Neuroticism Is Linked To Depression But 2 Traits Are Protective

Neuroticism and depression are linked but a study finds beneficial effects of two other personality traits together.

Neuroticism and depression are linked but a study finds beneficial effects of two other personality traits together.

Being extraverted and conscientious helps to reduce the risk of depression in neurotic people, new research finds.

People who are highly neurotic typically look at the world in a negative way.

They also find it hard to deal with stress and can experience a lot of negative emotions.

However, it seems being social and organised helps to ameliorate the effect.

Dr Kristin Naragon-Gainey, the study’s first author, explained:

“If someone has high levels of extraversion they might be very good at gathering social support or increasing their positive affectivity through social means.

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.”

Typically, in the past psychologists have focused on how individual aspects of personality affect depression risk.

Dr Naragon-Gainey explained that the key to this new study was looking beyond one single personality trait, like neuroticism:

“We know individually how these traits relate to symptoms, but now we are beginning to understand how the traits might impact one another.

We have to consider the whole person in order to understand the likelihood of developing negative symptoms down the road.”

Neuroticism and depression study

For the study, 463 people who had had psychiatric treatment in the last year were interviewed and surveyed.

Many were had both high levels of neuroticism and depression.

Statistical analysis showed that high conscientiousness and high extraversion together had a protective effect on people who were highly neurotic.

Dr Naragon-Gainey said:

“I think there’s a tendency in treatment and clinical psychology to concentrate on the problems and the negatives.

If you utilize the pre-existing strengths that clients bring with them, it can positively affect treatment and the level of symptoms going forward, as well as reinforcing what the person is already doing well.”

The study was published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Naragon-Gainey & Simms, 2018).

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Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.