Blogging is Good for You!

Check it out:

Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

Whoo Hoo! Sadly, it’s not all good news:

Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.

Uh oh. Looks like they’ve got names for what I’ve got.


  1. #1 Larry Ayers
    May 22, 2008

    I’ve got it too! It must be catching…

  2. #2 BAllanJ
    May 23, 2008

    Not that you could tell from a terse comment like that, Larry.

    I tried that writing thing when I had depression issues, and for me they made it worse. It might have been that it compromised the standard male coping mechanism (repress and deny) which at least had me functioning. Oh well.

  3. #3 cl
    May 23, 2008

    Jason –

    Thanks! It’s comforting to know that all my banter here actually does have a measurable effect in the form of accelerated clavicle fracture recovery. And all this time I thought compulsive typing in a sling was aggravating the bastard…

  4. #4 Julie Stahlhut
    May 23, 2008

    I blogged pretty heavily in 2003 while going through a nasty bout of endometriosis (months of chronic pain right around the time I was finishing my dissertation, two surgeries only a month apart, combined with overall bad timing that threw a very large wrench into the gears of my post-graduation job hunt.) It definitely kept my spirits up, especially when I discovered HysterSisters and started participating in online discussions there as well.

    I think that part of the benefit was being able to express my frustration with the illness itself (while maybe even developing a sense of humor about it,) but it was also therapeutic to have other things to write about — politics, family, science, etc. This was 5 years ago, and I don’t think I’ve blogged that much ever since. Of course, in the meantime, the blogsphere has expanded so much that I’ve found lots of places (like this one) where there are other ways to participate in online communities.

  5. #5 geek o rama
    May 23, 2008

    How wierd that the limbic system list goes “food, sex, problem solving” – I’m pretty close to a compulsive problem solver. My self-medication for depression is to do monster numbers of “killer” sudoku, the ones with sums in them, and I’m running out of published sources that are hard enough to make it sufficiently distracting…

  6. #6 Paper Hand
    May 23, 2008

    Of course, someone communicating in a manner other than talking out loud or writing published books – obviously a disease!

  7. #7 Monado
    May 23, 2008

    Blogorrhea, obviously. That must explain why I’m going back and retroactively blogging my February swim workouts instead of getting a good night’s sleep.

  8. #8 Peter Ashby
    May 24, 2008

    I think I should start a self help blogging community for those afflicted with Blogorrhea. Or would a private listserve group be more appropriate? as well as easier to own and make money off. Hmmm, I’ll get back to you.

  9. #9 travc
    May 24, 2008

    Interesting study. I recently caught some NPR or BBC prog where someone mentioned how the speech centers of the brain seem to be involved in lots of cognitive functions one wouldn’t expect. Apparently several high-level thought processes such as reasoning and planning literally involve (at a brain level at least) ‘talking to oneself’ in a way.

    It also makes a certain level of sense that writing/speaking would be tied into some of the extensive socialization feedbacks. Us humans, in a very real sense, ‘groom’ each other with words… and such ‘grooming’ is reinforced with all sorts of nice happy brain effects to encourage it.

  10. #10 chuckgoecke
    May 25, 2008

    One of the main premises of the pseudo-biography of the Marquis de Sade called Quills was his hypergraphia. Watch out what you write, you could become famous!

  11. #11 Kevin
    May 27, 2008

    OK! so you really are crazy!

    glad to be able to help cure your neurosis by actually READING your stuff….heh heh…

    (I mean it works better that way right? or are you supposed to bury your writings in a box in the back yard..)

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