People who are depressed become more neurotic, more dependent on others and more thoughtful in the short-term, research finds.
After recovering from depression, though, people’s personality returns almost completely to its pre-depression state.
Depression does not change people’s personality in the long-term, the study found.
Indeed, people’s personality may become slightly more healthy after recovering from an episode of depression.
However, depression does affect people’s personality somewhat while they are experiencing an episode.
There was some evidence, though, that people lose some of their social confidence after an episode of depression.
It may also be that multiple, severe bouts of depression can have a long-lasting effect on personality.
The conclusions come from thousands of people, some with and some without depression, who were followed across six years.
The study’s authors explain the results:
“None of the scales for which negative change would be
predicted by the scar hypothesis (increased neuroticism, emotional reliance, and lack of social self-confidence; decreased ascendance/dominance, sociability, and extroversion) showed such change.
In general, scores on these scales remained stable from time 1 to time 2; if they changed at all, they changed numerically in the direction of healthier scores at time 2.”
The results showed no evidence of the so-called ‘scar hypothesis’.
The authors explain that…
“…the “scar” or “complication” model, suggesting that the depressive episode is the cause of lasting change in personality.”
Instead, the study supports the idea that certain personality types are vulnerable to depression.
Negative emotionality is the strongest risk factor for depression among personality traits, research finds.
Negative emotionality is essentially being highly neurotic and involves finding it hard to deal with stress and experiencing a lot of negative emotions and mood swings.
People who are neurotic are more likely to experience negative emotions like fear, jealousy, guilt, worry and envy.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in The American Journal of Psychiatry (Shea et al., 1996).