Many people all over the world struggle with anxiety and depression. And, although you would think these mental illnesses would be easy to spot, many people put on a mask and struggle in silence. And although some symptoms of anxiety and depression are blatantly obvious, others can be hidden deep beneath the surface. Now, a new study is suggesting a connection between negative emotions and two little words that may come as a surprise: “I” and “me.”
The study found that people who frequently talk about themselves may not be narcissistic, but they may actually be anxious, depressed, or neurotic. These findings are now published in the Journal of Personality and Society Psychology, and they align with previous research that “I-talk” (as it’s known in psychology circles) may be a sign of depressive symptoms. In fact, the authors of this new study are saying that people who use a lot of first-person pronouns may actually be predisposed to having more negative emotions in general.
The researchers found that the average person speaks about 16,000 words a day. And, on average, about 1,400 of those 16,000 words are first-person singular pronouns. The people in the study who were prone to emotional distress, however, used “I” and “me” up to 2,000 times a day.
“The question is, does the fact that someone uses first-person singular pronouns a lot tell us more about their tendency to be depressed, or their tendency to experience negative emotions more broadly?” Allison Tackman, a research scientist at the University of Arizona and first author of the new study, said. “It really appears to be the latter. Our findings suggest that I-talk would be better used to get an idea of a person’s risk of experiencing mental health issues in general, rather than depression in particular.” And, being aware of your own use of first-person pronouns can really help to serve as a good self-evaluation as to how you’re doing emotionally, according to Tackman.
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