Life with Neuroticism

I scored in the 92nd percentile on neuroticism on the Big 5 personality test. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but this score was a bit too extreme.

92nd percentile. I was among the top neurotics who ever attempted the test.

Intrigued, I took similar tests on other websites.

80th percentile. 88th percentile.

I was scoring pretty high on these tests. So, I did a bit of reading.

The Big 5 test, or the OCEAN test, or the Five Factor Model (FFM) test is a metric that rates various aspects of your personality into 5 broad factors – Openness to Experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.


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I’ll go over it quickly


    1. Openness to Experiences is your willingness to explore and having it in yourself to enjoy things outside of your comfort zone


  • Conscientiousness is a measure of how well you listen to yourself, and your accountability to yourself
  • Extraversion determines your gregariousness, if you consider others important to your happiness, and what you derive from company
  • Agreeableness determines your ability to be compassionate, if you put others’ needs before yours
  • Neuroticism is a measure of the effect of unfavourable conditions on your mood and your stress-levels.


I’ll elaborate. In the style of cheap personality tests and BuzzFeed-like clickbait, I’ll write a bunch of sentences, what you feel about them, you must retain in your head.

Rainy cloud over unwell businessman in office

Image Source: CNN

If I text my friend and she doesn’t reply immediately, it’s probably because I did something.

Overthinking is second nature to me.

I get tense really quickly.

I am easy to stress out.

I always have something to be worried about.

If I don’t constantly worry about something, it is bound to screw up in some way.

I frequently feel blue.

My boyfriend/girlfriend will be the first to break up with me.

It’s not as simple as saying, “If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these sentences, you’re probably neurotic.” Most people face bouts or prolonged periods of negativity, but what classifies as neuroticism is if the mindset specified above has somehow found itself in your daily life. If you automatically decide to blame yourself even before you know the full side of the story, you might probably have some degree of neuroticism.

As far as I know, neurotics aren’t portrayed glamorously in the media. I don’t have many instances in Indian media, but think Chicken Little, or Woody Allen in Manhattan, or Woody Allen in Bananas, or Woody Allen in Annie Hall, or Woody Allen. Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother, Ross Geller from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, basically any great nerd on TV can be diagnosed with neuroticism to some extent.

As far as neurotic women go, I don’t have many ready examples, but think Annie from Bridesmaids, Holly Golightly (in a few scenes), from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the titular Annie Hall from Annie Hall, and Iris Simpkins from The Holiday.

Agreed, pop culture has decreed neuroticism as a pretty uncool mental state of mind. All the hot guys have either amnesia or are psychopathic, and all the ladies are well-adjusted people from Planet Babe.

Neuroticism is characterized by low self-esteem, some self-pity, and some variants also come with victimization and aggression in unfavourable situations. Potential factors can be constant pressure to do well, letting society’s expectations of you get to you, or if your expectations of people don’t match with what they can offer you. Some severe neurotics tend to act out when they are denied things, and their self-deprecation only gets worse when people say no to them.


All this being said, there is a slight silver lining to the cloud. All this over thinking has led to this Zen place of hyper awareness, where you are easily aware of everyone else. Being generally mistrustful of people makes you less susceptible to being taken for a ride, and helps you out in relationships too, where your partner earns your trust, as opposed to blindly being led by their good graces, only to be let down later on.

Decision-making will be a rewarding experience, because each choice will have been analyzed a minimum of 971 times, worst-case scenarios will have been evaluated before the decision is made, owing to a greater sense of owning up to mistakes, and more happiness, if it turns out to be good. (Notice how I put the bad scenario first. This is what I meant by neuroticism being a palpable element in the brain)

This constant self-analysis is a tool for perfection and betterment. Most neurotics think before they talk, which, in my opinion is better than going in, guns blazing. (Looking at you, Donald. Staring hard, and cold at you.)  Neurotics can learn to channel this worry in a positive way, by caring for themselves more. By worrying about one’s health, social standing, intelligence, and interpersonal relationships, your neuroses can help in fine-tuning the kinks in life.

I am yet to personally improve myself, but I am definitely working towards channeling my neuroses into increased conscientiousness. I worry I will fail at life, so I worry myself into doing a good job at work. I worry my friends will abandon me, so I put myself out there and connect with them, I initiate conversations, I make plans to go out to lunch and dinner.

I am yet to reap the benefits of what I sow, but if shit hits the fan, I have a Plan B for my Plan B.

The optimist invented the airplane, and the pessimist, the parachute.


-Sanjana Mahesh