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Personality is the pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that characterise a person.

People’s personalities can partly explain their behaviour.

However, the situations in which people find themselves have a considerable influence.

The big five

There are many different ways of assessing personality, but modern psychology mostly uses a trait system known as the ‘Big Five’.

Here are the five major aspects of personality, along with the sub-facets:

  • Neuroticism: Anxiety, Hostility, Depression, Self-consciousness, Impulsiveness, Vulnerability.
  • Extraversion: Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement-Seeking, Positive Emotions.
  • Openness to Experience: Fantasy, Aesthetics, Feelings, Actions, Ideas, Values.
  • Agreeableness: Trust, Straightforwardness, Altruism, Compliance, Modesty, Tender-mindedness.
  • Conscientiousness: Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement Striving, Self-Discipline, Deliberation.

People’s personalities fall on a continuum for every trait: you can be average, high or low on each of them.

Dark personalities

Psychologists have identified a ‘dark triad’ of personality factors that often make people toxic to deal with:

  • Narcissism: acting like an extravert, talking loudly to draw attention to themselves and sensitive to criticism.
  • Psychopathy: fearless dominance along with self-centred impulsivity.
  • Machiavellianism: being unemotional and regularly deceiving and manipulating others.

Personality disorders

People with a personality disorder behave, think and feel very differently from the average person.

There are three types of personality disorder:

  1. Fearful or anxious.
  2. Emotional, dramatic or erratic.
  3. Eccentric or odd.

Within each type are a number of subdivisions, the most common being obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (a fearful or anxious type) and borderline personality disorder (an emotional, dramatic or erratic type).

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