Is There a Potential Benefit of Expressive Writing for Dermatology Patients?

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A diagnosis of a chronic and/or serious medical condition can be a traumatic experience. Patients may experience not only intrusive thoughts but also avoidance behaviors. The affected individuals can express these trauma-associated symptoms as depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.

Milbury et al (J Clin Oncol. 2014;32:663-670) included 277 patients who had been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in a study to evaluate if writing about their deepest thoughts and feelings regarding their cancer (expressive writing) offered a quality-of-life benefit compared to writing about neutral topics (neutral writing). They found that expressive writing not only reduced the patients’ cancer-related symptoms but also improved their physical functioning.

What’s the issue?

Many of the conditions that affect dermatology patients are chronic, serious, or both. For example, psoriasis is a chronic skin condition with the potential for serious associated rheumatologic or metabolic sequelae. In addition, skin malignancies (eg, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma) and cutaneous lymphoma (eg, mycosis fungoides) are conditions that require chronic surveillance and possibly may have serious consequences.

Expressive writing for dermatology patients might result in remarkable improvement in emotional and physical health. Perhaps dermatologists should recommend this intervention for their patients.

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