The immunological effects of thought suppression

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Nov;75(5):1264-72. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.75.5.1264.


Individuals often suppress emotional thoughts, particularly thoughts that arouse negative emotions, as a way of regulating mood and reducing distress. However, recent work has highlighted the complexities and unexpected cognitive and physiological effects of thought suppression. In a study designed to examine the short-term immunological effects of thought suppression, participants wrote about either emotional or nonemotional topics with or without thought suppression. Blood was drawn before and after each experimental session on 3 consecutive days. Results showed a significant increase in circulating total lymphocytes and CD4 (helper) T lymphocyte levels in the emotional writing groups. Thought suppression resulted in a significant decrease in CD3 T lymphocyte levels. The implications of the results for the role of the expression and suppression of emotion in health are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Students, Medical / psychology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thinking / physiology*