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Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 Nov;105(11):2440-8. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.246. Epub 2010 Jun 15.

Expressive writing is a promising therapeutic modality for the management of IBS: a pilot study.

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Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



We sought to test the effectiveness of expressive writing about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on disease severity, IBS-related cognition (perceived control over the illness or adaptive cognition), and IBS-specific quality of life.


This was an exploratory pilot study, during which subjects with IBS were asked to write at an online portal for 30 min on 4 consecutive days about their deepest thoughts, emotions, and beliefs regarding the disease and their perception of its effects (writing group). The IBS severity scale (IBSSS), functional bowel disease-related cognition (CG-FBD), catastrophizing/coping (CT3), and IBS-specific quality of life (IBS-QOL) were measured at baseline and at 1 and 3 months' follow-up. Subjects who did not start writing for 3 weeks were asked to complete questionnaires without writing (non-writers group). Within-group comparisons pre- and post-assessment were compared. In addition, the writing and non-writers groups were compared. Linear mixed-effects models were used to assess the outcome measures over time (1 and 3 months).


A total of 103 subjects were enrolled in the study (writing group, n=82; non-writers group, n=21). The mean age of all participants was 43 years (s.d. ±12), and the majority (91%) were female. The mean duration of IBS was 6.8 years (s.d. ±3.5); 102 subjects (99‰) had received physician-directed care for the disease. There were no significant differences between the writing and non-writers groups in baseline measurements. For the writing group at 1 and 3 months, the IBSSS improved significantly (+37.4 (±10.8), P=0.0012 and +53.8 (±13), P=0.0002, respectively) and this was not seen in the non-writers group. Similarly, the CG-FBD improved in the writing group by 0.58 (±0.2, P=0.006) at 3 months, although the changes in IBS-QOL did not reach clinical or statistical significance.


In this exploratory study, expressive writing improved IBS disease severity and cognition in subjects with longer-term duration of the disease. A large, controlled study is warranted to evaluate the therapeutic potential of this novel modality for adjunctive management of IBS in the outpatient setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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