Could talking more be an early sign?

The side profile of a person and the sound waves representing speech.Share on Pinterest
Scientists have discovered that speech changes may be an early sign of depression. Johanna Lindberg/EyeEm/Getty Images
  • Depression is a common mental illness that can lead to debilitating symptoms.
  • To arrive at an accurate clinical diagnosis, doctors will carefully collect data about a person’s symptoms, history, and presentation.
  • Data from a recent study found that examining speech may be a critical way to help identify depression in people who have not yet been diagnosed.
  • More research is needed to understand how speech changes among people who are depressed.

Depression is a significant mental health disorder. An accurate diagnosis ensures that people get the guidance and help they need to manage their depression. Diagnosing a person with depression involves looking at various behavior changes that indicate depression.

a recent study published in BMC Psychiatry investigated how looking at speech patterns can be helpful in identifying people with depression who have not yet received a diagnosis.

The methods studied may help detect early warning signs of depression.

Major depressive disorder, also called depression, is a mental illness that affects the mood and the way people act. Symptoms of depression can include feeling empty or hopeless, lack of energy, and loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. When people have depression, they experience persistent symptoms for at least two weeks or longer.

with precision diagnose depressionDoctors will look at a person’s history, ask questions, assess symptoms, and work to rule out any underlying physical causes of symptoms.

Dr Jhilam Biswasdirector of the Psychiatry, Law, and Society Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study, explained to today’s medical news Challenges in diagnosing depression.

“Making a diagnosis of depression requires a complete clinical evaluation with history, background information, a review of organ systems, and a checklist of specific symptoms,” he said.

“Because each person has an individual way of presenting with depression, and the illness can look different from person to person, a complete evaluation is important so that symptoms can be appropriately treated.”
— Dr. Jhilam Biswas

One area of ​​interest is changes in speech patterns among people with depression. Researchers are working to understand these changes and how clinicians can better study speech to identify people with mental illness.

speaking to MNT, Dr Christina PattonRegistered psychotherapist, who was not involved in the study, noted that speech can give clues to many different behaviors.

“Speech patterns can reveal a lot about the internal state of the person speaking. We automatically and intuitively infer the emotional flavor of what is said based on the prosody of the speaker. And it turns out that beyond providing useful social clues, speech patterns can also be a useful tool in the diagnosis of mental health conditions.”
-Dr. christina patton

This study specifically looked at indicators of depression and speech patterns in a non-clinical sample. The authors note that they wanted to “test whether there would be an association between subtle signs of depression and speech characteristics in a nonclinical population (ie, healthy young adults).”

The researchers included 118 young adults in their analysis. The average age of the participants was about 24 years.

Each participant filled out a questionnaire measuring depression symptoms. A higher score indicated a greater likelihood of depression.

The participants also completed a particular test called the trail building test. This test measured the participants’ ability to focus, process information, and switch between tasks. Participants who scored above the cutoff for clinically relevant depressive symptoms also took longer to complete a portion of the pathway-building test.

The researchers analyzed the speech of each participant by asking them to talk about one negative and one positive event. The participants talked for one minute about each prompt, and the researchers recorded their responses.

After data analysis, 25 participants scored above the cutoff for relevant depressive symptoms and 93 scored below the cutoff. For the participants who scored higher for depression, the researchers found that the group talked more than those who scored lower for depressive symptoms.

The researchers were also able to accurately predict which group someone was in approximately 93% of the time.

The study authors note: “Our results indicate that even in a sample without a clinical diagnosis of depression, changes in speech are associated with higher depression scores.”

Dr. Patton highlighted the importance of the study as a potential new predictive tool.

“This study raises the question of whether speech patterns can also be a useful predictive tool. None of the participants in this study were clinically depressed, and yet those with depressive symptoms showed marked differences in speech patterns than those without. It is possible that such linguistic differences are indicative of the early stages of depression.
-Dr. christina patton

The study had several limitations that are important to note.

First, the study only included college students, and 79% of the recruited participants were women. These are not representative of the general population. This indicates that future studies may include more diverse samples.

Second, the researchers only examined relatively short recordings of speech patterns, which can only capture certain information. The researchers also did not conduct clinical interviews for the participants, so some participants may have been clinically diagnosed with depression.

However, based on depressive symptom scores, this seems unlikely. The researchers note that long-term studies could work to see if the characteristics they identified are early indicators of depression.

The findings of this study indicate the need for more research on speech patterns and depression.

Dr. Patton noted how this research could be useful in the future:

“While more research is needed to confirm this, should it be true, these subtle changes in speech patterns may be a useful screening tool in early detection of depressive processes, helping to identify those who are at risk of experience major depression in the future. ”

The main finding of the study that people with higher indicators of depression talked more is the opposite of what is usually seen in people with depression.

The researchers looked at some explanations for this, including that perhaps people with earlier signs of depression may initially speak more and then the number of words may decrease.

david tzalla licensed psychologist who was also not involved in the study, speculated as to the reason for this particular finding:

“Those with greater depression may talk more because they experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Talking can be a way to connect with others. Since this is a non-clinical population, it makes sense that a healthy group would use communication strategies when feeling down.”

“Talking more can be a way to express feelings and find support and understanding. People can use talking as a coping mechanism to distract themselves from their negative thoughts and emotions.”
— David Tzall, psychologist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *