Is There A Neuroticism Test? How Experts Measure Neuroticism

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you are prone to anxiety, self-consciousness, depression, or emotional reactivity, it may sometimes be difficult to navigate life’s challenges and maintain a sense of stability and balance. These characteristics are commonly associated with a personality trait known as neuroticism, which is marked by heightened sensitivity to internal or external stimuli. Over the years, several different assessments have been developed to help professionals evaluate the level of neuroticism an individual experiences. These tests can be valuable resources for those who wish to better understand their personality and the extent to which certain mental health challenges may affect them. In this article, we will explore neuroticism, its features, and personality inventories that test for this common trait, in addition to discussing methods of managing neurotic patterns that may impact your life. 

Neuroticism is associated with varied mental health concerns

Understanding the key personality traits of neuroticism

Neuroticism is a personality trait characterized by emotional reactivity and a tendency toward common mental health challenges. Those who experience neuroticism may be particularly sensitive to emotions such as worry, anxiety, fear, sadness, and anger, and may find it difficult to cope with unfavorable circumstances or challenging situations.

Neuroticism can make individuals more prone to mood swings and distress. 

Neuroticism is one of the personality traits recognized in the five-factor model of personality, a framework commonly used by psychologists to understand different personality types. At the opposite end of the scale is emotional stability, which is characterized by calmness, resilience, and effective stress management. Everyone is thought to exhibit some level of neuroticism, but the extent to which different individuals display neurotic characteristics can vary widely. 

Those who exhibit high levels of neuroticism may be more prone to  such as stress, maladaptive coping habits, mood spillover, and exaggerated emotional responses. Neuroticism has also been linked to common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. 

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Methods of measuring neuroticism

Neuroticism can be measured via self-report inventories, clinical interviews, and observational studies. Self-report inventories offer a way for individuals to evaluate their neurotic tendencies, while mental health providers may use clinical interviews or observational studies to assess neuroticism in patients. Often developed by psychologists and other mental health professionals, these assessments are also used in clinical, research, organizational, and educational settings for evaluation purposes.

Self-report inventories

Self-report inventories typically take the form of a questionnaire. You may be presented with a number of questions and asked to respond with a yes/no answer, or with a series of statements and asked to rate your agreement with them on a Likert scale. At the end of the test, you are typically given a score that corresponds to a specific level of neuroticism. 

While self-report inventories are widely used for personality inventories for their simplicity and reliability, it may be worth noting that your score could fluctuate over time in response to life events, personal growth, or changes in your emotional state.

The Big Five factor model and personality test

Personality psychologist Lewis Goldberg’s five-factor model consists of five major components of personality and offers a helpful framework for understanding oneself and others. There are many personality assessments based on this framework. The  include:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

A test based on the Big Five typically involves rating your agreement with a number of statements related to the above personality traits (e.g., “I get stressed out easily”, “I worry about things”). Usually, you will receive a score based on each of these five traits, with a higher score indicating a more pronounced presence of that trait. 

Revised NEO Personality Inventory

The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) is a common test used to assess individuals based on the Big Five personality traits. Developed by psychologists Paul T. Costa Jr. and Robert R. McCrae, it involves assessing 240 test items on a 4-point Likert scale, with 1 indicating “strongly disagree” and 4 indicating “strongly agree”. This assessment may be self-administered, though it is typically best for professionals to evaluate and interpret the results. 


Clinical interviews

clinical interview is typically a face-to-face or virtual interview with a mental health professional. Often, clinical interviews are used to assess patients prior to beginning mental health treatment. Through a clinical interview, the therapist, counselor, social worker, or other professional may ask a series of questions to assess various areas of the individual’s life, including:

  • Personality
  • Emotional and psychological state
  • Personal history
  • Family history
  • Support systems

If you pursue mental health care, these questions can provide you and the professional you’re working with insights into the thought and behavior patterns that make up your personality, including any neurotic tendencies. If you are concerned about trouble managing your emotions or frequent feelings of distress, a therapist can help you identify whether these challenges might be due to neuroticism, situational factors, or other concerns. They may then work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Practical applications of neuroticism testing

Many individuals find personality assessments helpful for gaining a deeper understanding of themselves. However, there are other applications for evaluations that measure neuroticism and other personality traits. Employers may use personality inventories to better understand employees and job applicants. 

Personality testing is also frequently used by school administrators and teachers to better understand students. This can be helpful for providing appropriate academic guidance and instruction. Additionally, personality assessments can help career counselors learn more about an individual’s aptitudes and desires so that they can better provide suggestions for potential career paths. 

How to manage neuroticism

The characteristics associated with neuroticism—a tendency toward mood swings, irritability, low self-esteem, etc.—may make it difficult to adapt to challenging situations and manage your emotions. Though neuroticism is considered an inherent personality trait, it is possible to become less reactive and more resilient through coping strategies, increased mindfulness, and mental health treatment. 

There are several steps you can take that may help you navigate the challenges neuroticism often presents. Because mindfulness is thought to be inversely correlated with neuroticism, techniques centered around helping you focus on the present may help limit emotional reactivity in your life. To do this, consider regularly practicing mindfulness exercises. One such exercise is a simple walking meditation, in which you focus on the mechanics and feelings associated with a slow, methodical walk. 

Attending support groups, exercising, and eating a balanced diet can also help you address mental health challenges associated with neuroticism, while strategies such as deep breathing exercises can be helpful in the moments when you feel yourself becoming upset or anxious. As we’ll discuss below, a mental health professional can help you implement self-help strategies that address concerns associated with your specific personality traits. 

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Neuroticism is associated with varied mental health concerns

Addressing neuroticism with a professional

Therapy can be a helpful source of support and guidance for individuals who experience high levels of neuroticism. Research suggests that addressing neuroticism in treatment can be helpful for managing underlying mental health challenges such as anxiety or depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, may help individuals adopt healthier thought patterns and coping strategies, thus reducing neurotic tendencies. 

Studies show that online therapy can be helpful for those experiencing personality traits that are associated with a high incidence of mental health concerns. In a review that included over 30 studies examining the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, researchers found that treatment led to lower levels of neuroticism. Additionally, the review mentions the ability of online therapy to circumvent the “numerous barriers to treatment” that exist in mental health care, including high cost, stigma, and time constraints.  

If you’d like to learn more about the extent to which neuroticism affects your life, online therapy can help. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can work with a licensed therapist to learn more about your personality remotely, through video call, voice call, or in-app messaging. You can also reach out to your therapist outside of sessions, which can be helpful if you have a question about neuroticism or want to clarify a point made during therapy. 

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While it may be common to experience periods of emotional reactivity, people whose personalities are high in neuroticism may face unique challenges. Personality tests that measure neuroticism offer a way to understand one’s psychological characteristics more deeply, and they can be valuable tools for those who wish to better manage their emotions. If you’d like to learn more about how your personality may contribute to common mental health-related concerns, consider utilizing an online therapy platform. Connecting with a licensed therapist can be a productive next step toward self-discovery and emotional wellness.
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