Personality Traits and Understanding Neuroticism

Do you have the time to listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once?
I am one of those melodramatic fools, 
Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it

I spend quite a bit of time reading about human behavior, anything related to psychology and sociology. I stumbled upon this website that has various different tests to give you a comprehensive view of your personality and how it changes over time. I found it on Mark Manson's blog, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The website allows you to assess your Big Five Personality traits, attachment styles, relationship commitment levels, and recently narcissism. In addition, the website shows you your scores and the average scores from users who have taken the tests as well.

I've taken my own surveys, but had a good friend of mine (we'll name her Adrian for privacy reasons) take six surveys over the course of a few months. After reviewing her results, I became interested in neuroticism, labeled as 'N' in the table below, in the Big Five Personality test results.  Note that this table is only representative of one day, scroll further to see the traits over time.

The Big Five Personality Traits - 10/15/2020

Dark Green = Adrian
Light Green = Average

When testing for neuroticism, you are testing for 'emotional stability'. After analyzing Adrian's results, she consistently scored a little higher than average for neuroticism. This piqued my interest, because I thought that the trait may be more temporary. I wouldn't describe Adrian as, neurotic. The way the word sounds is as if she's consistently a basket case--cue the Green Day Song. 

I did a little more reading on the topic and had Adrian take a few more tests on different websites to see if she got the same result. She did. The more research I did, however, the more I came to understand that this was just another word in psychology that has been demonized as 'crazy emotional person'. So, if you are scoring higher here and it sounds like a scary word, you can relax. It's kind of like when someone uses the term 'psychotic' to describe a normal emotional reaction, because it made them uncomfortable. Hyperbolic, if you will.

This test in particular scores a bit differently and also gives you more insight into which of those personality traits effect you the most. Essentially the numbers that are furthest away from the 50th percentile (aka the middle) will effect you the most. On this test, Adrian scored an 82 for neuroticism (or 16 in emotional stability, as it is labeled on another test) and 80 in Openness. Fun fact, these were the two highest scores from the results, which means those two personality traits will have the most impact on her personality. 

Adrian shared her thoughts,
"I laugh at this and agree wholeheartedly, but I realize why I'm so mentally exhausted all the time. It's like I want to explore the world and everything in it, but it can also be quite overwhelming. My openness makes me fun, exciting, and intelligent. There are so many choices-- things to learn and do. And yet, I'm paralyzed by my empathetic nature and this greater self-awareness: wanting to please everyone and myself at the same time that neither seems to happen easily I'm speaking in extremes here, but I feel like I understand myself better."

In school we are taught, 'no two quotes back to back', but we don't follow the all of the rules here. Psychology Today gives a little more perspective:

"While neuroticism has its benefits—such as intelligence, humor, more realistic if 'cynical' expectations, greater self-awareness, drivenness and conscientiousness, lower risk-taking, and a strong need to provide for others—it is also associated with self-criticism, sensitivity to others and social anxiety, moodiness and anxiety, poorer general health, greater day-to-day strain, and strong negative emotional reactions. As a result, neurotic people on average tend to find romantic, personal, and family relationships more effortful and less successful than desired... and generally aren’t as satisfied with life."

I don't believe this is the end all be all trait of why someone may have more difficulty in these areas. Nor should anyone just throw their hands up and call it quits if they are scoring higher in neuroticism. There are so many factors into how someone's life and relationships pan out. It is simply food for thought and is something to use to your advantage. Half the battle is knowing--and you've likely known it before getting the results. Personally, I find it invigorating getting to know each piece of myself and the ebb and flow of topics in mental health studies. We are constantly changing, evolution didn't stop and there's always so much more to learn as we grow as individuals and as a society.

Neuroticism, Empathy, and the HSP

Neuroticism could be a byproduct of being empathetic and/or an HSP (highly sensitive person). I had actually purchased a book about a year ago on the topic of the HSP and consider myself pretty empathetic, Adrian had the same sentiments. I haven't drafted or analyzed the conclusions on the two, check back later for an update!

The Rest of Adrian's Results

By now, you are probably wondering about the other results. They are pretty self explanatory and the graphs are very readable, but look them up with the links I've provided for reference. I will do more analysis on the other traits and how they may or may not be related in the future.  For now, leave a comment and share your thoughts, feelings, or personal experiences. I'd love to have a conversation and you can submit anonymously!

Big Five Personality Traits

  • Slightly less extraverted than the average person
  • Just about average, sometimes less agreeable than the average person
  • A bit more conscientious than the average person
  • and quite a bit more neurotic and open than the average person

Attachment Style

  • Generally preoccupied (anxious) and this time scored higher in fearful-avoidant.
  • Mother - Secure
  • Father - Dismissive-Avoidant
  • Relationship - Preoccupied & Fearful-Avoidant
  • Friendship - Dismissive-Avoidant

Narcissism - NPI Test

  • A bit more narcisstic than the average person, but still in a range with a very large percentage of people.

Subjective Well Being

  • See the last graph below, remember that this is subjective and everyone measures themselves and their successes differently.

Neuroticism & Openness Over Six Surveys

Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness Over Six Surveys

Attachment Styles

Dark Blue - Adrian
Light Blue - Average

Attachment Styles

Key to all relationships in upper right hand corner of graph, yellow square represents overall attachment style.

Narcissism as of 10/15/2020

Red line = Average
Dark purple line = Adrian

Subjective Well Being

This is based on Adrian's perception, general population rates themselves as 2.96.
Interestingly enough, it was above a 3 before the pandemic.


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