What exactly is personality? It is defined as enduring characteristics, which include attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, habits, emotions, and behaviors that make you unique. Many theories exist about personality development, but exactly how the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and sociological factors makes us tick is still unknown, and an area of continued study.

In studying anxiety disorders, researchers found that people who develop them share many of the same characteristics in their personalities and labeled them “high anxiety personality types.” Experts believe that having these qualities put an individual at a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Some of these qualities include:

  • High degree of creativity and imagination: Severe anxiety creates worry about what might happen in future situations. If you have this trait, you have a tendency to carry around vivid mental pictures of yourself in frightening situations.

  • Rigid thinking: Seeing the world in terms of black-and-white thinking, with either/or an inflexible right or wrong attitude. This way of thinking leaves no room for the gray areas of life. The person may be uptight, tense, and unforgiving of himself and others.

  • Extreme need for acceptance: Those with low self-esteem need approval from others to feel worthwhile. They are likely to be sensitive to criticism and will do anything for others to avoid rejection. These people also have a tendency to be taken advantage of.

  • Perfectionism: This trait includes: having unrealistic goals that can never be achieved, thus setting yourself up for failure; focusing on minor mistakes or flaws instead of seeing the positive; chronic worry that you said or did the wrong thing; and comparing yourself negatively to others.

  • Need to be in control: Some need to direct and manage life to keep anxious feelings from arising and feel distressed when the unpredictable occurs. These people often appear calm but suffer from inner turmoil, worrying about what might happen, and struggling to control themselves, others, circumstances, and events.

Other high anxiety traits are stifling or burying your feelings because you are afraid that you will either lose control or cause someone to be angry at you. You ignore physical signs of stress, such as feeling depleted, or being in pain, and do not get the rest and relaxation you need.

Having the personality traits listed here is not a sure sign that you will develop an anxiety disorder. In fact, all of us have some of these characteristics, which can be positive in some situations. For example, being detailed oriented, and a hard worker who puts in longhours does not make you a perfectionist. Or wanting to know the outcome of something important does not mean you are a control freak. It's a matter of degree, severity, and how your life is being affected that determines whether these qualities are working for or against you.


Personality disorders differ from personality traits. They are defined as ingrained, inflexible widespread patterns of behavior that deviate from cultural norms and cause severe distress and impairment in the individual's personal and occupational life. Examples of personality disorders are obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

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