You’re Not Neurotic. It’s Just Your High Blood Pressure Talking
Your neuroses, it turns out, aren’t just in your head. They’re in your blood, too.
More specifically, a new study suggests that your diastolic blood pressure, or the lower of the two numbers in a blood pressure reading, might be the root of many neurotic personality traits.
Past research indicates a relationship between blood pressure and mental health — and a particularly strong one between hypertension and anxiety — but scientists haven’t been able to pin down which causes which. Or as the authors of the new study put it, “(The) relationship between hypertension and psychosocial disorders remains unclear and is sometimes controversial.”
In an attempt to add some clarity, they employed a technique called Mendelian randomization, which uses variation in genes to estimate the risk of certain diseases based on variables like blood pressure. Their results revealed that high blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure were significantly associated with neuroticism. Although neuroticism is a personality trait and not a clinical diagnosis like anxiety and depression, individuals who are more neurotic “can be sensitive to the criticism of others, are often self-critical and easily develop anxiety, anger, worry, hostility, self-consciousness and depression,“ the study authors warn.
In other words, your high blood pressure can trigger anxiety and depression, even if it hasn’t yet. How comforting.
“Neuroticism is viewed as a key causative factor for anxiety and mood disorders. Individuals with neuroticism more frequently experience high mental stress, which can lead to elevated (blood pressure) and cardiovascular diseases,” the researchers concluded, adding that “appropriate surveillance and control of blood pressure can be beneficial for the reduction of neuroticism, neuroticism-inducing mood disorders and cardiovascular diseases.”
While none of this, of course, is a bloody good time, it does show that the way to getting out of your own head might actually start with the very stuff coursing through your veins.