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The Effects of Attributions in Writing about Traumatic Events on Anxiety Levels

Faculty Supervisor:
Paul Lewis
Year of Project Completion:
Kelley O'Reilly


This study combines research on benefits of emotion writing with research about effects of various causal explanations one may attribute to traumatic events. Participants were given the Trauma Specific Inventory (TSI) and the Endler Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for State Anxiety (EMAS-S) as a pretest and posttest. Participants were asked to write continuously about a personal traumatic life event for twenty minutes. One group described the event and their emotions only; the other group described the event and their emotions and gave a causal explanation for the event. A paired t-test revealed anxiety scores for the Cognitive-Worry and Total components of the EMAS-S to be significantly lower following the writing exercise. Anxiety reductions were greater for the description-only group than for the description-andexplanation group. Significant gender differences were found: females experienced greater reductions in Cognitive-Worry anxiety on the EMAS-S. Benefits of emotion writing for non-diagnosed individuals are discussed as well as emotion writing's potential to become an inexpensive and accessible asset to therapy, one that is capable of benefiting a broad range of individuals.

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.