Psychologists often suggest people use expressive writing to come to terms with traumatic events. Researchers from Spain's equivalent of the Open University compared the expressive writing of 325 people living in the U.S., who wrote about the 9/11 attacks with 333 people living in Spain who wrote about the Madrid train attacks. The victims who benefited most from the writing used more introspective and causal words, used a higher number of positive emotional ones and changed the use of pronouns and references to themselves. The feelings about the two events were similar although the U.S. sample were more likely to take an individualistic approach whereas the Spanish sample concentrated on the collective marches protesting against the bombings. Although the writing made things worse over the short term as people relived the events, over the medium term people felt better and made less visits to the doctor. People who had watched a lot of news coverage about the attacks felt worse than people who watched less television.
You can find out more about this research at