Emotional Disclosure Through Writing or Speaking Modulates Latent Epstein-Barr Virus Antibody Titers

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Abstract

Healthy Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) seropositive undergraduates (N = 57) completed a personality inventory, provided blood samples, and were randomly assigned to write or talk about stressful events, or to write about trivial events, during three weekly 20-min sessions, after which they provided a final blood sample. Individuals assigned to the verbal/stressful condition had significantly lower EBV antibody titers (suggesting better cellular immune control over the latent virus) after the intervention than those in the written/stressful group, who had significantly lower values than those in the written/trivial control group. Subjects assigned to the written/stressful condition expressed more negative emotional words than the verbal/stressful and control groups and more positive emotional words than the verbal/stressful group at each time point. The verbal/stressful group expressed more negative emotional words compared with the control group at baseline. Content analysis indicated that the verbal/stressful group achieved the greatest improvements in cognitive change, self-esteem, and adaptive coping strategies.

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