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The Immunological Effects of Thought Suppression

CITATION: Petrie, K. J., et al.  (1998).  The Immunological Effects of Thought Suppression.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,  November 1998 Vol. 75, No. 5, 1264-1272.

ABSTRACT:  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.

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