Neurotic People May Suffer From One Deadly Physical Symptom

Neuroticism is a personality trait characterized by a predisposition towards negative emotions, such as stress, fear, anger and guilt.

It is also a key causative factor for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and is often associated with high blood pressure. However, until recently, it was not clear as to whether neuroticism caused high blood pressure or vice versa.

Neurotic man looking anxious
Stock image of a man looking anxious. Neuroticism predisposes people to mood disorders and anxiety. SIphotography/Getty

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have hypertension, defined as a blood pressure at or above 130/80 mmHg. Only one in four adults with hypertension have their condition under control.

Blood pressure is taken in two readings: the first is systolic, which represents the pressure in blood vessels when the heart contracts; the second is diastolic, which is the pressure in the vessels when the heart relaxes between contractions. Both readings have important implications for overall physical and mental health.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and strokes and was responsible for more than 670,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2020 alone, but it is also inextricably linked to mental health and personality disorders.

A new study, published in the journal General Psychiatry, has found that high diastolic blood pressure is likely to cause neurotic personality traits.

Whether you have high or low blood pressure is partly determined by your DNA. Therefore, the researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Shanghai Children's Medical Center set out to determine whether there was a causal link between genetic variants associated with high blood pressure and neurotic personality traits.

The analysis found that high diastolic blood pressure specifically was significantly associated with neuroticism, though it did not affect anxiety, depression or subjective wellbeing alone.

Neuroticism is associated with a range of health problems, from heart disease to immune system disruption, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Therefore, effectively managing high diastolic blood pressure may improve the neuroticism-induced symptoms for these conditions.

The study was conducted using data from patients with European ancestry, and it is possible that genes associated with high diastolic blood pressure could also be involved in mediating neuroticism. Further studies, based on a wider cohort of individuals, will be needed to confirm this effect.

Is there a health issue that's worrying you? Do you have a question about neuroticism? Let us know via health@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.


References:

Cai L., Liu Y., He L. Investigating genetic causal relationships between blood pressure and anxiety, depressive symptoms, neuroticism and subjective well-being. General Psychiatry, November 21, 2022, doi:10.1136/ gpsych-2022-100877