The interface of personality traits and anxiety disorders

O. Joseph Bienvenu, Mina Brandes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Anxiety disorders are strongly related to normally distributed personality traits such as neuroticism, as well as personality disorder traits (avoidant and dependent traits in particular). This article presents a heuristic tool for physicians to consider how personality traits may relate etiologically to anxiety disorders as risk factors, complications, and results of common underlying etiologies. Current evidence suggests that high neuroticism (a general tendency to experience negative emotions) frequently precedes the onset of anxiety disorders, but it is unclear whether this trait is itself a risk factor for anxiety disorders or is purely a result of genetic factors that also influence risk for anxiety disorders. Also, there is some evidence that it is difficult to get an accurate sense of a person's long-term personality traits during the acute phase of an anxiety disorder (at least panic disorder); that is, acute states may exaggerate a patient's personality vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, clinicians should consider high neuroticism and avoidant and dependent traits at least as markers of risk for initial and comorbid anxiety (and depressive) disorders. The article also discusses the gross overgeneralized claim that extremes of all personality traits associated with anxiety disorders adversely affect their response to treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-39
Number of pages5
JournalPrimary Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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