Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I got this book out of the clearance stack at Border's when I was in New York. I'm so glad I bought it - it's fascinating!
One sub-chapter is titled "The Writing Cure: Smyth's Groundbreaking Study." It describes a study of 112 carefully screened participants, each suffering from asthma or arthritis and assigned radomly into two groups. "One group was asked to write about 'the most stressful experience they had ever undergone,' and the other group [the control group] was asked to write about their daily activities in a kind of time-management exercise'....all participants were told that the study was simply about their experiences with stress."
The participants did the writing exercises 20 min a day, 3 times a week. "The results were striking. Among the ashtma patients, those who wrote about stressful experiences showed significant improvements in lung function at the four month follow up, whereas those in the control group showed no improvement. Similarly, although the arthritis patients in the control group showed no improvement of symptoms, those in the experimental group had a 28 percent improvement."
This sounds like a horrible exercise that would, if anything, make a person feel worse...but the evidence shows otherwise. It really challenges the way I think about disease and mental health.