Automatic Detection and Classification of Cognitive Distortions in Mental Health Text

09/16/2019 ∙ by Benjamin Shickel, et al. ∙ 0

In cognitive psychology, automatic and self-reinforcing irrational thought patterns are known as cognitive distortions. Left unchecked, patients exhibiting these types of thoughts can become stuck in negative feedback loops of unhealthy thinking, leading to inaccurate perceptions of reality commonly associated with anxiety and depression. In this paper, we present a machine learning framework for the automatic detection and classification of 15 common cognitive distortions in two novel mental health free text datasets collected from both crowdsourcing and a real-world online therapy program. When differentiating between distorted and non-distorted passages, our model achieved a weighted F1 score of 0.88. For classifying distorted passages into one of 15 distortion categories, our model yielded weighted F1 scores of 0.68 in the larger crowdsourced dataset and 0.45 in the smaller online counseling dataset, both of which outperformed random baseline metrics by a large margin. For both tasks, we also identified the most discriminative words and phrases between classes to highlight common thematic elements for improving targeted and therapist-guided mental health treatment. Furthermore, we performed an exploratory analysis using unsupervised content-based clustering and topic modeling algorithms as first efforts towards a data-driven perspective on the thematic relationship between similar cognitive distortions traditionally deemed unique. Finally, we highlight the difficulties in applying mental health-based machine learning in a real-world setting and comment on the implications and benefits of our framework for improving automated delivery of therapeutic treatment in conjunction with traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy.

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