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In an absolute state: elevated use of absolutist words is a marker specific to anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation

Al-Mosaiwi, M. and Johnstone, T. (2018) In an absolute state: elevated use of absolutist words is a marker specific to anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Clinical Psychological Science, 6 (4). pp. 529-542. ISSN 2167-7034

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/2167702617747074

Abstract/Summary

Absolutist thinking is considered a cognitive distortion by most cognitive therapies for anxiety and depression. Yet, there is little empirical evidence of its prevalence or specificity. Across three studies, we conducted a text analysis of 63 internet forums (over 6,400 members) using the Linguistic- Inquiry and Word Count software (Pennebaker, Booth, Boyd, & Francis, 2015) to examine absolutism at the linguistic level. We predicted and found that anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation forums contained more absolutist words than control forums (d’s > 3.14). Suicidal ideation forums also contained more absolutist words than anxiety and depression forums (d’s > 1.71). We show that these differences are more reflective of absolutist thinking than psychological distress. Interestingly, absolutist words tracked the severity of affective disorder forums more faithfully than ‘negative emotion’ words. Finally, we found elevated levels of absolutist words in depression ‘recovery’ forums. This suggests that absolutist thinking may be a vulnerability factor.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:73630
Uncontrolled Keywords:Affective disorders, Depression, Text Analysis, Cognitive Style, Anxiety
Publisher:Sage

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