Negative words, pronouns, and absolutes are all part of the ‘language of depression’.
The way a person uses words, sentence length and grammar can be an indicator of depression symptoms.
A study on linguistic analyses and depression has revealed that there is a distinct “language of depression” that people use not only in their personal writing, but also in normal conversation. A study published in Clinical Psychological Science has found that people suffering from depression tend to be more absolutist.
The research was split into two – content and style. Content refers to what is expressed and style refers to how it is expressed, reports Science Alert.
A depressed person tends to use negative words such as miserable, lonely and sad to an excessive degree.
The use of first person pronouns (I, me, and myself) was also found to be higher than average with fewer uses of second and third person pronouns (he, she, them, they). This pattern could be because depressed people often feel disconnected with others around them and might feel left out and focus only on themselves. The research found that the use of pronouns is a better identifier than negative words.
While it was known until now that depressed people seem to dwell on problems and isolate themselves from social circles, the report mentions that it is not yet known if the findings also reflect on the thinking style and attention of the person.
Also, it is still not clear if depressed people focus on themselves or if focussing on oneself causes depression.
As for language style, the researchers analysed 64 mental health forums and covered around 6,400 members. Words and phrases, ones that convey absolute meaning and probability (entirely, completely, always, never, nothing) were found to be favoured by such people.
This could indicate that those who are depressed have a “black and white” view of the world. Absolutism showed up in anxiety and depression forums 50% more when compared to a control group that consisted of 19 different forums. In the case of suicidal ideation forums the language was a staggering 80% more absolutist.
Conversely, in recovery forums, in places where people usually share experiences of recovering from depression, the study found that their language and style were highly positive – 70% higher than the neutral control groups.
The report does, however, mention that it is possible to use the “language of depression” without actually being depressed and the opposite might also be true.
The Samaritans provides a free support service for those who need to talk to someone in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Visit Samaritans.org or call 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI), 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Visit this website to find a support phone number in your country.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please contact a free support service at Mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393 (charges apply).