The state effect of depressive and anxiety disorders on big five personality traits

J Psychiatr Res. 2012 May;46(5):644-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.01.024. Epub 2012 Feb 18.


Background: Neuroticism and extraversion are affected by depressive disorder state. Less is known about depressive state effects on conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness. Furthermore, state effects of anxiety disorders on personality have been far less studied than those of depressive disorder. Here, we aim to determine the extent of change in all five personality traits associated with the occurrence of or recovery from depressive and anxiety disorders.

Methods: Using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) at baseline and two-year follow-up, respondents from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) were divided into four groups: unaffected at baseline and follow-up, occurrence, recovery, and affected at baseline and follow-up. Personality change (NEO-five factor inventory) was examined in the occurrence and recovery groups relative to the unaffected and affected groups, respectively. Analyses were repeated, differentiating between (specific) depressive and anxiety disorders.

Results: We found small state effects of affective disorders on neuroticism, extraversion and conscientiousness. Corrected for each other, both depressive and anxiety disorders showed small state effects on neuroticism, but effects on extraversion and conscientiousness were mainly associated with depressive disorders.

Conclusions: State effects were small. When assessing neuroticism, the presence of both depressive and anxiety disorders should be taken into account, as both may independently increase neuroticism scores. However, when assessing extraversion and conscientiousness, depressive disorders but not anxiety disorders are likely to be of influence. Agreeableness and openness are influenced by neither.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Extraversion, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personality*