What is Neuroticism and How Does it Affect Behaviour?
How neurotic are you?
Do you not watch horror movies because they scare you too much? Does the news make you too anxious? And is life just one big hassle after another?
If your answers are all in the affirmative, you might score highly on neuroticism.
Neurotic people are worriers. In fact, they experience every negative emotion there is – and they experience them all far more frequently than those who score low on this trait.
Neurotic people aren’t just anxious … they’re sad, they’re scared, they're guilty, ashamed and disgusted.
Yep, being neurotic is a bummer.
What is neuroticism?
Neuroticism is essentially a measure of a person’s receptivity to negative emotion. While we all might feel a little scared now and then, those who score highly on neuroticism are triggered into fear by almost everything. Their alarm bells are always ringing – even when there’s nothing to be alarmed about.
Unsurprisingly, this comes at great cost. Neurotic people tend to be unhappy regardless of their situation in life, and they are prone to many psychiatric disorders, from depression to OCD. In part, this is caused by their tendency to catastrophize. If they are rejected by a date, they will conclude that they’ll never find love”. If they are struggling with a task at work, they’ll be quick to say “I’ll always be a failure”. And if they find themselves with a headache, it won’t take long before they’ll be googling the words “brain tumour”.
Neurotic people find it hard to settle on a course in life. They are always asking themselves if they’ve made the wrong decision, and always switching lanes in their careers and relationships. Those who score highly on neuroticism don’t just feel more negative emotions, they also find themselves experiencing more negative events – as neuroticism causes challenges in relationships and in the workplace.
But it isn’t all bad – even if the person who scores highly on neuroticism has the unfortunate tendency to think so.
First, neuroticism acts as a dampener on risk-taking. So the next time you see somebody break their ankle or almost kill themselves on a skateboard, you can reasonably assume they’re probably not particularly neurotic. Second, its influence on risk taking also means that people who score highly on neuroticism are less inclined to take the immense risk of criminal behaviour. And finally while the neurotic individual may take reflection to a whole new level, we could certainly use a little more thought in today’s society. Imagine a politician who didn’t just act on instinct but took the time to stop and think. Imagine a banker who paused before gambling public funds.
Yes. Neuroticism isn’t all bad. But we should give high scorers our sympathy nonetheless.
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