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Effects of written emotional disclosure on implicit self-esteem and body image


Dr Daryl B. O'Connor, Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK (e-mail: d.b.o'


Objectives.  Negative body image has a significant impact on self-esteem, disordered eating, and general health. Writing about distressing events and experiences has been found to have beneficial effects on psychological and physical health outcomes. This study investigated whether a written self-disclosure intervention, compared to a writing about body image success stories (WSS) intervention, had beneficial effects on self-esteem and body image.

Design and methods.  One hundred and fifty-eight women (aged 18–22 years) were allocated to either: written emotional disclosure (WED); WSS; or a control, non-emotional writing condition. All measures were completed at baseline and at follow-up 4 weeks later.

Results.  A condition by time interaction was observed for implicit self-esteem, such that levels of self-esteem were improved 4 weeks later in the WED condition. Implicit self-esteem was also found to be greater following WED compared to the control condition, but not following WSS.

Conclusions.  This is the first study to demonstrate that WED has beneficial effects on implicit outcome measures such as self-esteem indicating that the positive effects of expressive writing may initially operate by influencing automatically activated attitudes towards the self. The impact of WED on implicit self-esteem may have implications for future health.

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