Harm avoidance

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Harm avoidance

Harm avoidance (HA) is a personality trait characterized by excessive worrying; pessimism; shyness; and being fearful, doubtful, and easily fatigued. In MRI studies HA was correlated with reduced grey matter volume in the orbito-frontal, occipital and parietal regions.[1][2]

Harm avoidance is a temperament assessed in the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), its revised version (TCI-R) and the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) and is positively related to the trait neuroticism and inversely to extraversion in the Revised NEO Personality Inventory and the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.[3] Researchers have contended that harm avoidance represents a composite personality dimension with neurotic introversion at one end of the spectrum and stable extraversion at the other end. Harm avoidance has also been found to have moderate inverse relationships with conscientiousness and openness to experience in the five factor model.[3]

The HA of TPQ and TCI-R has four subscales:

  1. Anticipatory worry (HA1)
  2. Fear of uncertainty (HA2)
  3. Shyness/Shyness with strangers (HA3)
  4. Fatigability/Fatigability and asthenia (weakness) (HA4)

It has been suggested that HA is related to high serotonergic activity,[4] and much research has gone into investigating the link between HA and components of the serotonin system, e.g. genetic variation in 5-HTTLPR in the serotonin transporter gene.[5]


  1. ^ Cheung, G (Aug 2007). "Stability of the harm avoidance personality trait in late-life depression". Int Psychogeriatr. 19 (4): 778–80. doi:10.1017/s1041610207005194. PMID 17726762.
  2. ^ Gardini, S; Cloninger, CR; Venneri, A (Jun 2009). "Individual differences in personality traits reflect structural variance in specific brain regions". Brain Res. Bull. 79 (5): 265–70. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.03.005. PMID 19480986. S2CID 25490518.
  3. ^ a b De Fruyt, F.; Van De Wiele, L. & Van Heeringen, C. (2000). "Cloninger's Psychobiological Model of Temperament and Character and the Five-Factor Model of Personality". Personality and Individual Differences. 29 (3): 441–452. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(99)00204-4.
  4. ^ C. R. Cloninger (Autumn 1986). "A unified biosocial theory of personality and its role in the development of anxiety states". Psychiatric Developments. 4 (3): 167–226. PMID 3809156.
  5. ^ C. M. Mazzanti; J. Lappalainen; J. C. Long; D. Bengel; H. Naukkarinen; M. Eggert; M. Virkkunen; M. Linnoila; D. Goldman (October 1998). "Role of the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism in anxiety-related traits". Archives of General Psychiatry. 55 (10): 936–40. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.55.10.936. PMID 9783565.

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