Stress Changes Personality

Irritability, bad mood, negativity? Stress can even change our personality. It takes away the brilliance and grit and can even transform us into someone we don’t like, into a person full of apathy, without patience, pessimistic and unmotivated.
Stress changes the personality

We can say that stress changes our personality. A previously optimistic, self-confident person who answered everyone with a smile and never stopped getting excited, suddenly feels very differently. Everything annoys her, she has no patience, is she always in a bad mood, has she become more cynical and is there no day in which it is possible to get rid of this apathy?

Does this feeling tell you something? Unfortunately, this is a reality for many. And it is a state that conditions life. However, the most surprising thing is that in these cases, the person is fully aware of their own change. The way you react to your surroundings creates a high level of dissonance. We often ask ourselves: “I don’t recognize myself, why do I behave like this?”

However, people with chronic stress cannot help but look at the world with weariness, with a veil of darkness. Everything appears annoying, where what not so long ago cheered them up and filled them with energy is now exhausting and lacking in motivation. The different personality due to stress also further intensifies the suffering.

As psychotherapist Carl Rogers pointed out, simply being aware of this discomfort and not staying is a good step in itself. It will then be possible to tackle the problem clearly and courageously. Just use the right resources.

Stressed man.

Stress changes personality, but how is that possible?

Stress also changes our personality and does so in many different ways. People who until recently were marked by motivation, dedication and kindness, can become irritable within a few months.

We can see it not only in ourselves, but also in that colleague, friend or partner who seems to no longer like our company.

He has become reticent, speaks ill of everyone, gets easily nervous and always sees problems where before there was only room for solutions. What happens inside us, in our mind or in our brain to make us change in this way?

Stress makes us pessimistic

Until recently, experts believed that at a certain point in our life, the personality became stable, a dimension not easily changed over time (Costa & McCrae, 1988). However, the study conducted at the University of California by Dr. Grant Shields shows us surprising data:

  • Our personality can vary. It does this especially in the face of adverse events or experiences from which we learn and which make us see the world (and ourselves) differently. Such an event is positive, because it allows us to grow.
  • However, there are also less encouraging experiences such as chronic and long-lasting stress ; it generates more than evident changes in us.

Chronic stress (not occasional stress) changes our personality because it makes us pessimistic. The state of helplessness and psychological exhaustion is so profound that it infuses adverse emotions such as pessimism, negativity and an anguish that overwhelms everything.

Woman with hands on ears.

Stress changes our neural circuits

Stress activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. This causes the release of several compounds very similar to cortisone, such as glucocorticoids. The best known and the one that has the greatest impact on the brain and our body is cortisol.

Thus, stress changes our personality due to the effect of this hormone. We are more tired, we cannot concentrate, we have memory lapses and we also experience the so-called environmental hypersensitivity. Any stimulus is experienced intensely. That is why we have no patience, we magnify the little things and any situation overwhelms us.

What to do to reduce the impact of stress?

Stress, like anxiety, is part of life. It is therefore not a question of making them disappear, but of placing them in a middle way in which we can manage them, where we can have full control over these psychological realities.

Thus, and in the event that our stress is chronic, it is highly recommended to contact specialized professionals. Let’s see, however, some simple basic rules that can prove to be very useful:

  • Establish priorities. As far as possible, it is advisable to simplify and organize our daily life as much as possible.
  • Practices like mindfulness are very effective in reducing stress.
  • There is a very basic rule that we should apply in our daily life: start one thing at a time and finish it. It is forbidden to think and do several activities at the same time.
  • Set positive goals during our days: sign up for a course, have two hours just for us, go for a walk, etc.
  • Take care of the internal dialogue. Our inner dialogue should always work in our favor, it should be gentle and skillful at the same time to recognize negative and disabling thoughts.
  • Surrounding yourself with trustworthy people is highly recommended.
  • Identify sources of stress and avoid them.


Stress has the power to change our personality, so let’s keep this fact in mind to apply adequate strategies. We do not allow this state to transform us into someone we are not, into a person we do not recognize ourselves in.

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