In a recent study, Rude, Gortner, and Pennebaker (2004) found word use to be related to depression and vulnerability to depression in the essays of college students. We sought to replicate and extend these findings in a clinical sample. Written essays of 304 psychiatric outpatients with a personality disorder and a mixed psychiatric profile on DSM-IV axis-1 and 108 healthy controls were examined with word count software. Data on the tendency to be discrepant about the current self compared to a more ideal self were also gathered. We found that psychiatric outpatients in general used more words referring to the self and negative emotion words and fewer positive emotion words, compared to healthy controls. However, word-use proved unrelated to depression specifically. Actual-ideal self discrepancies were related to patient status and to current depression. Contrary to our hypothesis, these discrepancies did not correlate with the use of words referring to the self. We conclude that the negative content and self-focus of written essays and high levels of discrepancy reflect a negative thinking style that is common to a range of psychiatric disorders rather than being specific to depression.
- Personality disorder
- Linguistic inquiry and word count
- DYSFUNCTIONAL BELIEFS