Date of Award

6-8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Lynda Federoff, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kimberley J. Husenits, Psy.D.

Third Advisor

Dasen Luo, Ph.D.

Abstract

Previous research examining the effects of written emotional expression on health indicates that written expression about emotional or traumatic events reduces the number of medical visits made by the participants involved. In breast cancer patients, written emotional expression reduces perceived levels of distress and number of medical appointments and improves perceived health status. Verbal disclosure, for example, during therapy is also effective in improving perceived health status as well as encouraging a variety of other benefits. However, no studies have examined the combined effects of written and verbal disclosure on health. Self-concealment is another factor that can contribute to poor physical and psychological health, and the research indicates that those who withhold information from others actually benefit from written disclosure. This study had two purposes. First, it examined the effects of written and verbal disclosure on physical and psychological health in a sample of breast cancer patients (n=27). Second, it examined these same effects on women who withheld information from others (high self-concealment) and those who shared information with others (low self-concealment). Information about physical and psychological symptoms was collected at three time points during the study through the use of several self-report measures. There were no significant differences between groups on the POMS, PILL, or IES-R, and groups did not differ on the number of physician appointments due to illness. Similarly, there were no significant differences between the High and Low Self-Concealment groups with respect to the POMS, PILL, or number of physician appointments due to illness. There were split findings on the IES-R, with no difference on the IES-Intrusion scale, but a difference on IES-Avoidance scale, suggesting that high self-concealment contributed to more avoidance behaviors. Overall, however, the study’s hypotheses were not supported. Implications and limitations of this study, including small sample size, are addressed and recommendations for future research are discussed.

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