What is it about?

Far too many people suffer from depression and anxiety. What if we could examine someone's language (the words they speak) to detect if they are feeling depressed or anxious? That's what we did in this study. We analyzed text messages between more than 6,000 clients and their therapists, and we found that people who used less "distanced" language (i.e., they talked about themselves and the present moment more) were more depressed and anxious. This makes sense, because prior studies show that using less distanced language is associated with greater difficulties managing one's emotions. However, clients' language became more distanced over time in treatment, tracking their improved mental health. We could even categorize people into groups who differed in their treatment outcomes using their texting language alone. These results give us a foundation for developing language-based tools that can figure out who might be struggling emotionally and could benefit from psychological aid.

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This page is a summary of: Linguistic measures of psychological distance track symptom levels and treatment outcomes in a large set of psychotherapy transcripts, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2114737119.
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