Personality Trait Combination Found To Guard Against Anxiety

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If someone is highly neurotic, or abnormally tense, sensitive, or obsessive, it puts them at risk for anxiety and mood disorders.

However, when highly neurotic individuals are also extremely extraverted* and conscientious they are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, according to University at Buffalo (UB) psychologists.

The UB research findings suggest the importance of looking at the way combinations of traits may work together to either prevent or facilitate specific psychological symptoms.

“We know individually how these traits relate to symptoms, but now we are beginning to understand how the traits might impact one another,” says researcher Kristin Naragon-Gainey, an assistant professor in UB's Department of Psychology. “We have to consider the whole person in order to understand the likelihood of developing negative symptoms down the road.”

All people express the traits of neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness somewhere along a continuum. The traits of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness have the most association with anxiety and mood disorders. To better understand how these three traits work together, the research team interviewed 463 adults who had received psychiatric treatment within the previous two years.

According to the investigators, the protective benefit ascribed to high extraversion and conscientiousness are owed to the social interaction, and goal-oriented engagement these traits afford.

“If someone has high levels of extraversion they might be very good at gathering social support or increasing their positive affectivity through social means,” said Naragon-Gainey. “Similarly, conscientiousness has a lot to do with striving toward goals and putting plans in action, which can combat the withdrawal and avoidance that can go along with neuroticism.”

Source: University at Buffalo
Photo credit: University at Buffalo

* Is it spelled extraverted, or extroverted? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "The original spelling 'Extravert' is now rare in general use but is found in technical use in psychology." That's correct. If you look at scientific journal articles, virtually every paper uses the spelling ExtrAvert. ~ Scientific American

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