Personality and temperament

How are personality and temperament related to PTSD?

Personality and temperament are thought to be relatively stable over time. A maladaptive combination of personality and temperament traits may constitute a risk factor for the development of psychological dysfunctions. 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 to high quality evidence found small relationships between increased PTSD symptoms and increased emotional reactivity and perseveration. There were also small relationships between increased PTSD symptoms and decreased traits of endurance, briskness, activity, and sensory sensitivity.

Alexithymic traits involve having difficulty applying appropriate labels to emotional experiences. There is also difficulty communicating and expressing these experiences and needs to others. It involves a cognitively rigid thinking style that attends to external information over internal information. There was a medium-sized relationship between increased alexithymic traits and increased PTSD symptoms.

There was a large effect of increased PTSD symptoms and increased rumination, which is the tendency to passively focus on emotional distress and its causes and consequences. The associations between rumination and post-traumatic symptom clusters (intrusions, avoidance, hyperarousal, negative and alterations in cognition and mood) were all large.

Interactions with primary caregivers form an infant’s attachment style. These interactions determine a child’s immediate emotional responses to stress and emotion-regulation in later life. There was a medium association between increased PTSD symptoms and increased fearful attachment style. There were small associations between increased symptoms and increased insecure attachment style, increased anxious attachment style, increased avoidant attachment style, and increased preoccupied attachment style. There was no association with dismissing attachment style.

There was a medium-sized effect of more hope and less severe PTSD symptoms. Small to medium-sized effects were found between less PTSD symptoms and more optimism and more general self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to perform specific behaviours), while a large effect was found with more self-efficacy specific to stressful events.

August 2021

Image: ©Marek Uliasz –

Last updated at: 10:40 pm, 7th October 2021
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Fact Sheet Technical Commentary
Tags:  Personality

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