The Effect of Personality on PTSD

Your personality determines whether a stressful situation will affect you in the long run.

By Peter Rebhahn, published on November 1, 2000 - last reviewed on September 10, 2007

It was once called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue" because its
symptoms were first identified in war veterans. But one study suggests
that, whether a veteran of combat or a victim of accident or crime, your
chances of facing the anxiety or depression of post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD) may hinge as much on your personality as on your

Inge Bramsen, a psychologist at Vrije Universiteit in
Amsterdam, tested 572 men who participated in the United Nations
Peacekeeping Force in the former Yugoslavia for PTSD. Men who reported
seeing the highest number of stressful events—shootings or dead
people, for example—showed the most severe symptoms. But those who
rated highest on personality traits such as negativism and paranoia
before deployment also tended to show more signs of PTSD later. A hostile
person may see more personal menace in events than others do, says
Bramsen. An anxious person may also cope with stressful situations less

Bramsen believes that a better understanding of what causes PTSD
might help to protect soldiers and others sent into harm's way. But, "I
think we will never be able to prevent PTSD," she says. "It is a normal
reaction to an abnormal situation."