It is often regarded that neuroticism, one of the top five personality traits and is typically defined as a tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and an array of negative feelings. 

Like all so called ‘labelled’ personality traits, neuroticism exists on a spectrum; neuroticism is sometimes described as low emotional stability or continued or prolonged states of negativity.

Some self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honour, but in truth, people with neurotic dispositions are more prone to anxiety, mood disorders, and additional unfavourable social and emotional outcomes. 

Neuroticism has been defined somewhat according to what psychologists you ask, but at its core, it reflects a general tendency toward negative emotions. The term derives from the historic concept of neurosis, which referred to a form of mental illness involving chronic distress.

A person’s level of neuroticism can be assessed by personality tests that ask individuals to rate the extent to which they:

How quickly they adapt in situations 

How easily external events can produce a disturbed internal dialog

How often they demonstrate mood swings

How irritated they become at menial obstacles

How often the feel low or down.

Some of the other tools of highlighting the five traits further divide the traits into multiple sub-traits. One scale, the most recent version of the Big 5 Inventory, separates neuroticism (relabelled as Negative Emotionality) into three facets that each reflects a tendency to feel certain ways:



emotional volatility 

How will you know if you are a neurotic person?

If you are high (or low) on neuroticism, chances are, you already sense that’s the case. But taking a personality test could give you a more concrete measure of how you rate on that trait compared to other people. As is the case with other traits, most people lie somewhere in the middle.

NOTE: If you have been following me for any time you will know that I am not a fan of personality tests or self-diagnosis.

Should you worry if you are neurotic?

High neuroticism ratings are associated with risk of mental illness and worse outcomes, on average, on measures of health and relationship satisfaction. However, it can be argued that neuroticism exists because it provided advantages (such as sensitivity to threats) over the course of humanity’s evolution.

If you are worried or if it is causing you concern then book a one of one session here: click here to book your therapy session.

What causes neuroticism?

There is no one ruling on the cause of neuroticism, however for someone who is highly neurotic, it is commonly reported for him or her to feel trapped by maladaptive thought patterns and to struggle with depression or anxiety.

Is there anything someone can do to make himself or herself less neurotic?  

Research suggests that personality traits are not set in stone and can change over the course of a lifetime—particularly after a major life event like getting married or having a child. Whether an individual naturally becomes less neurotic over time or not, however, there are steps one can take to better cope with neuroticism.

Can neuroticism be fixed?

The first thing to accept is that you are not broken. As a personality trait, neuroticism represents a relatively stable way of feeling and being—but a proneness to worry and distress can still be recognised and improved.

Psychotherapy and mindfulness practices are among the tools that may help someone better cope with distress and even dial down their levels of neuroticism. 

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