Developing Your Moderate Vocabulary Use Skills (Anxiety, Depression)

How you talk about the things you feel negative emotions about can have a surprisingly large impact on how you feel and on your thought processes.

When I say “how you talk about things” this applies to internal self talk (how you talk to YOURSELF about the thing) and how you talk about it to other people.

When people are depressed or anxious, their thinking tends to get more extreme, all vs. nothing, black vs. white, more rigid and less flexible. This can lead to using more extreme or exaggerated language (self talk and external speech).

Using extreme or magnified language (e.g. “it was a disaster”, “I was completely overwhelmed”, “it’s impossible”) is likely to heighten your distress and sense of being out of control.

A way to contain your distress, feel more in control, and perhaps even make better decisions, is to use to develop the skill of using more moderate vocabulary. Try using moderate vocabulary when moderate vocabulary is warranted i.e. when the situation is, in reality, more moderate but you’re in a habit of using more extreme vocab and/or catastrophizing.


“I’m concerned about” rather than “I’m really worried about”

“I feel apprehensive about…” rather than “I feel terrified”

“Its difficult for me” rather than “I can’t”

“It’s difficult for me” rather than “It’s really/very/extremely difficult”

“I feel awkward about” rather than “I feel nervous about” (if your feeling is in fact awkward rather than nervous).

“I’d like/prefer” or “I’m choosing to” rather than “I need/must/have to”

“I feel less happy than I’d like to feel” rather than “I never feel happy anymore”

Possible Benefits to You of Using More Moderate Vocabulary

Try using more moderate vocabulary in a way that the language you use to describe your experiences becomes more accurate, precise, and specific. This can help you understand and explain your experiences better/more clearly.

Using more specific/less intense vocab can also help you get more of what you want from other people because communicating more specifically/less intensely is clearer and less overwhelming.

A tip for developing moderate vocabulary skills is to watch out for your use of amplifiers like “really” “very” etc. If you can catch yourself using amplifiers you can instead choose a more precise/specific and less intense word.