Researchers from the University of Reading analysed large amounts of text taken from diary entries, personal essays and interviews of people suffering from the disease.
The team identified several key differences in their communication – both in the content of what they say and the style in which they say it in – compared those without mental illness.
Writing for The Conversation, lead author Dr Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi shared the main linguistic signs:
- More first person singular pronouns and fewer second or third person pronouns (think: ‘me,’ ‘myself’ and ‘I’ instead of ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘she.’)
- An excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, such as ‘sad,’ ‘lonely’ and ‘miserable.’
- All or nothing language, like ‘always,’ ‘completely,’ ‘entirely,’ ‘nothing’ and ‘never.’
But before you jump to a diagnosis based on these factors alone, Dr Al-Mosaiwi noted that it is possible to use language commonly associated with depression, without actually being depressed.
“Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering,” he added.
Other symptoms he suggests to watch for include:
- A lack of interest in hobbies previously enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping and a general feeling of lethargy
- Low levels of self-confidence
- A change in libido
- A poor or unhealthy appetite
- Feeling useless and inadequate
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoidance of other people
If you’re concerned that you or someone close to you may be struggling with their mental health, it’s important to chat to a professional or contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.