JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Emotional expression and physical health: revising traumatic memories or fostering self-regulation?

M A Greenberg, C B Wortman, A A Stone
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1996, 71 (3): 588-602
8831163
Health benefits derived from personal trauma disclosure are well established. This study examined whether disclosing emotions generated by imaginative immersion in a novel traumatic event would similarly enhance health and adjustment. College women, preselected for trauma presence, were randomly assigned to write about real traumas, imaginary traumas, or trivial events. Yoked real-trauma and imaginary-trauma participants wrote about real-trauma participants' experiences. Imaginary-trauma participants were significantly less depressed than real-trauma participants at immediate posttest, but they were similarly angry, fearful, and happy. Compared with control group participants, both trauma groups made significantly fewer illness visits at 1-month follow-up; however, real-trauma participants reported more fatigue and avoidance than did the other groups. Imaginary-trauma group effects could reflect catharsis, emotional regulation, or construction of resilient possible selves.

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