Personality Characteristics as Determinants of Coping

Clinicians and researchers alike have examined the role of personality in coping in an attempt to predict and explain which individuals are at risk for experiencing psychological maladjustment. The underlying assumption is that personality can influence how one copes with stress, and coping determines whether stress will have deleterious effects on health and well-being. A consistent set of personality traits have emerged as significant predictors of the ways in which people cope and the impact coping has on their health. The following is a brief summary of the various personality traits that have been empirically related to coping.

The last 50 years have seen a growing interest in the role of personality as measured by the big five personality traits of neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These five factors are believed by many personality researchers to be the five basic underlying dimensions of personality. Researchers have tended to find that neu-roticism (the tendency to experience negative affect) is related to maladaptive coping efforts and poor psychological well-being. In comparison, researchers have tended to find that extraversion (the tendency to be gregarious and to experience positive affect) is related to adaptive coping and better psychological well-being. Individuals high on openness (the tendency to be creative and open to feelings and experiences) remain strong in the face of adversity and are more able to engage in coping that is sensitive to the needs of others. Given that two defining features of openness to experience are originality and creativity, future research may show individuals high on openness to be particularly effective and flexible copers. Those individuals high on agreeableness (the tendency to be good-natured) also appear to cope in an adaptive manner that is sensitive to the needs of others. Individuals high on agreeableness tend to engage in less negative interpersonal coping strategies (e.g., confronting others), more positive interpersonal coping (e.g., seeking social support), and lower levels of maladaptive emotion-focused coping (e.g., escape avoidance). Individuals high on agreeableness may seek to

Coping with Stress avoid additional conflict and distress when coping. Finally, those individuals high on conscientiousness (the tendency to be careful and reliable) have been found to engage in lower levels of maladaptive emotion-focused coping (e.g., escape avoidance) and higher use of problem-focused coping. Individuals high in conscientiousness may seek to engage in the most responsible and constructive forms of coping.

The way in which one anticipates future events has also been established to have an impact on well-being. The tendency to anticipate positive outcomes for the future is referred to as optimism. Carver, Scheier, and others have reported this trait to be associated with both adaptive coping and good mental health. High levels of optimism may lead to higher levels of constructive coping, which in turn reduce distress, making positive expectations highly adaptive. In contrast, pessimistic individuals (those who do not generally anticipate positive future outcomes) tend to use more mal-adaptive coping strategies, which in turn are related to higher levels of both anxiety and depression.

An internal locus of control (i.e., feeling a sense of personal control) over the events and experiences in one's life is often positively related to psychological well-being, whereas an external sense of control (i.e., lacking a sense of personal control and feeling that control over events is external to oneself) is often negatively related to mental health criteria. Research examining locus of control as a stable personality trait has identified several ways in which this trait influences both coping and psychological adjustment. For example, studies have found that an internal locus of control is related to greater use of problem-focused coping. It appears that a belief in one's ability to impact or change events is related to constructive attempts to alter or change aspects of the environment or oneself under times of duress. Given that such problem-focused coping efforts are generally associated with better psychological outcomes, at least when used with stressors that are controllable, an internal locus of control can have beneficial effects upon mental health.

Do Not Panic

Do Not Panic

This guide Don't Panic has tips and additional information on what you should do when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. With so much going on in the world today with taking care of your family, working full time, dealing with office politics and other things, you could experience a serious meltdown. All of these things could at one point cause you to stress out and snap.

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