Defining who a person is by the state of their mental health isn’t the best thing to do. However, one’s personality is tied to the risk of certain mental health concerns.
In research by King’s College London, researchers found that an accurate personality test can tell a lot more about a person’s potential mental health than an actual clinical test. Shortening a 172-item personality test called the Trait Self-Description Inventory (TSDI) to 50 questions, researchers administered is to a sample of 8500 participants. Alongside it, they tested participants for mood disorders and depressive symptoms with their respective tests.
The TSDI is based on the classic, and most accepted personality model: The Five-Factor Model. It assesses personality across five primary traits: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Upon reaching the end, participants receive an individualized profile with more information about their personalities.
So how do these personality traits relate to mental health?
Much research has shown that scores on each of these traits are highly correlated with risks of certain mental health conditions. This study itself confirms that hypothesis. For example, those who have a high neuroticism score and are lower in extraversion were more likely to score higher on the mental health tests, particularly that of depression. While this doesn’t mean all people with that profile have depression, it may signify a higher risk than average. In other words, the TSDI proves to be a sound way to assess and detect risk for certain mental health conditions.
The question is: Why not just use the mental illness tests to figure out one’s mental health issues?
An interesting thing happens when one takes such a test. Usually, they may react negatively if they affirm that their answers skew towards the possibility of the mental illness in question. For example, if someone scores in the upper range of depression or anxiety tests, they may feel as though their responses confirm their diagnosis. Unfortunately, that in itself may lead to worse symptoms.
With a personality test, it becomes possible to test one’s vulnerability to mental disorders without influencing their own perceptions of their mental health. It produces more accurate self responses.
Overall, mental health is a facet of our personalities insomuch that certain traits may open us to chances to develop symptoms of a mood disorder. Otherwise, neither personality nor one’s mental health is permanent or set in stone in our genes.