Personality and temperament

How are personality and temperament related to risk of PTSD?

Personality and temperament are thought to be relatively stable over time. One of the main personality models includes five traits of; 1) neuroticism: vulnerability to emotional instability and self-consciousness, 2) extraversion: predisposition towards sociability, assertiveness, and social interaction, 3) openness: cognitive disposition to new experiences, creativity, and aesthetics, 4) agreeableness: tendency towards being sympathetic, trusting, and altruistic, and 5) conscientiousness: tendency towards dutifulness and competence.

A maladaptive combination of personality and temperament traits may constitute a risk factor for the development of psychological dysfunctions. Moreover, temperament traits are considered one of the most important moderators of the relationship between stress and psychopathology.

What is the evidence regarding personality and temperament in people with PTSD?

Moderate quality evidence found personality risk factors associated with PTSD following a burn injury were high neuroticism, low openness, and low narcissism.

Moderate to high quality evidence found small increases in PTSD symptoms with high-arousal temperament traits of emotional reactivity and perseveration. Decreased low-arousal temperament traits of endurance, briskness, activity, and sensory sensitivity were also associated with PTSD symptoms. There was a medium-sized increase in PTSD symptoms with alexithymic traits. These involves difficulties applying appropriate labels to emotional experiences, difficulty communicating and expressing emotional experiences and needs to others, and a cognitively rigid thinking style that attends to external information over internal information.

There was a large increase in PTSD symptoms associated with rumination. Rumination is the tendency to passively focus on emotional distress and its causes and consequences. This association was found with all PTSD symptom clusters of intrusions, avoidance, hyperarousal, and negative thoughts and mood.

There were medium-sized effects between increased PTSD symptoms and increased fearful attachment style. Small associations were found between more symptoms and insecure attachment style, anxious attachment style, avoidant attachment style, and preoccupied attachment style. There was no association with dismissing attachment style. Attachment style is formed in childhood through infant interactions with their primary caregiver. These interactions determine a child’s immediate emotional responses to stress and emotion-regulation in later life.

Medium-sized reductions in PTSD symptoms was associated with more hope. Small to medium-sized reductions in PTSD symptoms was associated with more optimism and more self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is belief in one’s ability to perform specific behaviours.

August 2021

Image: ©Marek Uliasz –

Last updated at: 1:54 am, 12th October 2021
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Fact Sheet Technical Commentary
Tags:  Personality

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