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How To Tell Whether A Person Is Depressed Based On Their Use Of Language


Depression changes the way that people react, think, sleep, interact with others… Depression can change their whole life.

And it certainly has an impact on their writing style. For instance, look at Sylvia Plath’s poems or Kurt Cobain’s lyrics who both committed suicide after suffering from depression.

A study that was published in Clinical Psychological Science which was focused on finding the link between language and depression, has finally revealed the class of words that can predict whether a person suffers from depression.


Language can be divided into two concepts – style and content. The content encompasses the things we choose to express, that is the subject or the meaning of our statements.

People who suffer from depression use a great number of words that convey negative emotions, especially using negative adverbs and adjectives such as “desperate,” “sad,” “lonely,” “painful,” “miserable,” and so on.

Their use of pronouns is also interesting. Depressed people tend to use more the first person singular pronouns such as “I,” “me,” or “myself.” They use significantly less other pronouns such as second and third person pronouns. This indicates that they are more focused on themselves and their depressed state and they are not connecting with others.


Our language style determines how we express ourselves, and not he content that we choose to express.

Using “absolutist words” such as “always,” “never,” or “nothing,” can be indicators of having mental health problems even more so that using negative words. People with depression tend to have a black and white view of the world and that shows in their choice of words.

Even more so, the tendency for using absolutist thinking can make a person have depressive episodes even in cases where they are not signs of depression. Also, the use of negative words can have the same effect on a person.

Understanding the language of depression can help us get more insight into the mind of the depressed person and be aware of their situation.

When we notice that our friend or family member is communicating to us in this way, we can be more compassionate and find ways to help them get out of their depression state before it’s too late.

So, pay attention to their words!

Mary Wright