Personality Factors Associated with Severe Traumatic Disability

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Personality traits such as adventurousness and an active, external orientation may both predispose persons to traumatic injury and assist them in adjustment to disabilities resulting from such injury. Using the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI) and the Derogatis Symptom Checklist (SCL-90), personality and level of distress were assessed for 111 rehabilitation patients with either traumatic or nontraumatic disabilities associated with either chronic pain or motor loss. Results showed the traumatically disabled group with motor loss (paraplegia or quadriplegia) to be more extroverted and less distressed than persons with nontraumatic disabilities or with traumatically induced pain. Extroversion is characterized by an external orientation and a style of learning through actively and repeatedly challenging the environment. These personality characteristics may account for the prominence of extroversion within the traumatically disabled group with motor loss, as well as for the relative absence of distress for this group in the highly structured medical/rehabilitation environment. The psychological adjustment of more extroverted personalities to disability involving motor loss may be better facilitated by interventions that encourage experiential learning and challenging environmental limits than by introspective psychotherapy or counseling.

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