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Expressive writing reduces avoidance and somatic complaints in a community sample with constraints on expression


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D., Psychiatry and Research Services, Dept. of Veteran Affairs, San Diego Healthcare Systems, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161, USA (e-mail:


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.