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HEALTH & WELLBEING : Personality traits series #5 NEUROTICISM

Neuroticism denotes a tendency to experience high levels of negative emotion. This also coincides with psychological distress and anxiety in people. The two most common aspects associated with neurotic people is volatility and withdrawal. Interestingly these two aspects can differ enormously in trait neuroticism because the way someone may react to a circumstance might be to shut themselves down and walk away or no longer interact with their situation, while the other can get quite agitated, hostile and angry.

Of all the five personality traits, those who experience high levels of negative emotion are most likely to have clinical aspects of psychopathology (this can include, but is not limited to things like ADHD or PTSD). Of interest though, the news is not all bad. There has been some research to suggest that higher neuroticism may scale with increasing creative ability, especially in the arts.

It may also be argued that anger can be used as an effective negative emotion under some conditions. Unlike some negative emotions like sadness, fear or guilt which lead generally to inaction and shutdown, anger can instil action and the urge to do something more proactive about the situation we're experiencing. This doesn't always mean those actions will be positive ones, so it's worth bearing in mind all results of the actions we take. Likewise negative emotions may also create a sense of higher self reflection to do things better, so in one sense they may act as a redeeming quality in some. EG: "I've done the wrong thing, I felt a deep sense of negative emotion about that and now I must now learn from my mistake."

While it's important to look at as many sides of the coin as we can with any personality trait, keep in mind that generally having higher levels of neuroticism are something we shouldn't overindulge in too often. The current state of the world is already taking an extreme toll on people's mental health and their sense of negative emotional experience, thinking too much about that generally only serves to make things worse, particularly when there are so many moving parts that are outside of our control.

We don't need disproportionate amounts of anxiety and worry in an already emotional time. Yes, neuroticism like all personality traits does have a genetic component but it is also able to be favourably worked upon so that we can achieve more emotional stability. In fact, some research has shown that meditation is one such way to increase the level of emotional stability (or decrease trait neuroticism) in employees, providing good reason to incorporate some of it into the lifestyle routine.

Yours In Good Health,

Dr Troy Walker

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