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The Big 5 Personality Traits & Borderline Personality: How Cognitive Profiling can predict Premature Erratic Behavior 

Joseph V. Zeidan, M.S, Mental Health Professional, Author


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This article provides a qualitative analysis to the research done in personality psychopathology and pushed for refinements to the borderline personality disorder (BPD) phenotype, but proposed revisions to the diagnosis in major nosologically-based systems hinge in part on evidence to support their validity. This is based on interviewing one hundred and eighty-six cases who were diagnosed with Borderline, between the ages of 19-35 (independent of their gender), and the research done on BPD has identified core symptom dimensions underlying the DSM diagnosis. While a unidimensional model of the disorder has been found in some studies, latent subgroups within the diagnosis have also been uncovered. Cognitive findings reveal deficits primarily in executive functions relevant to self-regulation but also in episodic memory and attentional abilities. The article provides a dimensional approach to core cognitive profiling related to personality assessment and aids in identifying core factors to discipline the erratic symptoms in personalities.




The big five personality traits, often referred to as OCEAN, and sometimes CANOE, are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. These five traits represent broad domains of human behavior and account for differences in both personality and decision making. In psychotherapy, there is an approach of changing these traits into five different spectrums of personality, while one personality is usually more dominant than the other. This means that all personalities can have behaviors stemming from any of these traits, but in its natural form, a human being would be more lenient towards a specific one.


These are the spectrums of each personality:

  • Openness  Closeness
  • Conscientiousness  Wandering
  • Extroversion  Introversion
  • Agreeableness  non-agreeable
  • Neuroticism  Rational

Description of the OCEAN spectrum

The spectrum is explained as flow of personality as it keeps develop in time, but it is crucial to understand that each individual has the power to walk through each spectrum and a fluid motion. Being opened means that a person is adventurous and more spontaneous in experiences, while being more closed means that the individual is drawn towards a specific routine and habits. Secondly, each personality has the ability to be thorough and detailed-oriented in their everyday life, while others can be more Laissez-faire and only do the minimum work to be done quick. Third, Extroversion is the person’s ability to meet people easily and attraction towards people than alone time, while introverts rather keep their social circle limited and take their time building trust. Fourth, being agreeable suggests that there is a form of apathy towards various fields as long as time is passed smoothly, while being non-agreeable suggests that the person enjoys voicing their opinions to the best of their abilities. Lastly, being neurotic is when emotions play a significant role in the decision-making process, while the rational side suggests repressing emotional reactions for the sake of planification.



Borderline Personality & the OCEAN spectrum

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the cognitive and emotional spectrum of the mind in relations to oneself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships. With borderline personality disorder, an individual has an intense fear of abandonment or instability, and they may have difficulty tolerating being alone. Yet inappropriate anger, impulsiveness and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though they want to have loving and lasting relationships. Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.

Through understanding the OCEAN spectrum, it gives each individual an understanding over the potential impact of having unstable traits, while also working on maintaining that stability throughout time. Borderline personalities tend to switch between these spectrums erratically in order to constantly maintain being the center of attention. This states that the need for validation is a rooted defense mechanisms to conceal what they perceive as a weakness in their self-image. Simply stating, by constantly obtaining validation through extreme activities or adopting radical opinions, the person would prove to themselves for a limited moment that the thoughts they have of themselves might not be true. The problem is that these thoughts are so rooted and probably originating from childhood experiences that they already seem true to the individual, and getting rid of them seems impossible. Therefore, the only option they think they have is to conceal them and have slight dissociation from their subjective self-perception.



Results of Questionnaire Interview

Through examining 186 clients who were diagnosed with BPD, a questionnaire was built to interview the individuals and relate the radical shifts in these traits through their everyday life. The questionnaire focused on each spectrum to see when and how individuals switch between them while formulating the thought pattern leading up to these shifts, and what would be the potential consequences of these changes do not provide the needed outcome.

The findings showed specific unified triggers to individuals with Borderline Personality that coincide with a deep perception of emptiness as a core belief with astounding conviction to the latter. The results of the interviews are as follows:

  • 86% of answers in regards to openness  closeness spectrum reported that the need to be spontaneous stems from the need the be looked at as someone who has no fear and being courageous, while obtaining the notion that they are completely in control of themselves by having their own structured rules for living that would appear aggressively strict for the sake of the appearance.
  • In terms of the Conscientiousness  Wandering spectrum, 73% of the answers concluded that the need to show a version of themselves that is detail-oriented is to constantly provide the notion that are disciplined towards their ambitions and motivations, while also craving to be at ease with the things they have no control over. Although it rarely every succeeds, this factor plays as a mechanism against anxiety close to the factor known as “choosing the devil we know”.
  • When focused on the Extroversion  Introversion spectrum, 94% of answers showed dominance towards extroversion as a state of survival for validation. Individuals noticed that their extroversion is related to showing their highest form transparency as a way to push people to accept them quickly. The problem is when they don’t get the reaction that they are looking for, it pushes them towards a deeper form of introversion in which they would stay away from those whom have “seen the real them” while they try to hide it. They become intimidated by people and so they start their self-isolation.
  • In terms of the Agreeableness  non-agreeable spectrum, 89% of the answers concluded that there is a need to voice their opinion, but only when that opinion is guaranteed to please the people around them. This means that every individual would take the time to know their surroundings and will want to prove to themselves that they can be accepted by showing a sense of initiation as confidence, while in reality they are initiating an endeavor that is motivated by others’ interests besides their own.
  • Lastly, when asked about the Neuroticism  Rational spectrum in the interviews, 90% of the answers concluded that emotional reactions are the essence of their confidence, and then they would rationalize these emotions through confirmation bias. Individuals would look for any details that would reinforce the emotions, even if this evidence are not realistic or misinterpreted.


The OCEAN spectrum provides each individual with the ability to screen their own sense of stability from an intrapersonal, as well as interpersonal perspective. By utilizing the information provided, each adult can foresee any instabilities in erratic behaviors or emotional instabilities.

These findings are very promising towards children and adolescents too. By observing their behavior, their need for validation, and the mean they would go to in order to achieve this validation, it could pave the way to tackle Borderline Personalities before they manifest into adulthood.

Multiple factors also play an important role, and the most important is trauma. Any traumatic events in childhood can lead into more severe issues as each person grows up. Any negligence, abuse, or even one specific event can alter an individual’s personality for the future.  

By being mindful and observant over the people around us and their personality traits, saving them from themselves is highly probable.


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