Is the new acquaintance a lucky child or is that smile just an act? If you pay attention to the words your counterpart uses, you can learn a lot about their mental state – because depressed people speak differently.
Depression is a very serious illness – but those affected do not always know that they are suffering from it and the illness remains untreated for a long time. But how could doctors and psychologists diagnose a possible depression more quickly? Researchers have now discovered that the words people use also reveal a lot about their mental state.
Always and never
“You always leave your shoes by the front door”, “you never take out the rubbish” – anyone in a relationship is usually familiar with generalized expressions like “always” and “never”. Even if you are sometimes tempted to use these words in an argument, researchers were recently able to prove in a study that depressed people use such absolutist words more often than others. Relationship or not, for such people it is simply often “everything is bad”, “nothing ever works out for them” or they are “always unlucky”.
I am always sad
But the researchers Al-Mosaiwi and Johnstone found out even more in their study: people with depression also use negative adjectives like sad, lonely, or lost more often.
And the way sufferers speak is also very different from the way healthy people speak. They use “I” statements much more often. If you suffer from depression, the world revolves more around you, you only see your own problems and find them insurmountable.
Forum posts analysed
How did the researchers go about their study? They analyzed 6,000 posts in different internet forums with each other and found out that in forums where depressed people exchanged ideas, up to 50 percent more absolutist words were used than in other forums. If the depression was so severe that suicidal thoughts arose, even 80 percent more generalizing words like “always” and “never” were used.
Can depression and anxiety disorders now be diagnosed by language use? No, it is not that simple. Just because someone talks about themselves all the time doesn’t necessarily mean depression is behind it – vanity would also be an option. But for people who have already been diagnosed with depression, the use of language can indeed provide information about how the illness might be progressing and whether an improvement is in sight.
Anyone who suspects depression in themselves or someone they know should consult a therapist immediately.