Anxiety disorders can be as diverse as the people they affect. How anxiety looks and feels for one person can be very different from how it looks and feels for another. Part of the reason for this difference is that anxiety can, in some ways, be related to an individual’s personality.
For some people, anxiety is like a pinch that prompts them to do something they’ve been avoiding; while for others, it was a great terror. For many, the experience of anxiety falls somewhere in between these extremes.
Potential explanations for what causes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) also vary. While biological explanations are usually the center of attention, the researchers found that how we experience anxiety may also be related to our learning style in dealing with our feelings and the world around us.
Here’s what you should know about how your personality can affect the way you experience anxiety, as well as some tips on how to deal with it.
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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A person with generalized anxiety disorder experiences persistent, excessive, and intrusive worry. Some people develop GAD during childhood while others have no symptoms until they are adults. Regardless of when it started, people often experience GAD as a lifelong condition. It’s also not uncommon to co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as mood disorders.
Often, anxiety disorders (including GAD) can be managed with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Certain lifestyle changes, coping skills, and relaxation techniques may also benefit some people with GAD.
There are many possible symptoms of GAD. Some people will experience most of them while others will only experience a few. Some of your anxiety symptoms may be mild and easy enough for you to cope with, while others may be intense and even make it difficult for you to function in daily life.
Symptoms you may have if you have generalized anxiety include:
- Bringing each option in a given situation to a possible conclusion (negative)
- Difficulty concentrating or a feeling that your mind is “blank”
- Difficulty dealing with uncertainty or indecision
- Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
- Inability to relax, restless, and feeling “excited” or “restless”
- Inability to put aside or let go of worries
- Persistent worry or obsession with minor or major worries that are disproportionate to the impact of the event
- Worrying about worrying too much
Anxiety isn’t “all in your head.” Many people also feel anxiety in their bodies. Some people have physical signs and symptoms of anxiety, such as:
- Easily surprised
- Gastrointestinal disturbances (such as nausea and diarrhea)
- Muscle tension or muscle pain
- Trembling or feeling “convulsive”
- Hard to sleep
The Link Between Personality and Anxiety
Mental health conditions such as anxiety are usually multifactorial—meaning that there is not just one cause, but usually many, that contribute. It is believed that biological and genetic influences can have a strong influence on conditions such as anxiety, but mental health professionals are also likely to find that it is worth exploring how a person first learns to deal with the world to uncover additional contributing factors.
For example, if a person is taught (either directly or indirectly) that feelings of anxiety tend to drive them to produce successful outcomes or that it is a “default” feeling to experience, then anxiety can easily become part of their disposition. This will then affect how they deal with work, relationships, and other aspects of their lives.
In this sense, anxiety can be thought of as a personality trait or even a personality style. On the other hand, research has also shown that having certain personality traits (including social inhibition, emotional instability, and introversion) can make a person more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
Nature of Anxiety Vs. National Emergency
Researchers sometimes use the terms “traital anxiety” and “state anxiety” when they discuss the influence of personality on mental health. For example, a person who has an anxiety trait may feel anxious more frequently and more intensely than a person who does not. State anxiety, on the other hand, is when a person feels anxious about a particular situation they are in—it is a temporary “state” of anxiety as opposed to the persistent nature of anxiety.
How Different Personality Types Handle Anxiety
Everyone, regardless of the underlying personality type, experiences anxiety at one time or another. However, a person’s personality can influence how anxiety is perceived by them as well as how they deal with it.
While there is a great deal of variation in personality and no two people are exactly alike in how they experience and respond to the world, there are four personality categories that are often discussed. These types are on a spectrum that most people can find somewhere—even if they’re a bit “in the middle” than at one end or the other.
These are just a few general examples of how certain personality traits or dispositions can affect how you experience anxiety and how you deal with it.
There is more variation in personality than type A or type B and introversion or extroversion, but these are the four categories that most people are familiar with and can give an idea of how personality can affect the experience of anxiety.
People with “type A” personalities are generally described as high achievers, competitive, organized, ambitious, and (sometimes) impatient and aggressive. Some psychology researchers use the terms “neurotic” or “neuroticism” to describe the behaviors and tendencies of people with type A personalities.
People with type A personalities are often described as “workaholics.” In some cases, being under pressure or stress motivates people with this personality type—though, at the same time, research has shown that this personality type is more likely to experience work-related stress than the other types, and that may not be the case. satisfied with their work (even if they are successful or accomplished).
When under stress, Type A personalities may be more likely than other personality types to engage in self-injurious behavior, such as procrastination or poor lifestyle habits. In a sense, when type A personalities become overwhelmed, they can “disturb their own way” if their anxiety gets out of control.
Research has found that Type A personalities are more likely to develop stress-related illnesses than other types. risk This risk is believed to be a direct consequence of their dominant emotions, behavior, and coping mechanisms, which tend to increase their levels of stress hormones. their body.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the highly alert, high-stress, and highly alert type A are the “type B” personalities who are relaxed, low-stress, and less competitive. In almost every way the opposite of Type A, Type B personalities tend to get on with their work and often succeed without focusing too much on achievement or “winning.”
Type B’s report less stress in all areas of their life—not just at work—and tend to be more tolerant and patient with those around them than Type A’s. However, it’s not always rosy for Type Bs. Several studies have found that they more likely to have a substance use disorder than type A.
Research also shows that the core difference between Type A and Type B is how they define success—which, for many, can be linked to feelings of anxiety. Probably because they are inherently more competitive, Type A personalities tend to have higher criteria for defining what it means to be successful than Type Bs.
As they work toward achievement, Type A’s have been found to use strategies that allow them to internalize success while externalizing failure (in other words, placing the blame for failure on external factors rather than seeing it as a reflection of themselves) more than Type B’s.
When under stress, Type B personalities were also found to be more likely to take preventive measures or preventative measures compared to Type A personalities.
Introverts vs. Ekstroversi
The main difference between introvert and extrovert lies in one’s preference for being energized.
An introvert needs some alone time to “recharge” away from social activities, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t like being around other people.
On the other hand, extroverts get their energy from being around other people—though that doesn’t mean they never want to be alone.
Introverts tend to need alone time to process their experiences of themselves and the world around them. When they are under a lot of pressure, being forced into a social environment can be very challenging and exhausting.
Introverts need to have time away from others to reflect, recharge, and potentially even reframe their feelings, perceptions, experiences, and thoughts. If they don’t get this time (or not enough), they tend to not function optimally.
When overwhelmed by a stressor or source of conflict, introverts are more likely to use avoidance coping mechanisms than extroverts. While stepping back from a stressful event may provide some short-term relief, it doesn’t tend to be an effective way to deal with it.
However, research also shows that introverted personalities often report that they frequently contact mental health professionals or engage in healthy behaviors to relieve their stress, such as exercise.
Extroverted people find that being around other people gives them energy. They found that engaging in social activities was critical to their experiences of themselves, the world, and their relationships with those around them.
If extroverts are isolated from other people, it may be difficult for them to get what they need to process experiences and feelings. If they are under a lot of pressure, having too much time alone or not being able to reach out and be with others can make it much more difficult for them to function.
Research has found that extroverts tend to relax more easily than introverts. Several studies have hypothesized that the neural structure of an extrovert’s brain is “hard-wired” to relax more quickly from an aroused state than an introvert’s — which can be especially helpful in times of stress.
Extroverts are also more likely to face problems than introverts, and while this can of course lead to conflict, addressing the source of stress can also be a healthy coping mechanism.
While personality can influence how stress feels to you and what coping methods are effective, there are other variables as well. Research has also found that gender, gender, age, intelligence, experience, and other elements of who you are as an individual shape your stress response.
For example, how likely you are to take risks, how comfortable you are with uncertainty, how open you are to new experiences (and how often you seek them out), and how conscientious you are about others can also influence your response to anxiety.
When An Emergency Is Not an Emergency
Sometimes, other emotions are disguised as anxiety, or anxiety is experienced in place of another emotion. Three of the most common feelings anxiety can mask are anger, guilt, and sadness. For example, for many people, anxiety is part of their fear response.
If a person has feelings that are uncomfortable or difficult to express, these emotions can also turn into anxiety. Many people struggle to absorb, process, express, and understand these feelings and respect their intentions (to express displeasure, apologize, accept loss, etc.). Instead, a person may become focused on (and anxious about) certain aspects of a situation (such as every detail of how an upcoming event will go).
In reality, being busy and worrying about the finer details of something that causes one’s anxiety is not as important as addressing the underlying feelings—however messy, difficult, and uncomfortable they may be.
What You Can Do
If you are experiencing a flurry of emotions and anxiety (which includes some people with GAD), the first step is to look within yourself to find out what feelings the anxiety is masking.
Then, you also need to find out whether certain aspects of your personality (including learned behavior and poor coping mechanisms) are contributing to the confusion and whether these are things you can (and are ready to) work on or not.
These two goals are often part of GAD treatment. If they resonate with you, it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider or mental health professional about how you can manage your anxiety.
There are a variety of treatment modalities for anxiety disorders, and some of them may be of more interest to you than others. Developing an understanding of how certain aspects of your personality can affect your anxiety can help you choose a method to try. Discuss your unique traits, tendencies, and preferences with your provider as you consider various options for treating your anxiety.