What Is Neuroticism?

Neuroticism, one of the Big 5 personality traits, is typically defined as a tendency towards anxiety, self-doubt, depression, shyness, and other similar negative feelings. Since all personality traits, including emotional instability, exist on a spectrum, everyone is a little neurotic to some degree—some people are just much more neurotic than others.

Some self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor, but in truth, the negatively biased are more prone to mood disorders, loneliness, self-consciousness, and hypochondria, to name just a few behavioral tripwires. In reality, neuroticism is rarely fun for anyone, though some research has shown that neuroticism can predict student success, and may be correlated with certain reproductive benefits.

Neuroticism may have provided evolutionary advantages, as well—paying more attention to negative outcomes could have helped certain early humans survive over others. In the present day, however, it may be a better choice to laugh at one's hang-ups rather than run away from them.

How to Get a Grip

For someone who is highly neurotic, it’s easy to feel trapped by the trait’s maladaptive thought patterns, or to struggle with depression or anxiety, both of which are more likely to occur in highly neurotic individuals.

Is there anything someone can do to make themselves less neurotic? The evidence is mixed, but recent studies suggest that personality traits are not set in stone, and can be changed over the course of a lifetime—particularly after a major life event like getting married or having a child.

Whether an individual actually becomes less neurotic over time or not, there are steps one can take to better cope with neuroticism, such as engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy or practicing mindfulness.


Anxiety, Depression, Guilt, Personality, Shyness

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