The nature, diagnosis, and treatment of neuroticism: Back to the future

David H. Barlow, Shannon Sauer-Zavala, Jenna R. Carl, Jacqueline R. Bullis, Kristen K. Ellard

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

558 Scopus citations


We highlight the role of neuroticism in the development and course of emotional disorders and make a case for shifting the focus of intervention to this higher-order dimension of personality. Recent decades have seen great emphasis placed on differentiating disorders into Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnoses; however, evidence has suggested that splitting disorders into such fine categories may be highlighting relatively trivial differences. Emerging research on the latent structure of anxiety and mood disorders has indicated that trait neuroticism, cultivated through genetic, neurobiological, and psychological factors, underscores the development of these disorders. We raise the possibility of a new approach for conceptualizing these disorders-as emotional disorders. From a service-delivery point of view, we explore the possibility that neuroticism may be more malleable than previously thought and may possibly be amenable to direct intervention. The public-health implications of directly treating and even preventing the development of neuroticism would be substantial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-365
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Anxiety disorders
  • Comorbidity
  • Temperament/personality and psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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