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Absolutist Language: A Marker of Anxiety and Depression


In this study, the researchers sought to investigate the prevalence and specificity of absolutist thinking, a cognitive distortion commonly associated with anxiety and depression. Through text analysis of over 6,400 members across 63 internet forums, they used the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software to examine the use of absolutist words at the linguistic level. The researchers predicted and found that forums focused on anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation contained more absolutist words compared to control forums. They also discovered that suicidal ideation forums contained more absolutist words than anxiety and depression forums.


Interestingly, the researchers found that the use of absolutist words was more reflective of absolutist thinking than psychological distress. Additionally, absolutist words were found to be a more faithful indicator of the severity of affective disorder forums than negative emotion words. Finally, the researchers noted elevated levels of absolutist words in depression recovery forums, suggesting that absolutist thinking may be a vulnerability factor. These findings highlight the importance of considering the role of absolutist thinking in cognitive therapies for anxiety and depression.


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