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How people suffering from depression talk and why 

If you hear people using 'me,' 'myself' and 'I' more than them, they or him/her chances are the person is suffering from depression.

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : August 7, 2018 6:11 PM IST

The way people talk can predict their mental health state and well-being. This is why when you are happy you use words that don't just reflect your joyous mood but can also be uplifting and motivating for others. Similarly, when you are in a gloomy mood you are bound to use words that reflect your negative emotions. So it is no surprise to learn that people who suffer from depression talk in a negative and unenthusiastic way when they express themselves. In fact, scientists believe that people who suffer from depression have a set of words that they use and their language style and content is strikingly different from what others use. A recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science pointed out that people suffering from depression use words that indicate absolutist thinking which refers to a style of thinking which is believed to promote emotional distress, particularly anger when people are confronted by situations which do not conform to their demands concerning what ought to happen.

In fact, therapists believe that it is this style of thinking that invokes them to use certain words while expressing and writing journals. However, this also helps therapists to get to the core of their problems. People with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs such as lonely, sad or miserable. The study also pointed out that they are more like to use more pronouns in their sentences such as 'me,' 'myself' and 'I' and significantly fewer second and third person pronouns such as them, they or him/her. This pattern of pronoun use suggests that depression makes them more focused on themselves, and less connected with others.

The study decoded a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members and found that absolutist words which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as always, nothing or completely were rampantly used in most mental health forums. The choice of words made it clear that depression makes people have a more black and white view of the world, and that this would manifest in their style of language.

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How this research can help

Understanding the language of depression can help us understand the way those with symptoms of depression think and help the therapist to devise better problems for people who suffer from symptoms of depression. In fact, words used can also help a therapist know if the person suffering from depression is contemplating suicide. These finding will help the therapist to guide and talk to the sufferer in a manner that could be beneficial in treating the condition. More studies are being conducted to know how language usage can help to treat depression and anxiety in a better manner.


Volume: 6 issue: 4, page(s): 529-542 Article first published online: January 5, 2018; Issue published: July 1, 2018 Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, Tom Johnstone Department of Psychology, School of Psychology and Clinical Languages, University of Reading

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