Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Br J Health Psychol. 2013 Sep;18(3):574-92. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12004. Epub 2012 Nov 5.

Dispositional emotion coping styles and physiological responses to expressive writing.

Author information

Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.



The purpose of these two studies was to assess how repressors and defensive, high-anxious individuals exhibit their psychological and health characteristics subjectively through self-reports and objectively through physiological markers and ratings of emotional expression.


Cross-sectional descriptive design (study one) and randomized controlled design (study two).


In the first descriptive study, repressors, defensive, high-anxious individuals and low-anxious individuals were identified from a pool of 748 undergraduates. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires assessing psychological and health characteristics. In the second experimental study, the three groups were randomized into either emotional or non-emotional writing conditions. Participants were asked to write three essays on either an emotional or a non-emotional topic in a single day.


In the first study, defensive, high-anxious individuals reported significantly more distress, symptoms, sickness behaviours and difficulty expressing anger relative to repressors. In the second study, there was a significant difference in salivary cortisol concentrations between the two writing conditions regardless of the emotional coping grouping. Analysis of the writing showed no significant differences among repressors, defensive, high-anxious and low-anxious individuals in their cognitive and affective expression.


Whereas self-reports of health outcomes and psychological traits clearly distinguish repressors and defensive, high-anxious individuals, more objective indices of emotional expressiveness and physiology do not appear to do so. The results also indicate that expressive writing may be helpful to reduce physiological arousal towards emotionally charged memories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Support Center