Individuals suffering with neuroticism and engaged in therapeutic interventions such as counselling or antidepressant use had better outcomes and personality trait changes, compared to those who did not, a study has found. Neuroticism is a long-term tendency to be in a negative emotional state. People who are high in neuroticism tend to be more anxious, moody and depressed than others and are more likely to perceive events as threatening.
“Some clinical psychologists see neuroticism at the core of every form of psychopathology, whether it is drug and alcohol abuse, psychopathy, depression or panic disorder,” said Brent Roberts, Professor at University of Illinois in the US. Personality psychologists consider neuroticism and its counterpart, emotional stability as key personality traits, along with conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness and extraversion, the study said.
In the study, conducted involving more than 20,000 people, the team used interventions such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, supportive or psychotherapeutic counselling, pharmacological treatment with antidepressant, hospitalisation or a combination of treatments. The results showed that people with neuroticism had a marked change in their personality. They showed better emotional stability as a result of therapy. The study challenged the idea that personality traits are established at birth or in childhood and remain static ever after.
“This really is definitive evidence that the idea that personality does not change is wrong. We’re not saying personality dramatically reorganises itself. You are not taking an introvert and making them into an extrovert. But this reveals that personality does develop and it can be developed,” Roberts noted. The study was reported in the journal Psychological Bulletin.
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