Individual differences in neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness are associated with, and may predict onset of, internalizing disorders. These general traits can be parsed into facets, but there is a surprising paucity of research on facet risk for internalizing disorders. We examined general traits and facets of neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness in predicting first onsets of depressive and anxiety disorders.
A community sample of 550 adolescent females completed general and facet-level personality measures and diagnostic interviews. Interviews were re-administered 18 months later.
First onsets of depressive disorders were predicted by neuroticism, extraversion, and conscientiousness. Facets predicting first onset of depression included depressivity (neuroticism facet) and lower positive emotionality and sociability (extraversion facets). First onsets of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were predicted by neuroticism, and particularly the facet of anxiousness. First onsets of social phobia were predicted at the facet level by anxiousness. First onsets of specific phobia were predicted by neuroticism, low conscientiousness, and all neuroticism facets. In multivariate analyses, first onsets of depression were uniquely predicted by depressivity, and onsets of GAD and social phobia were uniquely predicted by anxiousness over and above the general trait of neuroticism.
General traits predict first onsets of depressive and anxiety disorders. In addition, more specific associations are evident at the facet level. Facets can refine our understanding of the links between personality and psychopathology risk, and provide finer-grained targets for personality-informed interventions.