There are quite a few personality traits common among people who suffer from anxiety, as well as a few traits that can make anxiety worse. It can easily become a question of “which came first?” But when treating the underlying cause of anxiety, all that really matters is that you notice which traits are working for you – and which ones may be getting in the way of your day-to-day life.
“Many people that suffer from anxiety struggle with one or more or a combination of the traits listed [below] making it difficult to relax and acquire a feeling of balance,” Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford, CEO and Founder of Family Matters Counseling Group, tells Bustle.
Perhaps you’d describe yourself as a “perfectionist.” Or maybe you have an intense need for control. If these personality traits start interfering with your life, it can help to adjust your outlook, and seek balance through a healthier lifestyle. “However, if this does not work those that struggle with anxiety are encouraged to seek professional services to manage symptoms related or contributing to anxiety,” Dr. Bates-Duford says. Here are a few traits that often go hand-in-hand with anxiety to keep an eye on, according to the experts.
“The reason [perfectionism] is associated with anxiety, is that wanting things to be perfect is usually implausible in our messy, imperfect world,” Dr. Helen Odessky, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. “If our expectations are perfectionism, we will often fall short and feel anxious about it.”
If you’re already prone to anxiety, wanting things to be perfect is a recipe for disaster. So if you feel like this is spiraling out of control, don’t be afraid to speak with a therapist.
When we overthink, we may feel stuck, EMDR therapist Colette Lopane-Capella, M.A., LMHC, LPC, tells Bustle. And when we get stuck in a pattern of overthinking, it’s all-too-easy for it to lead to “excessive worry and stress, which can evolve to anxiety.”
That’s why, when someone is suffering from an anxiety disorder, one of the first things therapists recommend is a mindfulness practice. “Practicing mindfulness is one way to slow down all these racing thoughts and overthinking, which in [turn] can actually lower levels of heightened stress and anxiety,” Lopane-Capella says. “I often challenge my clients to stop the racing and overwhelming thoughts by keeping a journal to help ground, center, and balance all their thought and ideas.”
Folks with anxiety may be more likely to avoid things that cause them stress, and can make their anxiety worse. But, in a rather annoying catch 22, avoiding these things can also cause anxiety.
“Avoidance is … a personality trait that can be associated with anxiety,” Dr. Odessky says. “Oddly enough, the more we avoid the more anxious we tend to feel; it becomes a vicious cycle. We try to reduce our feelings of anxiety by avoiding, but we inadvertently become more anxious the more we avoid.”
When that happens, speaking with a therapist can be helpful, as they can offer ways to face your fears, and get back out there.
4. Resistance To Change
“Being resistant to change is a personality trait commonly seen in those who have anxiety disorders,” Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer of Elocin Psychiatric Services, PLLC, tells Bustle. Those with anxiety “may find themselves with excessive worry about what the change can mean.” Or they might feel like they’re too anxious to try anything new.
So if you spot this trait in yourself, take note. Anxiety can make it easy to “focus on the potential negative outcomes,” Dr. Washington says. But with therapy, it can be possible to see the positive side of things – and potentially feel less anxious as a result.
If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense why irritability and anxiety may go hand-in-hand. “Many anxiety sufferers experience irritability because it’s exhausting to be in a constant state of worry,” psychotherapist Bianca L. Rodriguez, MA, EdM, LMFT, tells Bustle. “It takes a toll on you emotionally and physically leaving you less equipped to deal with everyday ups and downs. You may find that you need ample time alone as respite from the outside world, which can feel intrusive and agitating.” And it’s definitely OK to take that time to yourself. But if it’s starting to impact your life, or hold you back, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
It’s not uncommon for folks with anxiety to also have a high level of empathy to boot. “People with anxiety are often very tuned in to what others think,” licensed psychologist Dr. Crystal I. Lee tells Bustle. “They’re very empathetic and kind, and this can sometimes contribute to their anxiety.”
Which, again, makes a lot of sense. “Their consideration of what others think and feel can cause them to obsess over social interactions, cause them to feel guilty or embarrassed related to ‘mistakes’ made, or ruminate over hurt feelings,” Dr. Lee says. “And, unfortunately, sometimes their understanding of what others truly think and feel are incorrect – they think things are worse off than they really are.”
Often times, dealing with an issue like anxiety can foster an incredible ability to stick with things – even when you feel like you can’t. “To live and function with anxiety, you have to possess grit and perseverance,” Dr. Lee says. “These individuals face their fears and anxieties day in and day out. Despite the anxious chatter in their brain and physical discomfort, they manage to keep living their lives.”
Folks with anxiety often possess an incredibly eye for detail, and are great employees/friends/partners as a result. “They’re hard workers and want to do a good job,” Dr. Lee says.
But, since anxiety is at the wheel, here, it is possible for this to get out of hand. “Sometimes this conscientiousness goes into overdrive and causes perfectionistic or anxious behavior,” Dr. Lee says. “They might worry that their work is not good enough and continue to revise it until they miss their deadline.”
If you notice any of these traits in yourself, it obviously doesn’t guarantee that you have anxiety. But it can help to see the connection. “If you recognize these traits in yourself and are suffering because of it, reach out to a professional for some support,” Dr. Lee says. “A psychologist or therapist can help you manage traits better so they stop interfering with you living your life to its fullest.” Also, by simply being aware of what can send anxiety into overdrive, it might be possible to keep it under control.