Identifying Depression through Language

In an Absolute State: Elevated Use of Absolutist Words Is a Marker Specific to Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation

Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi & Tom Johnstone


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 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 (ds > 3.14). Suicidal ideation forums also contained more absolutist words than anxiety and depression forums (ds > 1.71). We show that these differences are more reflective of absolutist thinking than psychological distress. It is interesting that 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.

Full Text


“Fake it till you make it: Fishing for Catfishes” by Walid Magdy et al.

Using language algorithms  to detect fake online profiles that deceive other users


Many adult content websites incorporate social networking features. Although these are popular, they raise significant challenges, including the potential for users to “catfish”, i.e., to create fake profiles to deceive other users. This paper takes an initial step towards automated catfish detection. We explore the characteristics of the different age and gender groups, identifying a number of distinctions. Through this, we train models based on user profiles and comments, via the ground truth of specially verified profiles. Applying our models for age and gender estimation of unverified profiles, we identify 38% of profiles who are likely lying about their age, and 25% who are likely lying about their gender. We find that women have a greater propensity to catfish than men. Further, whereas women catfish select from a wide age range, men consistently lie about being younger. Our work has notable implications on operators of such online social networks, as well as users who may worry about interacting with catfishes.

Paper to appear in IEEE/ACM ASONAM 2017

Dr Walid Magdy, University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics.

Dr Laura A. Cariola

Laura Cariola

Affiliation: University of Edinburgh

My research focuses on the intersection between language and clinical psychology, including both qualitative and quantitative research approaches a) to inform the development of policy guidelines and interventions to improve provision of healthcare, and b) to explore media presentations of mental health.

As a part of ongoing work that explores mental health in public and medical discourses, I have obtained a Research Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities where I am focussing upon ‘Presentations of complex mental illness in media and medical discourses: A corpus‐assisted study’. Collaborators include academics across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, such as clinical psychology, counselling and psychotherapy, anthropology, social work and medicine. My mentor is Prof. Matthias Schwannauer, Head of Clinical and Health Psychology at the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh.

I am also the co-founding editor (together with Dr. Andrew Wilson) of the journal ‘Language and Psychoanalysis’. The ‘Language and Mind Network’ which aims to bring together individuals with an interest in the intersection of language and psychology, including psychotherapy, clinical psychology and the humanities, and thus to encourage dialogue and collaboration.

Profile page