Effects of written anger expression in chronic pain patients: making meaning from pain

J Behav Med. 2008 Jun;31(3):201-12. doi: 10.1007/s10865-008-9149-4. Epub 2008 Mar 6.


Based on prior research demonstrating benefits of emotional disclosure for chronically ill individuals and evidence that anger is particularly problematic in chronic pain sufferers, outpatients from a chronic pain center (N=102) were randomly assigned to express their anger constructively or to write about their goals non-emotionally in a letter-writing format on two occasions. Letters were coded for degree of expressed anger and meaning-making (speculation and insight into conditions that precipitated anger). Over a 9 week period, participants in the anger-expression group (n=51) experienced greater improvement in control over pain and depressed mood, and marginally greater improvement in pain severity than the control group (n=51). Degree of expressed anger uniquely accounted for intervention effects and meaning-making mediated effects on depressed mood. These findings suggest that expressing anger may be helpful for chronic pain sufferers, particularly if it leads to meaning-making.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anger*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Clinics
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personality Inventory
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sick Role*
  • Writing*