Depression has a way of rewiring how a person operates, from their eating and sleeping habits to their activity level and how they communicate with others. Sometimes people struggling with their mental health may be discreet in hiding their depression and conceal their innermost thoughts or feelings, so knowing if a loved one is struggling with depression may be difficult. By looking for certain patterns in their language, you may be able to detect they are struggling. In recent years, there have been breakthroughs in the study of language and depression with researchers developing new computerized text analysis methods to determine the linguistic patterns unique to people struggling with depression.
So How Do We Understand Depression From Language?
Content and style are the two pieces that make up language and each reveals how a person communicates their depression through their language. The content of what a depressed person says is markedly different than that of a non-depressed person. Researchers found that depressed people more often choose to use words like “lonely”, “sad” or “miserable” since they were found to use an abundance of words used to relate negative emotions, notably negative adjectives and adverbs. They also found that depressed people’s pronoun use differed from pronoun use in non-depressed people and established that pronoun use was a stronger predictor for depression than negatively-charged words are. First-person, singular pronouns including “I” and “myself” heavily dominated over second or third person pronouns (like “they” or “them”) in depressed people’s word choice.
The style—meaning, how we use details, words, and organization to present our message—of language in depressed people was predominantly defined by their “absolutist” word use. Absolutist words mainly include words like “always”, “never” or “only” and underlie the distorted, irrational thinking characteristic of depression. The absolutist style used in a depressed person’s language reflects the black and white thinking they commonly have.
Understanding how a depressed person uses the content and style of language differently than non-depressed people is a good way to help you spot the warning signs of depression in loved ones who may be struggling. In both the content and style of their language, signs of depression can be seen. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, contact Avalon Malibu. Avalon provides individuals with the treatment and support they need for overcoming their mental health challenges. Call us at (844) 857-5992 to hear how we can walk with you on this journey to better health.