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Temperament and mental illness are thought to represent varying degrees along the same continuum of neurotransmitter imbalances. A taxonomy of temperament could provide the basis for a new taxonomy of mental illness. Most popular models of temperament, being based heavily on emotionality traits, show very poor ability to discriminate between mental disorders. The main goal of this study was to examine whether a temperament model based on modern neurophysiology and possessing an extensive set of non-emotionality traits provides better discrimination between Major Depression (MD), Generalized Anxiety (GAD) and Comorbid MD and GAD, in comparison to emotionality-based temperament models.
Using the Structure of Temperament Questionnaire, the temperament profiles of 687 individuals (396 clients of private psychiatric and psychological practice, and 291 control subjects) were compared across four adult age groups (18–24, 25–45, 46–65, 66–84).
MD and GAD appear to be accurately distinguished by the traits of Motor Endurance and Motor Tempo (much lower values in depression), and Neuroticism (much higher value in anxiety). Comorbids can be distinguished based on a significant decrease in the traits of Plasticity, Intellectual Endurance, Sensitivity to Probabilities, and increased Impulsivity. These effects seemed independent of age and gender.
The results suggest the benefits of including non-emotionality-related traits and the usefulness of a functional approach to both taxonomy of temperament and classification of mental disorders.