospital and subjectively by subjects completing the Symptom Check List 90 (SCL-90) the day before leaving the hospital.


Subjects who wrote stayed fewer days in hospital and had lower SCL-90 scores. The same effect was shown by low alexithymia levels. Study of interactions showed that the effect of writing was apparent only in subjects high in alexithymia, whereas subjects low in alexithymia showed a favorable course independent of writing.


Writing about one's thoughts and feelings about being in hospital for a surgical operation has beneficial effects on postoperative course. This holds particularly true for high alexithymic subjects, who obtain through writing the same outcome as low alexithymic subjects.

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