Online writing about positive life experiences reduces depression and perceived stress reactivity in socially inhibited individuals

Sarah F Allen, Mark A Wetherell, Michael A Smith

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Abstract

Therapeutic writing can enhance psychological and physical health. Recent studies have suggested that these kinds of interventions can be effective when delivered online. The present study investigated whether positive emotional writing online can influence psychological and physical health in individuals reporting high levels of negative affectivity, who are most likely to benefit from psychological intervention (N = 72, Mage = 28.5, SDage = 8.7), and further, to investigate the potential moderating role of social inhibition. Participants completed self-report measures of physical symptoms, perceived stress, perceived stress reactivity, depression and generalised anxiety, before completing either i) positive emotional writing, or ii) a non-emotive control writing task on an online portal, for 20 min per day over three consecutive days. State anxiety was measured immediately after each writing session, and self-report questionnaires were again administered four weeks post-writing. Socially inhibited individuals exhibited significant reductions in depression and perceived stress reactivity four weeks following positive emotional writing, relative to writing about a neutral topic. The present study supports the efficacy of online therapeutic writing in individuals who, due to their socially inhibited nature, are most likely to benefit from online interventions which avoid interaction with a therapist or other clients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry Research
Early online date20 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2019

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Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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