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21 Personality traits in ADHD

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21 Personality traits in ADHD

With regard to the Big 5 personality traits according to the Five Factor Model (1), ADHD is associated with increased neuroticism, which is characterized by emotional reactivity.
Conscientiousness, which can be seen as functional perfectionism, on the other hand, is greatly reduced in ADHD.
Extraversion, which includes approach tendencies, is also reduced in ADHD.
Agreeableness, which is influenced by bottom-up control processes, is also reduced in ADHD, especially in hyperactivity, impulsivity, and oppositional defiant behavior.
Openness to experience, which reflects the willingness to accept new experiences, is slightly increased in ADHD, especially in attention and inhibition problems.

In addition to the Five Factor Model of the Big 5, there are other assessment instruments / personality inventories or tests that measure personality traits that correlate in part with those of the Big 5. Where this is the case, we have listed the correlating traits under the respective Big 5 trait and labeled them with the following numbers for the assessment instrument in question. We have also listed changes in these traits in ADHD. The results are largely congruent.

(1) Five-factor model
(2) Integrated Five-Factor Model
(3) DAPP-BQ
(4) Cloninger TCI
(5) ICD-11
(6) AMPD

21.1. Neuroticism (emotional reactivity)

Neuroticism (emotional reactivity)1

  • Significantly increased in ADHD23 , also in adolescents with ADHD4
    • Especially in the event of inattention5
  • Neuroticism correlates with personality traits from other assessment instruments:
    • High negative emotionality (2) with ADHD6
      • Highly increased in case of inattention1
      • Increased with hyperactivity1
    • High negative affect (5, 6)
    • High emotional dysregulation (3)
    • High harm avoidance (4)
    • Low self-regulation (willpower) (4)

21.2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness (top-down control process)1

  • Greatly reduced in ADHD2, also in adolescents with ADHD4
  • Conscientiousness is described as an (intrinsically motivated) functional striving for perfection, while perfectionism describes an (extrinsically motivated) dysfunctional striving for perfection that correlates highly with neuroticism.
  • Conscientiousness correlates with personality traits from other assessment instruments:
    • High Consentious Inhibition (2)
      • Consentious inhibition is reduced in ADHD6
      • Consentious inhibition very strongly reduced in ADHD-I15
      • Consentious inhibition greatly reduced in hyperactivity1
    • High compulsiveness (3, 5)
    • High persistence (endurance, perseverance) (4)
    • Low disinhibition (disinhibition) (6)
    • Low novelty seeking (4)
  • Conscientiousness correlates with executive functions, so that lower conscientiousness is associated with lower executive functions4

21.3. Extraversion (approaching tendencies)

  • Extraversion (approach tendencies)1
    • Reduced with ADHD2
    • Extraversion correlates with personality traits from other assessment instruments:
      • High positive emotionality (2)
        • Positive emotionality slightly reduced in case of inattention1
        • Positive emotionality slightly increased with hyperactivity1
      • High reward dependence (4)
      • Low inhibitedness (3)
      • Low harm avoidance (4)
      • Low detachment (aloofness) (5, 6)

21.4. Compatibility

Agreeableness (bottom-up control process)1

21.5. Openness to experience

Openness to experience

  • Slightly increased with ADHD2
    • Not significantly increased; if so, more likely for inattention and more likely for children1
    • Tends to increase with attention and inhibition problems2
    • Slightly reduced with increased delay discounting and atypical working memory / verbal fluency2
  • Openness to experience correlates with personality traits of other assessment instruments:
    • High openness (2)
    • High psychoticism (6)
    • High self-transcendence (spirituality) (4)

  1. Gomez, Corr (2014): ADHD and personality: a meta-analytic review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Jul;34(5):376-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2014.05.002. PMID: 24929793. REVIEW

  2. Van Dijk, Mostert, Glennon, Onnink, Dammers, Vasquez, Kan, Verkes, Hoogman, Franke, Buitelaar(2017): Five factor model personality traits relate to adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder but not to their distinct neurocognitive profiles; Psychiatry Res. 2017 Aug 19. pii: S0165-1781(16)31724-3. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.08.037.

  3. Lynch, Sunderland, Newton, Chapman (2021): A systematic review of transdiagnostic risk and protective factors for general and specific psychopathology in young people. Clin Psychol Rev. 2021 Jul;87:102036. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102036. PMID: 33992846. REVIEW

  4. Krieger, Amador-Campos, Guàrdia-Olmos (2020): Executive functions, Personality traits and ADHD symptoms in adolescents: A mediation analysis. PLoS One. 2020 May 6;15(5):e0232470. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0232470. PMID: 32374779; PMCID: PMC7202790. n = 118

  5. Nigg, John, Blaskey, Huang-Pollock, Willcutt, Hinshaw, Pennington (2002): Big five dimensions and ADHD symptoms: links between personality traits and clinical symptoms. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Aug;83(2):451-469. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.451. PMID: 12150240. METASTUDY, n = 1.620

  6. Jacobsson, Hopwood, Söderpalm, Nilsson (2021): Adult ADHD and emerging models of maladaptive personality: a meta-analytic review. BMC Psychiatry. 2021 Jun 1;21(1):282. doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03284-1. PMID: 34074265; PMCID: PMC8170979. METASTUDY

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