Being neurotic can be good for your health in some circumstances.
So-called ‘healthy neurotics’ are people who combine neurotic personality traits with being conscientious.
The self-discipline of being conscientious counteracts unhealthy neurotic behaviours like overeating and drinking too much alcohol.
Dr Nicholas A. Turiano, the study’s first author, said:
“These people are likely to weigh the consequences of their actions, and therefore their level of neuroticism coupled with conscientiousness probably stops them from engaging in risky behaviors.”
A survey of 1,054 adults found that those who were both neurotic and conscientious had lower levels of inflammation in their blood.
Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is an immune protein that is linked to chronic disease.
The neurotic and conscientious also had fewer chronic health problems and lower body-mass indexes.
The results are somewhat surprising as neurotic people tend to suffer more from stress and anxiety, which are also linked to worse health.
Dr Turiano said:
“Speculation is that healthy neurotics may be hyper-vigilant about their lifestyle and about seeking treatment when a problem arises.
It’s their conscientiousness that guides their decisions to prevent disease or quickly get treatment when they don’t feel well.”
Better physical health is not the first advantage identified for the neurotic, as I’ve written previously:
“High levels of creativity may go hand-in-hand with neuroticism.
It’s because the area of the brain which is linked to creativity also has the tendency to overthink things and worry.
Neuroticism is characterised by negative thinking in a range of areas.”
Neurotic people also seem to suffer from indecision as a result of worrying about the future.
One way to reduce this is to start learning to take action:
“Learning to value taking action is an important way of reducing the harmful effects of neuroticism.
People high in anxiety and neuroticism dislike taking action, recent research reveals.”
→ Read on about the harmful effects of neuroticism.
→ Try one of PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
The study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (Turiano et al., 2012).