Personality and Psychiatric Disorders among Employees of New York City Workplaces Affected by the 9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Center

Maria E. Reynolds, Josh M. Raitt, Ala Üstyol, Rachel Zettl, C. Robert Cloninger, Carol S. North

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Personality is associated with psychopathology after disasters, but its association with the portion of postdisaster psychopathology that is incident remains unclear. It is also unclear whether any particular attributes of personality are associated with resistance to the persistence or recurrence of preexisting psychopathology after disasters. This exploratory study of employees of workplaces affected by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City examined the specific relationships of personality variables (specifically, novelty seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, persistence, self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence) to incident postdisaster psychiatric disorders and resistance to the persistence/recurrence of preexisting psychiatric disorders after the disaster. Methods: Approximately 3 years after the 9/11 attacks, 379 employees were recruited from 8 selected affected workplaces (3 in the World Trade Center towers, 5 at varied distances in the geographic area). Lifetime predisaster and postdisaster psychiatric disorders were assessed retrospectively with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for DSM-IV, disaster experience details were collected with the Disaster Supplement, and personality was assessed with the Temperament and Character Inventory. Results: Underdeveloped executive functioning (low self-directedness and/or low cooperativeness) was associated with incident postdisaster psychopathology, and components of resilience (low harm avoidance, high self-directedness, and high persistence) were associated with postdisaster resistance to persistence/recurrence of preexisting psychiatric illness. Conclusions: Personality is related to both incident and persistent/recurrent portions of postdisaster psychopathology, not clearly distinguished in previous research. Personality variables related to executive functioning and resilience may aid in assessing risk and developing treatments to prevent disaster-related psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-55
Number of pages18
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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