What Is Neuroticism?

Neuroticism, one of the Big 5 personality traits, is typically defined as a tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative feelings. All personality traits, including neuroticism, exist on a spectrum—some people are just much more neurotic than others. In the context of the Big 5, neuroticism is low emotional stability.

Some self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor, but in truth, people with neurotic dispositions are more prone to mood disorders, loneliness, self-consciousness, and hypochondria, to name just a few related experiences. 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 or risks could have helped certain early humans survive. 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 Deal With Neuroticism

For someone who is highly neurotic, it’s easy to feel trapped by maladaptive thought patterns and 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 change 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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