Study: People With Depression Use Language Differently – Here’s How to Spot It

According to a new study, there is a certain class of words that can accurately determine whether someone is suffering from depression or not. Using various computerized models, advanced set of linguistic algorithms and enormous data banks of written and spoken text, they managed to assess if someone displays signs of being depressed.

This is what Cobain, Beethoven and Plath have in common:

As unbelievable as it sounds, this technology is extremely useful in identifying the different language used by people who suffer from depression. Some examples of this are found in the poetry of Sylvia Plath (she committed suicide in 1963), the lyrics of the songs written by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (it’s still not proven, but Cobain is believed to have taken his own life in 1994), or even in some letters written by Ludwig van Beethoven, who was often suicidal.

The famous English poet John Keats, has written a poem called ‘Ode on Melancholy’ in which he gives advices to people who suffer from depression not to use drugs in order to block it, but to find the beauty in it and admire it instead. This shows us that depression has been causing problems for thousands of years.

Of course, not all the people who are depressed are famous poets, artists or singers, but all of them use some similar language. Now this makes it clear how a computer model could spot possibly-depressed people. The study also discovered that the depressed people belong to a special class of oversensitive people. They are generally unable to adapt to this cruel world and they are usually frustrated by this.

No matter what the causes of depression are, the computer models make use of several tools to discover the consistent difference between the words used by those who are depressed and those who are not.

Using personal essays, diaries, journal entries, poetry, song lyrics and even clips of spoken language, the computer model analyzes the prevalence and percentage of certain words, the sentence length, some grammatical patterns, lexical diversity and many other things related to language.

After the researchers gathered all the information, they saw clear differences. The results also revealed that the content of what the depressed people talk about is almost identical. For instance, depressed people usually talk about how ‘sad’ or ‘lonely’ they feel. They also have a tendency to use negative adverbs and adjectives. This is probably nothing new to us, because we can hear it whenever we talk to someone who is feeling down. But below are some of the words most frequently used by depressed people.

Low Empathy Signifies Severe Depression

The computer tools have detected some interesting use of pronouns in people who suffer from depression. Namely, people diagnosed with depression tend to use more first person singular pronouns like “I”, “Me” or “Myself”. They rarely use second and third person singular such as “He”, “She”, “They”, “Them” etc.

This indicates that people are more concentrated on their pain and themselves, and are disconnected from other people – which, as ironically as it sounds, it’s one of the causes of depression. They’ve become “self-absorbed” and it doesn’t mean that someone else is to blame for that, but this really prevents them from enjoying life and accepting themselves as they are. There are also several studies that have proven the connection between the lack of empathy and severe depression.

According to Ugo Uche, “A person becomes more and more depressed as he tries to deny the negative feelings inside, because by doing so he denies the positive feelings too. In this way, he becomes emotionally numb, not being able to feel anything and he slowly dies inside.”

The Solution to Depression Was Accidentally Discovered by a Computer Program
The computer program used in this research unintentionally revealed the solution to this problem. So, the researchers suggest that the solution hides in the interaction with other people. All the people who suffer from depression should open up to others and stop isolating themselves in their world of pain.

This incredible emotion is as old as the people on this planet, and it has always been used as a help for the people to survive. When a friend feels sad about something that happened to him/her, we feel sad for them as well. Look at it as if all our brains are connected (which is true) – this strengthens our ability to express compassion. By blocking the pain of others, we are also blocking the positive emotions that can be transmitted by others. In this way we do more harm than good, because we are strengthening our own neural pathways to pain.