Key Words & Phrases May Indicate Depression

May 15, 2019

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Nearly 19 million Americans have depression and although it is highly treatable only 36% of those suffering receive treatment. Not seeking treatment can have consequences that can be devastating including personal suffering, missed work, broken marriages, health problems and, in the worst cases, death. It's any single or combination of these reasons why it's so important to identify depression in people, even if they don't see it themselves. While there are physical signals of depression there are also noticeable signs in speech and writing. Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. A new study has identified a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression. It will surprise no one to learn that those with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs—such as “lonely,” “sad” or “miserable.” However the style in which key words are used can be indicators of depression. The study found that "absolutist words," which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always,” “nothing” or “completely” were found to be better markers for mental health than words describing negative emotions. It is of course possible to use a language associated with depression without actually being depressed. Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering. But as the World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million people worldwide are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% since 2005, having more tools available to spot the condition is certainly important to improve health and prevent tragic outcomes. The most important thing to know is that you shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.  With depression affecting so many Americans regardless of gender, age, race, religion, sexuality, income, or education, here’s a good chance your doctor won’t hear anything from you that he or she hasn’t heard many times before.

LISTEN: 2017 Entercom "I'm Listening" Mental Health Podcast

LISTEN: 2018 Entercom "I'm Listening" Mental Health Podcast

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SOURCE: Quartz

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