Individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) have markedly different personality traits to the general population, with emotional instability and introversion being hallmarks, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE.
The study included 265 patients with SAD and 164 healthy controls in Sweden who were identified using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP).
There were significant group differences in personality traits between patients and controls on all Big Five dimensions except agreeableness. Group differences were also noted on most lower-order facets of NEO-PI-R, and nearly all KSP variables.
However, a logistic regression analysis showed that only neuroticism and extraversion remained significant independent predictors when controlling for the effects of the other Big Five dimensions.
Only neuroticism and extraversion yielded large effect sizes when SAD patients were compared to Swedish normative data for the NEO-PI-R.
Three separate clusters were identified: prototypical (33%), introvert-conscientious (29%), and instable-open (38%) SAD. Individuals in the prototypical cluster different most on the Big Five dimensions.
“While additional studies are needed to determine if personality subtypes in SAD differ in aetiological and treatment-related factors, the present results demonstrate considerable personality heterogeneity in socially anxious individuals, further underscoring that SAD is a multidimensional disorder," the authors said.