What’s Your Personality Like?

Ever wonder what your personality is like?

Psychologists have long wondered that too. For decades now have offered a bewildering array of theories, research, and tests that purport to measure this thing we call "personality."

Enter "the Big Five" personality dimensions. Rather than present personality from a particular psychological theoretical perspective, the Big Five personality traits were derived from how people use everyday words to describe themselves and others.

And now we have a simple 50-question personality test you can use here on Psych Central to determine your rating along these 5 traits. It takes most people about 5 to 7 minutes to complete, and as with all the quizzes and tests here on Psych Central, provides instant (and always free!) results.

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The Most Depressing Places to Live in the U.S., 2011

What are some of the most depressing places to live in the United States in 2011?

There's one easy way to gauge the mood of the country -- what are people searching for on Google? Google Trends to the rescue. We can type in a query to see how many people from different geographic regions searched for the word "depression" in Google.

However, since there are many reasons a person might type in the word "depression" into Google (the economy, searching for depression glass, etc.), we compiled our own list with over a dozen more specific, commonly-searched for depression terms, including things like "depression symptoms", "depression test" and "depression treatment" to arrive at this list for 2011.

Sadly, if you're a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Seattle, WA (population-adjusted leader), more people from your city type in these terms more often than in any other city in America. This suggests that Philadelphia and Seattle residents take the honor for the Most Depressing Place to Live in the U.S. in 2011. Pennsylvania and Iowa (population-adjusted leader) lead the most depressing states.

Click through to see the entire city and state list.

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Merry Christmas, 2011

I’d like to take this moment to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

May the joy of the season be with your family, your friends, and most of all, with you. Whether you spend it with others or on your own, remember that the holiday lasts for only a very short time each year — so savor it. (And if you're not a great lover of this holiday, well, it'll be over...
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Proven Strategies to Thrive Despite Christmas

Theoretically, Christmas is a joyous occasion, but let’s face it -- it can stress us out. Lots of presents to buy, too much food and alcohol consumed, and exercise ignored. For some it represents seeing people who have been avoided all year. Not surprisingly, calls for help to helplines and charities go through the roof during the holiday period.

This can lead to us feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. It can prevent us from experiencing the extraordinary benefits of a holiday. We can be consumed by what isn’t rather than what is.

Imagine if it weren’t like that. Imagine if you returned to work in January full of zest and purpose. Here are a few proven, helpful strategies to do just that.

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Brain and Behavior

Creative Coping Outlets: The Power of Music

An anonymous quote featured on the inspirational Web site states: “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” When life knocks you down, how can you pull yourself back up? What healthy coping mechanisms can you utilize to unleash the pain and heartache and rise from the ashes?

The dictionary defines “music” as: “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas or emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” Music has the power to transcend, the power to heal, and it can surely serve as a beneficial and creative outlet.

Rapper Eminem, who’s noted for his racy, explicit and brutally honest lyrics, has been through the mill and back, whether it’s his tumultuous relationship with his on-again-off-again girlfriend or his deep-seeded angst about a dark past.

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Best of Our Blogs: December 23, 2011

It's just a day before Christmas Eve and I've been waiting anxiously for the big meltdown. While I have sat through hours of traffic I will never get back and walked through malls in a zombie-like state, this year has been surprisingly uneventful. Yes there has been mini disappointments, annoying incidences, and moments of stomach clenching stress (which may be all that holiday food). But overall, I've been able to ride the wave of unpredictability with conscious ease.

Maybe it's because of my decision this year to take things relatively easily. No need to buy the "perfect" gift. It's all right if I unintentionally hurt someone's feelings. And if not everyone is happy this holiday, it won't kill me. In fact, trying to make everyone happy might.

Or maybe it's these five top posts that's helped me pull an invisible armor over my highly sensitive soul. Reading them has taught me to keep up my exercise program to abate holiday stress, soothe myself to avoid emotional eating, and be conscious of what I want to bring into the new year. This is one of my favorite quotes from one of our top posts. “If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” – Pema Chodron

It's still early. And I know I can't be completely confident yet. But I liked to think that the entirety of this year has given me the tools to cope. And if so, this really will be a happy holiday after all!
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Building Your Resilience to Shame

Shame doesn’t only reside in trauma. In fact, everyone experiences shame, according to researcher and author Brené Brown, You can feel shame about anything and everything.

“And, while it feels like shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical health, addiction, sex, aging and religion,” Brown writes in...
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Poor Urban Depressed Patients Don’t Respond Well to Treatment

In a small clinical study published a few weeks ago, researchers didn't find much difference between the three treatment groups of depressed subjects they studied -- a group that received antidepressant medications, a group that received a specific type of not-commonly-practiced psychodynamic psychotherapy, and a group that received a sugar pill.

But there were some serious issues with this study from the onset, issues that call into question not only the generalizability of the results, but also their validity. It's a shame that Reuters, who picked up on the study just yesterday, glossed over the methodology problems of the study, and instead just repeated the results as a shiny new established fact.

And easily lost in the discussion is the best result of them all -- 16 weeks was all that was needed for most people in the study (who completed it) to find improvement in the symptoms of their depression, no matter what the treatment.

Let's see what went wrong, and what the study actually tells us...

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Stuck In a Rut? Try These 9 Tips

What do you do when you’re stuck in a rut?

Even though I’ve written about this in several previous posts, I fail to remember the pointers when I’m there myself. My present mood dip isn’t a mammoth relapse, thank God. But it is enough of a wake-up call to go back to the building blocks of my recovery program and see if something is missing, or -- even if I’m doing everything right -- find a few more tools that can help me get to a better place.

I list them here as much for myself as for you. Here are 9 tips that may help you get yourself out of the rut, before you dig in deeper.

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8 Reasons Why Waiting In Line is a Drag

It's holiday time, and that means waiting in line: at the grocery store, at the airport, at shops, everywhere. I'm an impatient person, and standing in a slow-moving line is one of those very small, maddening aspects of life that drives me crazy. As often happens, however, when I learned more about the experience, it became more interesting to me.

Fun fact from the Wall Street Journal story on Find the best checkout line: you're better off waiting in a single-file line than in one of several lines for different cashiers. Although people prefer individual lines, a single-file line moves about three times faster.

Think about the next time you're at the post office.

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Brain and Behavior

Cultivating an Organized Mind in a Sea of Distractions

One of the most interesting things I learned in co-authoring the Harvard Health book Organize Your Mind, Organize your Life with Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness is that the brain is designed to beautifully handle one focus, one task at a time. It is not designed for multiple, parallel tasks.

When you shine your full attention on a conversation, a meeting, a project, or on driving your car, you access the full spectrum of your brain’s resources. Top, down, right, left, back, front, all together the brain has an immense capacity to be creative, productive, and organized, avoid errors, and connect deeply with others who matter to us.

In today’s world, such a singular focus is a rare -- or at least occasional -- event. We rapidly move our focus from one task to another, from a meeting to an email to a text to a side conversation. The brain can’t easily move the totality of its resources all together in an instant, and repeatedly. Hence many tasks get only a part of our brain’s resources, often leaving us feeling as though much has not been done well at the end of a day.

This state of disorganization is an epidemic of distracted and divided focus.

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Introducing The Gentle Self

We've all met them -- people who are gentle, kind and generous souls who often don’t seem to fit in as well in a group of people, who keep to themselves with only a few close friends, and who sometimes don’t have that great of a self-image. People who worry in general, or have anxiety about anything or nothing at all. People who’ve tried a lot of different things to keep their worry or anxiety under control, but still often find it challenging in their daily life.

Some people call these folks “worriers,” or “introverts,” or say they suffer from “social anxiety disorder.” But in reality, they’re just normal, everyday people who need a little help in certain areas of their lives (just like all of us!).

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