New Study: oral anti-depression protocols won’t lighten a person’s mood until they brighten his or her personality

A new study suggests that oral anti-depression protocols won’t lighten a person’s mood until they brighten his or her personality—two personality traits that predispose people to depression must be affected first. They are high neuroticism* and low extraversion**, both of which have been linked to depression. As measured on a standard personality questionnaire, high neuroticism involves  . . .

. . . a tendency to experience negative emotions and emotional instability. Low extraversion refers to a lack of sociability, assertiveness and upbeat feelings. Both of these personality traits have been linked to the action of a chemical messenger in the brain called serotonin.

Depressed patients taking serotonin enhancing medication have reported much greater change in these traits, as accessed via scores on personality tests, than patients given placebo pills. The difference was notable even after accounting for the extent to which each treatment diminished standard measures of depression, says psychologist Tony Tang of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Patients who experienced especially pronounced personality change during four months of serotonin enhancement protocols displayed a particularly low depression relapse rate over the next year of treatment, Tang’s team reports in the December Archives of General Psychiatry. In other words, the Northwestern University team found that people taking the antidepressants became more outgoing and suffered much less emotional instability. They were also less likely to have a relapse in depression and may also be less vulnerable to other mental problems such as anxiety or eating disorders.

Do you count things? 

When you enter a room, do you assume everyone is looking at you?

Do yes and no ever just mean yes and no?

How many phobias would you say you have?

Do you lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering what it all means, whether it has some purpose, whether you left the refrigerator open?

*Neuroticism is an enduring tendency to experience negative emotional states. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than the average to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, guilt, and clinical depression. They respond more poorly to environmental stress, and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification. Neuroticism is related to emotional intelligence, which involves emotional regulation, motivation, and interpersonal skills. It is also considered to be a predisposition for traditional neuroses, such as phobias and other anxiety disorders.Neuroticism may produce unhappiness, but it is different sort of unhappiness than that caused by having spent oneself to the verge of bankruptcy, having alienated friends by habitual deception, or having lost one’s job by embezzlement. The unhappy neurotic isn’t unhappy as a result of immorality, incompetence, or foolishness.  His or her unhappiness is a product of genetic makeup or experiences. It’s not the sort of unhappiness that has the useful function of letting us know we are living our lives in a flawed or disordered manner. Compared to non-neurotics, neurotics report more times of feeling  unhappy.  However, they are no different from their sanguine counterparts in the amount of time they feel very happy.  So they travel back and forth between highs and lows, whereas the non-neurotics reside almost exclusively in positive or neutral territory.  Just as the sun seems brighter after a few days of rain, I imagine that the neurotics’ times of joy are more prized than such times in the lives of those who know nothing besides happiness. A study reported in the journal Psychological Science concluded that people with ‘neurotic tendencies’ are more stressed out by uncertain feedback than they are by unambiguous negative feedback. For example . . . Let’s say you are having your in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner and you really want them to like you. And let’s say, for the sake of the discussion, that they don’t like you—they don’t like your clothes, your personality, or your cooking. Would you rather have your mother-in-law tell you straight-out that she doesn’t like you, or would you rather have no idea whether she likes you or not? According to this study, the answer depends in part on whether or not you are ‘neurotic’. People with ‘neurotic tendencies’ in the study preferred certain bad news over uncertainty, at least as measured in the study.

Neuroticism and geography. Neuroticism, along with other personality traits, has been mapped across states in the USA. People in eastern states such as New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi tend to score high on neuroticism, whereas people in many western states, such as Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Oregon, and Arizona score lower on average. People in states that are higher in neuroticism also tend to have higher rates of heart disease and lower life expectancy. Why would there be a difference? Is it genetic drift? Some conditions, for example schizophrenia, tend to concentrate in cities; there are more support services available, and it is probably easier to be ‘homeless’ in a big city than in rural parts of the country… so over time the genes for schizophrenia tend to be more prevalent in people who live in cities. But why would ‘neurotics’ favor the east coast? Please feel free to enter your opinion into the comments area below.


All five factors show an influence from both heredity and environment. Twin studies suggest that these effects contribute in roughly equal proportion. An analysis of the available studies found overall heritability’s for the Big Five traits as follows:

Openness: 57%

Extraversion: 54%

Conscientiousness: 49%

Neuroticism: 48%

Agreeableness: 42%