Study identifies word use patterns in first-person accounts of mental illness

By analyzing the writings of individuals with schizophrenia and depression, Yale researchers have discovered strong, illness-specific patterns in word choice. The findings could be an important first step towards a more objective and data-driven approach to diagnosing mental illness and tailoring treatments for psychiatric symptoms.

The results are published online ahead of print in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

"In this study, we utilized novel computational techniques to uncover patterns in word use. For example, individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia used more third-person plural pronouns such as 'they' and fewer first-person singular pronouns such as 'I'," said senior author Philip Corlett, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. "The patterns we discovered were illness-specific and resonated with some of our cognitive neuroscience models of symptoms."

Sarah Fineberg, a fellow on the Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit at Connecticut Mental Health Center, is lead author. Additional Yale co-authors include Sasha Deutsch-Link, Megan Ichinose, Taylor Anne McGuinness, and Andrew Bessette.

View the article online: Word use in first-person accounts of schizophrenia.

This article was submitted by Shane Seger on July 1, 2014.

Philip Corlett, PhD

Sarah Fineberg, MD, PhD

Related People

Philip R Corlett

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Sarah K Fineberg