Tuesday, June 10, 2008
From lambert at Correntewire, I find out that I've been self-medicating all these years:
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.
Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.
Considering the cost of prescription drugs, this is a relatively cheap way to keep healthy. (It's actually less satisfying and cathartic than throwing my Le Creuset dutch oven lids at Tim Russert's face on TV, but considerably less alarming to friends and family.)
I'm not sure whether all this kvetching actually helps the body politic, but perhaps it has the same effect.