A large proportion of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) receive immunosuppressive medication, may be at higher risk of complications if they contract SARS-CoV-2 virus, and therefore report high levels of COVID-19-related distress. This trial will evaluate a brief, evidence-based, online, group-based expressive writing intervention to reduce COVID-19-related distress in people living with IBD at the time of pandemic.
A parallel double-blind randomised controlled trial will be conducted. Overall, up to 154 adult participants with IBD and mild-moderate distress will be recruited via patient organisations. Participants will be allocated to the expressive writing intervention or an active control group. All participants will complete questionnaires including measures of distress, quality of life, resilience, self-efficacy, social support and disease activity before and after the intervention (1 week) and at 3 months post-intervention. The expressive writing group will participate in the evidenced-based 4-day writing program adapted from Pennebaker and Beall, 1986. The active control group will write about untherapeutic topics provided by researchers. Statistical analysis will be carried out on an intention-to-treat basis and will involve linear mixed effects models.
If successful, this simple intervention may bring personal and societal benefits, particularly because it is low cost, can be easily implemented online, ensuring social distancing, and be made widely available, during future disasters and to help with trauma-related distress in IBD.
The trial has been prospectively registered in the Australian New Zealand Trial Registry – ACTRN12620000448943p.

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