Why Is Neuroticism So Toxic?

For this study, about 4,000 college students from 19 countries, who were identified as being neurotic, were asked if taking action is “positive, favorable, or good.” The researchers concluded that neurotics consider taking action less favorably (and inaction more favorably) than people who were identified as non-neurotics. This may explain why highly neurotic people often lack gusto and avoid taking steps to seize the day.  

Neuroticism is also associated with morbidity and mortality. In 2007, researchers at Purdue University found that highly neurotic men die younger than their mellower counterparts. The study[10], “Personality Change[11] Influences Mortality in Older Men,” was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Recently, I wrote a Psychology Today blog post, “Positive Attitudes About Aging May Be a ‘Fountain of Youth[12][13],” based on a new study that found that negative attitudes about getting older increase someone’s risk of being frail in older age. The bottom line about avoiding frailty in old age appears to be maintaining strong social networks and staying open to experience—while minimizing neuroticism—throughout your lifespan.

“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.” ― Mary Kay Ash

Source: Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Over the years, other studies have shown that neuroticism is associated with increased substance abuse[14], anxiety, and mood disorders. Now, for the first time, another new study has identified that young people who rate high on the personality trait of neuroticism are also likely to develop both anxiety and depression[15] disorders.

The recent study from Northwestern University and UCLA breaks new ground by using a revolutionary technique to identify how the extent of someone’s neuroticism can predict his or her propensity to develop mood and anxiety disorders.

The January 2016 study, “Interaction of CD38 Variant and Chronic Interpersonal Stress Prospectively Predicts Social Anxiety and Depression Symptoms Over 6 Years[16],” was published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science. In a press release, Richard Zinbarg[17], lead author of the study and director of clinical psychology at Northwestern, said:

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