Neuroticism is similar but not identical to being neurotic in the Freudian sense. Some psychologists prefer to call neuroticism by the term emotional stability to differentiate it from the term neurotic.
Emotional stability refers to a person’s ability to remain stable and balanced. At the other end of the scale, a person who is high in neuroticism has a tendency to easily experience negative emotions.
High score in neuroticism means that a person is more sensitive to perceived threats than others. He/she is also more likely to experience intense emotions like anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness compared to the general population. Emotional instability or emotional sensitivity are some other terms that we could use to describe neuroticism.
- Experiences a lot of stress
- Worries about many different things
- Gets upset easily
- Experiences dramatic shifts in mood
- Feels anxious
- Struggles to bounce back after stressful events
- Emotionally stable
- Deals well with stress
- Rarely feels sad or depressed
- Doesn’t worry much
- Is very relaxed
Facets of Neuroticism
The sub traits of the neuroticism/emotional stability trait are:
- Anxiety (worry about thing, fear for the worse, easily get stressed out)
- Anger/hostility (easily gat angry or irritated, lose their temper, often in a bad mood)
- Depression (often feel blue, dislike themselves, feel that their life lacks direction)
- Self-consciousness (afraid to draw attention to themselves, stumble over their words)
- Immoderation (don’t know why they do some of the things they do, often eat too much)
- Vulnerability (easily panic, become overwhelmed by events)
Individuals high in emotional stability are stable and calm
People who score high in emotional stability (low in neuroticism) react less emotionally and are less easily upset. They tend to be emotionally stable, calm, and do not constantly experience negative feelings. The fact that these individuals are free from experiencing negative feelings does not mean that they experience a lot of positive feelings. The latter is attributed to the extroversion trait.
Individuals high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive
People who score high in neuroticism are very emotionally reactive. They will have an emotional response to events that would not affect most people. A high scorer in neuroticism on a personality test has a greater chance of feeling threatened or being in a bad mood in a normal situation. They may find it difficult to think clearly and cope with stress.
Careers and neuroticism/emotional stability trait
A person who has a high level of emotional stability is preferred in most professions because they have more control over their emotions at work. Employees with low emotional stability may be more easily distracted from their work, by deadlines, personal situations, and pressure.
High neuroticism ratings are associated with risk of mental illness and worse outcomes, on average, on measures of health and relationship satisfaction. However, it can be argued that neuroticism exists because it provided advantages (such as sensitivity to threats) over the course of humanity’s evolution.
How to Cope 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.
Is there anything someone can do to make themselves less neurotic? Research suggests 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 naturally becomes less neurotic over time or not, however, there are steps one can take to better cope with neuroticism.
As a personality trait, neuroticism represents a relatively stable way of feeling and being — but a proneness to worry and distress can still be recognized and improved. Psychotherapy and mindfulness practices are among the tools that may help someone better cope with distress and even dial down their levels of neuroticism.
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