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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • expression of negative emotions;
  • support groups;
  • internet;
  • computer text analysis

Abstract

The repression/suppression of negative emotions has long been considered detrimental for breast cancer (BC) patients, leading to poor coping, progression of symptoms, and general lower quality of life. Therapies have focused on encouraging the expression of negative emotions. While group therapies have proven to be successful for BC patients, no study has looked at the role of expressing negative emotions during the therapeutic interaction. We examined written expressed emotions by women participating in a common form of psychosocial support, Internet based bulletin boards (BBs). Fifty-two new members to BC BBs were studied. They completed measures of quality of life and depression. After 6 months the measures were again assessed and messages during that time were collected and analyzed for emotional content. For the 52 women, results showed that greater expression of anger was associated with higher quality of life and lower depression, while the expression of fear and anxiety was associated with lower quality of life and higher depression. The expression of sadness was unrelated to change scores. Our results serve to challenge the commonly held belief that the expression of all negative emotions are beneficial for BC patients. Instead, expressing specific negative emotions are beneficial, while others are not. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.