Why do people write confessional blogs? It's a creative outlet. It's a forum to vent. It's an exercise in exhibitionism. To mental-health experts, though, it's more than that: a blog is medicine. Psychiatrists are starting to tout the therapeutic power of blogging, and many have begun incorporating it into patient treatment. A forthcoming study in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior even suggests that bloggers might be happier than nonbloggers.
Mental-health experts say blogs are a step up from plain old diaries, chiefly because of the built-in audience. As kids, we learn that if we air our problems, we get help. We associate communication with consolation, particularly when the going gets tough. Blogging fulfills that primal need for sympathy. "Writing is an effort of the brain to communicate for comfort," says Harvard neurologist Alice Flaherty. "Diaries are a form of that communication, but removed. Blogging gets you closer to that sympathetic audience, and that's what makes it therapeutic." According to psychologist John Suler, the anonymity of blogging provides another therapeutic boost: it's high intimacy with low vulnerability. But blogger beware. "Revealing too much," says Suler, "can cause shame or guilt." So blog to your heart's content, but leave some things to the imagination.