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Personality Psychology: A Guide to Understanding Ourselves

According to the American Psychological Association, personality is the unique combination of traits, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that define each person. Our personality tends to affect how we interact with the world, influenced by our genes, biology, environment, and experiences. Personality psychology explores why people think and act differently, helping us understand how our traits […]

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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According to the American Psychological Association, personality is the unique combination of traits, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that define each person. Our personality tends to affect how we interact with the world, influenced by our genes, biology, environment, and experiences.

Personality psychology explores why people think and act differently, helping us understand how our traits impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Understanding Personality Helps Personal Growth

Understanding your unique personality can significantly contribute to your self-awareness and how you interact with others. It helps you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and set goals for yourself.

When you understand your personality and focus on personal development, you learn what motivates you and how to use your strengths to grow.

For example, if you enjoy being alone, you can embrace it by doing activities that make you happy and give you time to recharge. On the other hand, if you thrive on being around people, you can seek out social activities that energize and fulfill you.

When you understand your personality and focus on personal development, you learn what motivates you and how to use your strengths to grow. This knowledge helps you make better choices and handle challenges. 

Role of Personality in Therapy and Self-Discovery

Understanding personality plays a key role in therapy and self-discovery. Therapists and personality psychologists use personality evaluations to help clients learn more about themselves, find opportunities for growth, and make positive changes.

Studying your personality can help you understand the unique aspects that shape who you are. By delving into our personality and personality traits, we can figure out who we are and why we do things. 

Exploring Personality Theories

There is a wide variety of personality theories, including:

These different behavioral theories provide us with valuable insights into the factors that shape our unique personalities. They give you ways to understand human behavior and offer perspectives on how you develop and interact with the world around you.

Understanding the Types of Personality in Psychology

The Big Five personality traits, also called the Five Factor Model (FFM), is a widely accepted and extensively researched model for categorizing and understanding human personality. These theories of personality are based on the idea that variations across five broad dimensions can describe most individual differences in personality:

These traits are generally stable over time, influenced by genetics and life experiences. While the Big Five model is widely accepted, other personality theories look at different aspects of behavior.

Explanation of Popular Personality Assessments

Personality assessments are tools designed to help you understand your unique traits and characteristics. One well-known assessment is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Here’s a simple explanation of how it works:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) categorizes people into different personality types based on their preferences in four key areas:

The MBTI uses a set of letters to represent your personality type. For instance, you may be labeled as “ISTJ,” meaning Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging. Each type has its distinctive strengths and preferences.

Remember, personality assessments like the MBTI offer insights into your tendencies, but they don’t define who you are entirely. They can be valuable tools for self-discovery, understanding how you relate to others, and exploring potential career paths that align with your strengths.

Another way of understanding personality types is with Enneagram. It breaks personalities down into 16 types that primarily revolve around the way one interacts with the world around them, as well as their emotional motivations for those behaviors (anger, fear, and self image).

Keep in mind that no personality type is better than another — each brings its unique qualities. Personality assessments are just one piece of the puzzle in understanding yourself better and building healthier relationships with those around you. 

An Overview of Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are mental illnesses with ongoing patterns of inflexible and unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and actions. Notably, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness, showing how common and important these conditions are.

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5), there are ten different types of personality disorders. They affect at least two of these areas:

Some of the most common types of personality disorders include:

These are just a few examples of personality disorders, each presenting its unique challenges. Approximately 9% of adults in the United States have at least one personality disorder, and it’s possible to have more than one personality disorder. Understanding these disorders can aid in recognizing challenges, seeking appropriate support, and fostering personal well-being.

It is really important to talk to a professional if you are concerned about you or a loved one experiencing a personality disorder. Many online articles, videos, and other content can sensationalize different behaviors and can make people believe they have one of these disorders, like narcissistic personality disorder, for example, even when they would not actually be considered this by a professional.

Why Personality Matters in Therapy

In 2021, an estimated 14.1 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States experienced serious mental illness, representing 5.5% of all US adults. Getting support through personality therapy can contribute to improved mental well-being and better quality of life.

Knowing how personality affects mental health is vital for successful therapy. Your personalities impact how you think, feel, and act, shaping how you experience and interact with the world. When your personality traits become unbalanced or problematic, they can contribute to mental health issues.

For example, personality traits like low self-esteem can make you more susceptible to anxiety or depression. On the other hand, positive traits like resilience and emotional intelligence can improve mental well-being and help us handle stress better.

How Therapy Can Help

Kristina Anzell, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy, offers insight into how therapy can help those battling behavioral concerns. “Therapy helps you become more self-aware and understand yourself better by slowing down and taking the time to get to know yourself. The therapist will be your guide, ask you questions, and give you assignments between sessions to take time out of your busy life to work on yourself.”

Therapy plays an important role in nurturing a healthy and well-rounded personality, offering many benefits. Through therapy you can experience positive changes and growth in various parts of your life:

Identify unhealthy patterns: One of the key advantages of therapy is its ability to help you recognize and transform unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior. By becoming aware of these patterns, you gain the tools to adopt healthier and more adaptive approaches. This can lead to improved decision-making, better emotional regulation, and enhanced overall well-being.

Develop coping skills: Life often presents challenges and stressors that can be overwhelming. Therapy gives you valuable coping skills to effectively navigate difficult situations such as stress, anxiety, and depression. By learning healthy coping mechanisms, you can manage life’s ups and downs with greater resilience and emotional stability.

Boost self-esteem: Therapy contributes significantly to building self-esteem and self-confidence. You can develop a positive self-image and belief in your abilities through therapeutic support. Your self-worth grows as you recognize your strengths and accomplishments, leading to greater self-assurance in facing life’s challenges.

Enhance your relationships: The quality of your relationships can profoundly impact your overall well-being. Therapy aids in improving communication skills and fostering stronger connections with loved ones. You can build more fulfilling and supportive relationships by developing healthier relational dynamics and deeper understanding.

Personal growth through therapy

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For example, therapy can be particularly beneficial if you struggle with anxiety. A therapist can help you understand the underlying causes of your anxiety and teach you effective strategies to manage it. Through therapy, you can develop healthy coping mechanisms to handle anxious feelings and learn ways to cope with life’s stresses, ultimately leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Finding a Therapist Who Specializes in Personality Psychology

If you want to understand your personality and its impact on your life, seeing a behavioral therapist who specializes in personality psychology can be highly beneficial. Here’s why:

Remember, therapy can be tremendously helpful if you are facing challenges related to your personality. The therapist will collaborate with you and offer support as you learn more about yourself.

When searching for a therapist, keep the following factors in mind:

Finding the right therapist will pave the way for positive changes in your life and well-being. Anzell explains, “Therapists are trained in asking questions and reflecting back on what you need to hear. If you are honest with your therapist, they can reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and help you find ways to use your strengths to address your weaknesses.”

Find a Behavioral Therapist for You

Behavioral concerns are complex, often requiring professional intervention. Grow Therapy is home to many licensed behavioral therapists who can walk alongside you, helping you to best navigate your symptoms or understand your personality so you can work on personal growth.

Use our search tool to find a therapist in your area who specializes in your particular concerns and accepts your insurance type.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who works with those who have struggled with substance use, depression, anxiety, loss, communication problems, student life, as well as other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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