Design and methods. This experimental study examined expressive writing (EW) in a community sample with social constraints on self-expression. Gay men (N = 62) were assigned randomly to describe gay-related thoughts and feelings (EW) or to write objectively (CTRL). Self-reported symptoms and physician visits were assessed at baseline and 1- and 2-month follow-ups.
Results. Significant Group×Time interaction for somatic symptoms indicated buffering effect of EW. EW reduced gay-related avoidance, relative to CTRL. Avoidance and symptom changes were significantly, positively associated.
Conclusions. Consistent with inhibition theory, EW reduces chronic avoidance and buffers stress-related physical symptoms in stigmatized groups.