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The Daily Life of the Garden-Variety Neurotic: Reactivity, Stressor Exposure, Mood Spillover, and Maladaptive Coping


  • Jerry Suls, Department of Psychology, University of Iowa. René Martin, Adult and Gerontological Nursing and Department of Psychology, University of Iowa. This research was supported by NIH Grant 46448 and NSF Grant 99-10592 to Jerry Suls and NINR Grant NR04886 to René Martin.

Address correspondence to Jerry Suls, Department of Psychology, E11 Seashore Hall, Spence Laboratories of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242. E-mail:


Abstract This article describes a series of studies using the daily process paradigm to describe and understand the affective dynamics of people who experience frequent and intense bouts of a wide range of negative emotions. In several studies, community residents reported on problem occurrence and affect several times a day or at the end of the day. We found reliable evidence that persons who scored high (vs. low) in Neuroticism reported more daily problems, tended to react with more severe emotions, experienced more mood spillover from prior occasions, and exhibited stronger reactions to recurring problems (the “neurotic cascade”). The susceptibility of neurotics to stress seems to extend to all types of problems while certain other dimensions of personality (e.g., Agreeableness) are associated with hyperreactivity to particular kinds of problems. The research demonstrates how daily process research can provide insight about classic problems in the field of individual differences.