Depression is the most dreadful thing that someone has to face. The number of people suffering from depression everyday is surprisingly and alarmingly on a rise. It changes everything in your life, from your behavior, to your food and sleep pattern, your lifestyle. It eats up your self esteem and confidence, wears you down to the lowest point of your life and you cannot even understand how.
Depression is a blank hopelessness from which there seems to be no escape. But unfortunately, the issue has become a dreaded taboo in our very conservative society.
People with depression change their behavior patterns. They become too wrapped up in themselves, always prefer alone time, become unsocial and moody, break in bouts of tears and anger. Their interaction with the others also undergoes a change and this is highly evident in the way they express their thoughts and actions. It is also evident in their writings. This is known as “the language of depression”, one which can have a great impact on other people.
For example, take the poetry of Sylvia Plath, the music of Curt Kobain who both committed suicide while suffering from long stretches of depression.
Technology has brought to us a closer understanding of this situation, the way the connection between depression and language operates. A Clinical Psychological Study mentions a group of words that can instantly and accurately predict if a person is suffering from depression or not.
Linguistic analysts have been doing extensive research in this field for more clues and points. Nowadays, a form of computerized text analysis can also scrutinize a large number of words together at the same time. This system can easily spot the percentage of the class of words that some people prefer over others, the lexical diversity, and average length of a sentence, grammatical errors and others.
Linguists have also followed personal diary entries by depressed people which have provided them valuable insight. Keeping these in view, the symptoms to differentiate between usages of words by depressed and normal, happy people have been classified.
Language has two parts – components and style. The content refers to the subject matter and the pattern in which we describe something and style refers to the manner of expression of our thoughts. People with depression use a majority of words with negative connotation (adjectives and adverbs) like ‘lonely’, ‘pathetic’, ‘sad’, ‘bad’, ‘miserable’. They more likely use the first person singular pronoun like ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘myself’. This pattern of word usage suggests that people suffering from depression are too much caught up their own minds, they overthink about themselves and are less attached to the others.
This shows how much socially isolated they are and being among a group of friends, who may not go through a same situation as them, makes them feel miserable and worse.
However, another question still remains. Does depression makes them focus on themselves or does depression begin when they focus on themselves too much?
After a thorough analysis of 64 different mental health online forums, after examining around 64,000 patients, certain ‘absolutist words’ were discovered, words that included ‘always’, ‘nothing’ and ‘completely’ conveyed absolute probabilities, were better pointers of mental health forums, as found in the studies.
Related article: 11 Unbelievable Habits Of People With Hidden Depression
When compared with 19 different such forums, it was found that absolutist words were ubiquitous among people with anxiety and depression at the range of about 50% and around 80% greater for suicidal ideation forums. The effect of pronouns was however different; while negative meaning words were paradoxically used in lesser quantity in suicide ideation forums than among people with anxiety or depression.
Their research also included recovery forums. Amidst them were people who believe to have conquered depression, and make their existence healthy and happy by using positive and encouraging words that inspires others too. Control forums elevated these word usage to almost 70%. But unfortunately, usage of absolutist words continued to stay higher than control words, although the rate is slightly less among people suffering from depression and anxiety.
Understanding the language of depression can enable others to understand the symptoms of depression as well. Besides, it has practical implications as well where automated word analysis is combined with machine learning to classify mental health conditions further.
Such differentiation or groupings are leading to newer ways of treatment of depression. WHO estimates suggest that more than 30 million people are suffering from depression and more tools and procedures to identify their causes and effects and its pattern can make revolutionary breakthroughs in the path of its treatment, understanding and awareness.