Personality Types Prone to Depression: Which One Are You?

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

Are there personality types that are more prone to depression? There are also no studies that conclusively prove that having a certain type of personality will cause depression. The best we can say is that there is sometimes an association between certain personality traits and mood disorders.

Here are three personality types possibly more at risk for developing depression. Remember that when it comes to personality traits, everyone is on a continuum. It is rare that any individual will be on the extreme end of any personality scale.

The isolated introvert

Although you enjoy the company of some carefully chosen others, you often crave alone time and even isolation to re-group and re-energize. Too much socializing with others can leave you feeling emotionally drained. You may experience social anxiety or even panic attacks related to social exposure. You much prefer the company of one person as opposed to being in a group. You are seldom bored because you have so many things going on inside your head to occupy your attention. Your tendency to stay in your head and your avoidance of social situations can make it difficult for anyone to try to help you if you become depressed. You may openly resist efforts to get you to reach out and communicate with others when you are feeling down.

What the literature says:

There are quite a few studies which show that introverts suffer more from depression than our more extraverted counterparts. For example, Dr. David S. Janowsky of the University of North Carolina conducted a study where he found a preponderance of introverts (74 percent) in a depressed population. And in a 2001 article in Current Psychiatry Reports, Dr. Janowsky cites scientific research to support his conclusion that increased introversion predicts the persistence of depressive symptoms and a lack of remission.

Goal for this personality type:

Since greater isolation can deepen an already existing depressive episode, it is critical that despite your introverted tendencies, you do seek out support and human connection. A trusted therapist can help you learn how to develop and sustain interpersonal relationships with others.

The overachieving perfectionist

Your greatest wish is to be perfect in some way. You may have learned to be a perfectionist by one of your parents. You are highly self-critical and intolerant of making any mistakes. You take every criticism to heart and turn it into a personal affront. You beat yourself up for never being good enough despite doing your best, even to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. Self-esteem is highly conditional upon external measures. You have much anxiety over what others may think of you and your possible imperfections. You constantly suffer from disappointment as life seldom lives up to your lofty expectations.

What the literature says:

The personality trait of perfectionism has been linked to both anxiety and depression. A 2004 Seattle Times article entitled, "Study Finds Perfectionists at Higher Risk for an Array of Problems" examines the association between perfectionism and mental problems including depression. The fact that this type of personality seldom experiences life satisfaction is one key ingredient leading to anxiety and depression. In addition to depression, some researchers believe that perfectionism is also linked to eating disorders, marital discord, and suicide.

Goal for this personality type:

The motivation to be perfect can be a great source of anxiety and stress that can put you at more risk for developing depression. It can help to adjust your expectations to a more reasonable and achievable level. A therapist can assist you in developing realistic measures of life satisfaction and success. Acceptance of imperfections and forgiving yourself for making mistakes are signs of progress in improving your mental health.

The daydreaming creative type

You have always been described as creative by others. You are a natural dreamer and have extremely vivid fantasies and daydreams. Your flights of fancy may distract you from finding focus in your life and even disrupt your relationships. You tend to turn inward to develop your creative gifts. You may be considered hypersensitive, highly observant. You engage in constant contemplation and rumination. You may be a poet, writer, musician, painter, or be in the performing arts. Many creative individuals have multiple talents or pursue several artistic goals at once. Depression is not an uncommon malady for creative folk. Bipolar Disorder has also been highly associated with the trait of creativity.

What the literature says:

There are many articles and studies which suggest a strong link between creativity and mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder. In a CNN article entitled, "Experts Ponder Link Between Creativity, Mood Disorders" the prose of author David Foster Wallace is given as an example of creativity linked to depression. Wallace had taken his life in the fall of 2008, surprising many, because he had achieved such literary success with his novel Infinite Jest, declared by Time magazine as one of the all-time 100 greatest novels.

Kay Redfield Jamison, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University who wrote her personal memoir of living with bipolar disorder with An Unquiet Mind, substantiates the link between mood disorders and creativity. In the CNN article she reports that there have been more than 20 different studies showing an increased rate of bipolar and depressive illnesses in highly creative people.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also supports this link between creativity and mood disorders. They cite research, for example, that poets and writers are four times more likely than others to suffer from affective disorders. They also list famous people from all artistic venues who have battled either depression or bipolar disorder, ranging from Sylvia Plath to Kurt Cobain.

Goal for this type of personality:

Artistic talent is a true gift which can provide a meaningful and life-transcending outlet for the expression of emotional joy and pain. The creative type may have to find balance in developing their gift and maintaining emotional stability.

Individuals having bipolar disorder, in particular, may feel that their times of mania are necessary for their artistic endeavors. It can be a hard thing to give up if they believe that their creativity is inspired or fueled by this elevation in energy and mood. Support from a therapist or mental health professional can help this individual to achieve the balance necessary to keep out of danger resulting from peaking too high into mania or sinking too low into the depths of suicidal ideation.

Anne Windermere
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Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."