~ Persistence as a character trait can lead to being an overachiever and a perfectionist.

~ Persistence can both good and bad, because it increases both positive and negative emotions

~ It protects against mood disorders because it makes us feel more enthusiastic about things, more joyful and hopeful, but it can also cause anxiety because we may be dissatisfied with our performance; we may have so high standards that we can never achieve them.

~ Enlightenment, high tolerance for frustration, having a calm temperament all help reduce those negative emotions

Persistence is a heritable character trait referring to the extent to which a person will pursue a goal even when success is rare. Research on the effect of persistence on mood and emotional health is inconclusive as some work has linked it with resilience and positive emotions while other work has shown that it associated with compulsiveness and negative emotions.

High Persistence versus Low Persistence

There is however clarity about the influence of low versus high persistence on the person’s character. For example, individuals with high persistence tend to be perceived as determined, conscientious and ambitious. By contrast, those with low persistence are described as changeable, irresolute and easily discouraged.

Simply put, high persistence is associated with overachievers, while low persistence with under- achievers. Overachievers are oftentimes perfectionists who hold exaggerated positive expectations which could lead to self-doubts and harsh self-judgments. Research suggests that these individuals are at risk for anxiety and depression, while low persistence is a characteristic of people with bipolar disorder.

Trait Persistence is a Risk Factor for Anxiety Disorders

Trait persistence (character trait) is associated with activation of the same brain circuits that are involved in reward-seeking behaviors (for example, this area is active when hungry to increase food-seeking behaviors ). Particularly, imaging studies reveal that this brain circuit shows increased activity in highly persistent people and decreased activity in less persistent individuals.

This circuit is composed of brain structures involved in emotion processing on one hand and rational judgment on the other. Thus, trait persistence is thought to modulate the communication between the emotional brain and the rational brain to help guide behavior.  

As a result, trait persistence increases both positive and negative emotions, but it is neither bad nor good. Indeed, it protects against mood disorders by increasing positive emotions, but it also increases certain negative emotions that are linked with anxiety disorders.

Other factors influence the effects of trait persistence on the individuals by increasing positive emotions and reducing the negative emotions. For example, the presence of character traits like having high tolerance for frustration, being calm and unconcerned with control mitigates the effects of high persistence by reducing negative emotions. Similarly, possessing a certain level of enlightenment where one is accepting of themselves and others increases the components of well-being.



Cloninger CR, Zohar AH, Hirschmann S, Dahan D. The psychological costs and benefits of being highly persistent: personality profiles distinguish mood disorders from anxiety disorders. J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):758-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.09.046. Epub 2011 Oct 28. PMID: 22036800.


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