Can you tell if a person is depressed just by the words they use every day?
Depression is a worldwide epidemic, with more than 300 million people suffering from it. While there are risk factors for depression, as well as potential genetic causes, the reality is that depression is an equal-opportunity illness. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, depression can be a debilitating and life-threatening condition.
A new study from researchers at England’s University of Reading shows that there might actually be a way to identify whether a person is suffering from depression simply by listening to the language they use. Research published last month in Clinical Psychological Science found that people who suffer from depression tend to have similar language patterns, and that by paying attention to these patterns clinicians can help to decipher whether patients could require treatment.
Additionally, friends and family could also learn how to spot hidden signs of depression simply by listening closely to a loved one’s language choices.
Which Words Are Used By Depressed People?
For one thing, the researchers found that depressed people are more likely to use the words “I,” “me” and “myself” more often, when compared to people who are not suffering from depression. According to researcher Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, Ph.D., depressed people use these “me”-focused words, in place of pronouns like “us,” “we” or “they,” suggesting that people with depression feel isolated from others. They also tend to be very self-focused, likely because they are in a great deal of emotional pain (and possibly physical pain) and can’t focus on much else.
So if you hear a friend suddenly initiating lots of self-oriented conversations, rather than assuming that they are just being narcissistic, you might look a little deeper and see if issues such as depression could be at play.
Another red flag is a person who often uses absolutist words, such as “always,” “never” or “completely.” Researchers think that this could be a sign that a depressed person might see the world as more black-and-white than a person who is not suffering from depression. Hence, if you hear a friend or loved one suddenly start to speak in absolutes, it could be a sign that they are struggling with sadness or even depression.
Further warning signs could be seen on social media. A 2017 study published in the journal EPJ Data Science found that Instagram users who use the social media app’s black & white filter (Inkwell) frequently are more likely to be depressed than users who use brighter filters.
Conversely, the Instragram filter that is most preferred by people with fine mental health is Valencia. So, if you’re having a bad day, maybe opting for Valencia on the next snapshot might give you a minor mood boost, just like forcing a smile can actually help improve your mood and decrease stress.
[h/t: The Conversation]