Linguistic analysis of patients with mood and anxiety disorders during cognitive behavioral therapy

Cogn Behav Ther. 2018 Jul;47(4):315-327. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2017.1419505. Epub 2018 Jan 18.


We analyzed the verbal behavior of patients with mood or/and anxiety disorders during psychotherapy. Investigating the words people used, we expected differences due to cognitive and emotional foci in patients with depression vs. anxiety. Transcripts of therapy sessions from 85 outpatients treated with cognitive behavioral therapy were analyzed using the software program Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count. Multivariate group comparisons were carried out investigating the LIWC-categories first-person-singular pronouns, sad, anxiety and fillers. Differences between the three diagnostic groups were found in verbal utterances related to sadness (p = .05). No differences were found for first-person-singular pronouns and content-free fillers. Comparing the distinct groups "depression" and "anxiety", depressed patients used more words related to sadness (p = .01). Mood and anxiety disorders differ in the experience of emotions, but only slightly in self-focused attention. This points to differences in language use for different diagnostic groups and may help to improve diagnostic procedures or language-driven interventions which enhance therapists' attention to patients' verbal behavior.

Keywords: LIWC; Quantitative speech analysis; anxiety; depression; patient-focused research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Linguistics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mood Disorders / therapy
  • Young Adult