Expressive writing and the role of alexythimia as a dispositional deficit in self-disclosure and psychological health

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Sep;77(3):630-41. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.3.630.


Psychology students were randomly assigned to a condition in which they had to write for 20 min on 3 days or for 3 min on 1 day a factual description of disclosed traumas, undisclosed traumas, or recent social events. In the case of undisclosed traumatic events, intensive writing about these events showed a beneficial effect on affect and on the affective impact of remembering the event and appraisal. Participants who wrote briefly about an undisclosed traumatic event showed a more negative appraisal. Participants who wrote intensively about a traumatic event and had a dispositional deficit in self-disclosure, measured by a Toronto Alexithymia Scale subscale, showed a positive effect on self-reported measures of affect. Difficulty in describing feelings, an alexythimia dimension, correlated with psychological health problems, emotional inhibition, and a less introspective content of written essays about the emotional events.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires