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Describing Negative Emotions and Depression


Negative emotion differentiation (NED) refers to the ability to identify and label discrete negative emotions.

Are you the mom who says to your tantruming toddler, Use your words? That's good parenting in so many ways. Well actually, I found it quicker to turn the critter over and hold him up by his ankles, so he could ponder his universe from a different perspective. You could call that reframing. But that technique is more difficult to execute on a teenager.

Here is the latest reason why Use your words is good for your kid: the folk who get paid to come up with new things to research have discovered a relationship between teenagers and words. The more words they have to describe precisely their negative emotions, the less risk they have to develop depression in the face of high stress. And conversely:

Results suggest that low NED is primarily depressogenic in the context of high stress exposure.

That's from "The perils of murky emotions: Emotion differentiation moderates the prospective relationship between naturalistic stress exposure and adolescent depression,"  by Star, Hershenberg, Shaw, Li, and Santee.

That's what I'm here for. I find cool stuff in the scientific research world and translate it into English for you, dear reader. The more words you have for negative emotions = the less depression you get when stressed.

I'm all over this. I use words like my sister uses broken bits of tile, to turn loss into beauty. There's a bit of Mama's good china that hit the floor in this photo of the tabletop coming together in my sister's workshop:


So one of the things that pleases me about this research study is that I have discovered a new word, depressogenic: causing or tending to cause depression.

Google doesn't recognize euthymigenic. I made it up: creating or sustaining a normal, tranquil mental state or mood. In a sentence: Turning the broken bits of our lives, turning our losses into beauty is euthymigenic. My sister does this with tile. I do it with words. 

Here's an excerpt from Prozac Monologues: What If It's More Than Depression?

The DSM has its checklists. People with depression have poetry. 

People with diabetes discuss about their diet, their feet, their retinas. They check glucose levels. Put two diabetics at a table, they compare numbers.

People with depression talk in metaphor. We talk about the cloud, the curtain, the weight, the darkness. When it goes away, we say, “It lifted!” That lift is a physical sensation, actually, of lightness or elevation...

If I could just find the right words, maybe I could break the spell...

See, I always knew that increasing my vocabulary would help me. Turns out increasing my kid's will help him, too.

cartoon from memedroid.com
photos from the Pato Loco, Coco, Costa Rica by the author

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