Girl texting on smartphone at home

Are you wondering if your employee, co-worker, or friend may be suffering from depression? The words he or she choose may provide a big clue.

Obviously, if you’re not a medical professional, you can’t diagnose a disease such as depression. But if you know the telltale signs that may indicate someone is depressed, you’ll be in a better position to intervene, and urge that person to get an evaluation that might mean they get the help they need. And there may be a big clue in the words that someone chooses.

Computerized text analysis of the writings and chat messages of depressed people–including high-profile depression victims such as Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain–has yielded some useful data on the types of words and phrases they use more often than most people. So if you suspect someone you know might be depressed, watch and listen for the following conversational patterns:

1. They use a lot of negative words
You would expect someone with depression to use words connoting negative emotions, such as “lonely,” “sad,” “unhappy,” and “worried” more often than the average person, and you’d be right. People in the grip of depression use negative words like these with greater frequency than most people.

2. They talk about themselves a lot.
Linguistic analysis revealed that depressed people use personal pronouns–“I,” “me,” “myself”–more than other people do. That makes a lot of sense, since one hallmark of depression is obsessing about one’s own problems and being unable to focus on or connect with other people. Which leads to isolation, which can worsen depression.

If someone you know seems to only be able to talk about his or her own problems and nothing else, it may be natural to think this is a self-centered, uncaring person. But consider the possibility that he or she is suffering from depression and may need help.

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