The Promise of Affective Language for Identifying and Intervening on Psychopathology

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3 Scopus citations


We are in dire need of innovative tools for reducing the global burden of psychopathology. Emerging evidence suggests that analyzing language (i.e., the words people use) can grant insight into an individual's emotional experiences, their ability to regulate their emotions, and even their current experiences of psychopathology. As such, linguistic analyses of people’s everyday word use may be a diagnostic marker of emotional well-being, and manipulating the words people use could foster adaptive emotion regulation and mental health. Given the ubiquity of language in everyday life, such language-based tools for measuring and intervening in emotion and mental health can advance how we identify and treat mental illnesses at a large scale. In this paper, I outline the promise of this approach and identify key problems we must solve if we are to make it a reality. In particular, I summarize evidence connecting language, emotion, and mental health for three key constructs: sentiment (i.e., the valence of one’s language), linguistic distancing (i.e., using language to separate oneself from distressing stimuli), and emotion differentiation (i.e., using words to specifically identify one’s emotions). I also identify open questions in need of attention for each of these constructs and this area of research as a whole. Overall, I believe the future is bright for the application of psycholinguistic approaches to mental health detection and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-521
Number of pages5
JournalAffective Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Emotion
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Language
  • Linguistic distancing
  • Mental health


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