Relationships between expressive writing about traumatic events and reduction in depressive symptomatology

Date of Completion

January 2008


Psychology, Clinical|Language, Rhetoric and Composition




Over the past 20 years, research has shown expressive writing to be a useful tool in helping individuals with a variety of psychological, psychosocial, and physiological difficulties. Despite the success attributed to this exercise, there has been a paucity of investigations examining its effectiveness in individuals suffering from depression. The purpose of this investigation is to apply expressive writing to a population of individuals with elevated levels of depression, in addition to examining whether beneficial effects in depressive symptoms may increase due to an enhancement of perceived control. The hypothesis that writing about upsetting events would decrease symptoms of depression as measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) was not successfully demonstrated in this investigation. However, some evidence indicates that participants with higher levels of depression may experience greater reductions in symptoms as a result of being given greater choice over writing topic. This may be attributable to an increased in perceived control, which has been demonstrated widely to be an important variable in individuals suffering from depression. This study includes a review of some of the mechanisms of expressive writing as well as some ideas for how to improve the design of future expressive writing investigations. ^