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Doing Life Together

time-3306753_1280Depression affects millions of people. It impacts how you interact with others, sleep, eat and think about the world. But have you ever thought about the language of a depressed person?  A study published in Clinical Psychological Science looked to see if there were words that marked anxiety and depression.  The findings are interesting and may cause you to pause and consider the power of your words.

Depression is marked by cognitive distortions–thoughts like, “There is no way out of this. I can’t go on. Life is too hard, ” etc. This tendency to be somewhat absolute about the way the world works is called “absolutist thinking.” And when scientists studied the words of people who are depressed, they found them using more of those absolutist phrases than people who are not depressed.

When we speak, we include both content and style. Content refers to what we talk about or express. In the case of people with depression, there are more words of content related to negative emotions. The content is usually about feeling sad, lonely, unhappy, etc. And people with depression reference themselves more often than other people. We think this may be  due to the lack of connection or social isolation depressed people feel. Also, a marker of depression is that you continue to think about the negatives of your life  which can worsen depression.

Language style relates to how you express yourself. In the case of depression, more often words like, “always and never” are expressed. This all or nothing thinking style characterizes depression and needs modification in order to change thoughts to more realistic expression. The more one thinks of the world as black or white and doesn’t allow grey in their thinking, the more likely the style of though can lead to feeling negative.

The take away from this interesting study on words and style of someone who is depressed it to change your thoughts and your emotions change too. This is part of the work of therapy.We teach people who are depressed to look at their automatic thoughts. If they have a negative theme, then the work is to find the positives and not be so back and white in terms of how you see things. Once a person is able to modify thoughts to a more positive and realistic view, their emotional state improves, leading to less depressed behavior as well. This is why we take thoughts captive and focus on good things in our lives. For some people, this shift in thinking may not be enough to pull them out of a depression, but it sure is part of the overall work to treat depression.

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