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Talking About Oneself Too Much Can Lead to Depression, Study Reports

Update Date: May 07, 2013 09:34 AM EDT

Previous research into the possible causes of depression has linked the condition to factors ranging from having quality relationships to one's outlook on life. Although there is no one major cause of depression, researchers have attempted to find multiple factors in order to better understand the disease, which would ideally help prevent it. In a new study done by scientists from the University of Kassel in Germany, the content of a conversation might be able to reveal someone's risk for depression. The researchers discovered that the more someone used the words "I," "me," and "myself," the higher the risk for depression and anxiety was for that person.

The research team, headed by Dr. Johannes Zimmerman, recruited 15 men and 103 women participants who were already being treated for depression or an anxiety disorder. The participants were interviewed regarding their past history, relationships and self-perception for 60 to 90 minutes. The participants also filled out a questionnaire that measured depression and interpersonal behavior. Based from the verbal conversations between the experimenters and the participants, they found that people who used first person singular pronouns tended to be more depressed or anxious than the other participants. These people also had more difficulties interacting with other people within a group setting.

In contrast, the researchers found that people who used the word "we" more frequently also appeared to have better social boundaries and were better able to maintain their social relationships than the other group.  Although the research team did not conclude the exact reasons for these findings, the team theorized that people who were more focused on themselves might have needier personalities. Since they rely a lot more on others to give them validation or happiness, they increase their risks of depression when other people are not fulfilling their needs. Furthermore, people who use first person singular pronouns might be using these words because there they do not have other people in their lives, which would also explain their risk for depression since having good social relationships is vital in staving off depression.  

"Using first-person singular pronouns highlights the self as a distinct entity whereas, using first-person plural pronouns emphasize [being part of] social relationships," Zimmerman said.

The study will be available in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Research in Personality.

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