Language of depression: when anxiety gains voice and meaning

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Robert Maurer
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Language of depression: when anxiety gains voice and meaning

Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.

Last update: 15 November 2021

The language of depression has a voice and conditions us. Anguish, apathy and despair permeate the words we choose, alter our vocabulary, deform our grammatical models and even the length of the sentences we pronounce. Everything is shorter, darker and impregnated with this deep bitterness that completely confuses our reality.



Depression shows signs of its existence and comes to the window of our life in very different ways. However, his main and most ferocious trick is to deform everything: our behavior, our motivation, our habits of life, our thoughts, our language ... So, sometimes, far from reacting, we end up accepting his gloomy presence, integrating it as if it were a further part of our being.

"Depression is a prison where we are both the prisoner and the cruel jailer."

-Dorthy Rowe-

Some people get to "Normalize" these states of helplessness; men and women who barely fulfill their tasks and responsibilities, without their loved ones realizing the presence of this shadow, the importance of depression.

In this regard, new technologies have been developed through which to identify, through the network, the linguistic models related to this disease. The results once again show us the high incidence of this disorder.

The University of Texas at Austin, for example, conducted a study with which it has detected depressive characteristics in interactions on social networks and online platforms. Our teenagers, for example, are often used to using these media as scenarios in which to let off steam and communicate, and it is surprising that there are often clear signs of certain psychological disorders, which are not treated simply because they have not yet been identified.



We remember that depression leaves an imprint, clues and manifests itself through our communication style.

The language of depression: how to recognize it?

The language of depression is part of our culture. This sentence, which can undoubtedly attract our attention, takes concrete form in a more than evident way. Some songs are the emotional reflection of an author who is going through a complex and dark phase of life. However, we love them, they enchant us: they are the sad songs and stories. We could cite Curt Cobain or Amy Winehouse as examples.

We also see it in the world of acting, in that of literature and poetry. Sylvia Plath, renowned poetess, used to say that “Dying is an art, like everything else. I do it in an exceptional way ". Virginia Woolf, on her part, left more than obvious and sometimes crude signs in most of her books, such as The Waves or Mrs. Dalloway. 

In some cases, as we see, mental disorders invoke this creative genius that arises almost like a demonic trait. Where success, recognition or creative mastery are used to redeem themselves with the author's own life. Sad and desperate epilogues that you sensed, that you felt coming, because the language of depression is bitter, has surprising nuances and is the mirror of this agitated inner world.

Let's see how to recognize it.

Language content and style

Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science revealed a way to recognize depression using language. And we are not referring only to oral communication; as we have already said, we have a series of IT systems to detect certain disturbances through social networks and online platforms.


When it comes to the language of depression, the first thing that draws attention is the content. Negative emotions abound, catastrophic ideas, despair and words like "loneliness", "sadness," fear.


On the other hand, absolutist expressions are common, such as "there is no solution", "I have no hope", "there is no tomorrow", "I am always alone", "nobody understands me".

Experts associate these expressions with people who have suicidal ideas.

The use of pronouns

The language of depression usually makes use of a pronoun almost exclusively: "I". The world, in the depressed mind, has become tiny, small and oppressive. In this small territory of suffering there is only the person, this "I" who cannot connect with anyone, who is unable to see the perspectives of others, who cannot empathize, relativize, open up to other worlds, winds and more currents. optimistic.


The constant use of these first-person tenses is a further reflection of the negative emotions that are boycotting their protagonists altogether.

The cycle of rumination

Language is the reflection of our thinking and our state of mind. Therefore, when depression has conquered every mental space, it is common for rumination to occur, with its irrepressible cycle of obsessive thoughts. This persistent habit is like standing water. It never renews itself, it is the same stream that swirls inside us, moving the same bacteria and the same microorganisms to make us sick.

And therefore It is common for the depressed person to always have the same conversations, the same negative ideas, the same doubts and the same obsessions. There is no point in asking her to hold back, to change the subject, or to think about something else. He can not.

Being able to tell if a family member or friend of ours is depressed from the first signs sent through the language of depression, we could promote rapid intervention and recovery. IS a factor of enormous importance, especially if we look at the younger population: children and teenagers.


There are those who confuse certain behaviors or styles of communication with the crisis of adolescence. However, these dynamics and expressions do not reflect a personality type: they often highlight a psychological disorder. We must learn to recognize it in order to respond better. To more safely prevent a disease that has an ever-increasing incidence.

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