Confronting a Traumatic Event. Toward an Understanding of Inhibition and Disease

James Pennebaker, Sandra Klihr Beall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

939 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

According to previous work, failure to confide in others about traumatic events is associated with increased incidence of stress-related disease. The present study served as a preliminary investigation to learn if writing about traumatic events would influence long-term measures of health as well as short-term indicators of physiological arousal and reports of negative moods. In addition, we examined the aspects of writing about traumatic events (i.e., cognitive, affective, or both) that are most related to physiological and self-report variables. Forty-six healthy undergraduates wrote about either personally traumatic life events or trivial topics on 4 consecutive days. In addition to health center records, physiological measures and self-reported moods and physical symptoms were collected throughout the experiment. Overall, writing about both the emotions and facts surrounding a traumatic event was associated with relatively higher blood pressure and negative moods following the essays, but fewer health center visits in the 6 months following the experiment. Although the findings and underlying theory should be considered preliminary, they bear directly on issues surrounding catharsis, self-disclosure, and a general theory of psychosomatics based on behavioral inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-281
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Volume95
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 1986

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Health
Catharsis
Self Disclosure
Arousal
Self Report
Emotions
Hypertension
Incidence
Inhibition (Psychology)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this

Confronting a Traumatic Event. Toward an Understanding of Inhibition and Disease. / Pennebaker, James; Beall, Sandra Klihr.

In: Journal of abnormal psychology, Vol. 95, No. 3, 01.08.1986, p. 274-281.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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