Researchers explore the personality traits of people with social anxiety disorder

In many patients with social anxiety disorder, the personality traits exhibited are almost unique to the condition, with introversion and emotional instability considered hallmark traits, new research finds.

According to the findings, published in PLOS One, social anxiety is strongly correlated with personality, which is generally characterized by five dimensions: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness.

In the study, 265 patients with social anxiety disorder were instructed to complete personality instruments, like the NEO Personality Inventory. They were then examined alongside a group of healthy participants.

The results showcased a variation in personality traits, with high neuroticism and introversion regarded as the most prevalent. The study’s co-authors listed three personality groups based on their findings of the patients.

In the first group, with prototypical social anxiety, 33 percent of all the participants were considered to be highly anxious and introverted. Among the second group, with introvert-conscientious social anxiety, 29 percent were described as being very introverted, with moderate levels of anxiety and high conscientiousness. And in the third group, with unstable-open social anxiety disorder, 38 percent had near-normal levels of extraversion but had high openness compared to others.

“Social anxiety disorder can come in different forms, presenting problems for diagnostic classification,” according to the study’s co-authors. “Significant group differences in personality traits between patients and controls were noted on all Big Five dimensions except agreeableness.”

“Personality assessment could assist in treatment planning and response prediction, for example by informing on individual strengths and vulnerabilities that bear impact on the choice of psychotherapeutic techniques, pharmacological agents or their combination,” the study concluded.

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