How Mental Health Disorders Influence Communication Styles

By University Communications

People with mental health disorders may communicate differently than people who don’t.

This brings a new meaning to the phrase “It’s not about what you say, but how you say it.”

Dr. Isabelle Bauman, interim communication department head at Missouri State University, studies how mental health influences communication styles. She is writing a book on her research.

For example, Bauman said people with depression and anxiety may take longer pauses before responding to someone. People with bipolar disorder may not take advice easily.

There are also differences in nonverbal communication.

Bauman said people with anxiety often use self-focused gestures, like playing with their hair or clothing, instead of object-focused gestures, like focusing on what they are talking about.

Her research extends to how society talks about mental health disorders as well.

“Understanding how to communicate with someone with a mental health disorder is a gateway to improving support for that person,” Bauman said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults experience mental illness.

Mental health disorders are a factor in many lives. It affects how people experience the world.

“Someone with depression is going to experience the world differently than someone without,” Bauman said. “It’s important for the people around them to recognize and acknowledge that.”