What Are The Most Common Toxic Traits?

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on April 18, 2023

We’re all a little toxic. Yes—even you. But don’t worry—you’re still a good person. Probably. 

More than 1.3 million people have taken Truity’s popular Toxic Person Test, revealing their most difficult personality traits. The test, based on the principles of the Big Five model of personality, uncovers what personality traits you may have that others find particularly grating. Test takers receive one of seven archetypes as a result. These are: 

  • The Drama Llama (Dramatic): This archetype is the main character and they make sure everyone knows it.  The Drama Llama archetype relates most closely to a high score in the Big Five trait of Neuroticism, or the experience of negative emotions.
  • The Karen (Entitlement): This archetype is on the VIP list everywhere they go, and the reality of the world the rest of us live in is simply unacceptable for them. The Karen archetype is most common among those who score low on the trait of Agreeableness, or how well you get along with other people. 
  • The Control Freak (Rigidity): The Control Freak has a to-do list for their to-do list, and expects everyone to follow their plans to a T—or else. This archetype is common among those who score high in Conscientiousness, the trait that describes how we manage ourselves and our goals. 
  • The Slacker (Laziness): For every Control Freak in the world, there is its opposite: the Slacker—the person who’s more than happy to let other people deal with the harder things in life. Slackers are those who score low in Conscientiousness. 
  • The Con Artist (Manipulation): This person sees life as a game to be played, and other people as their pawns. Like the Karen, Con Artists score low in Agreeableness, but rather than lacking humility, they lack another key component of this dimension: honesty.
  • Debbie Downer (Negativity): This person’s glass is always half empty, and probably full of polluted water anyway. The Debbie Downer manifests high Neuroticism with a focus on pessimism and a defeatist attitude. 
  • The Mansplainer (Arrogance): This person lives to illuminate those around them, often without evidence that they know what they are actually talking about. The Mansplainer brings us yet another manifestation of low Agreeableness, this time with an extra helping of superiority. 

If you’re unafraid of light-hearted self-awareness that’s a bit uncomfy—or just want to laugh at your less-than-perfect traits—you can take the test here

With the popularity of the Toxic Person Test, we wondered which traits were more common among Truity test takers. Are there significant gender or age-based differences? And what can this tell us about our relationship dynamics and biases toward others? 

What is the Most Common Toxic Personality Trait? 

It may not come as a surprise to most people living on planet Earth for the past several years that the most common toxic personality trait is Negativity. And can you really blame the Debbie Downers for feeling a little bummed lately? Between a global pandemic, political and social upheaval, economic uncertainty and a host of other pretty depressing factors, it seems as if Rachel Dratch’s popular SNL character is all of us these days. 

In fact, recent research using Truity’s Big Five assessment data shows that the Big Five traits fluctuate based on external factors—like a worldwide pandemic, for example. Neuroticism, the Big Five trait most closely linked to high Negativity, significantly increased at the population level between October 2019 and April 2022. Essentially, people have become much more pessimistic over the past few years. 

And while it’s understandable that people have become more negative, the rise in negativity is a problem in itself. In fact, research shows that chronic negativity can actually kill you, as it’s linked to a host of health issues, including high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, heart attack and stroke. 

So, if you’re a Debbie Downer, is there anything you can do about it? Absolutely. These traits aren’t unchangeable, and making an effort to change to better your health and well-being is possible. Research shows that developing a growth mindset can lead to higher self-esteem and lower levels of negative emotions. 

There are many ways a person can work on developing a more positive mindset, including: 

  • Working on managing stress. 
  • Learning to identify negative thoughts, process them and let them go. 
  • Recognizing and changing what is in your control. 
  • Practicing acceptance and gratitude. 
  • Repeating positive affirmations. 
  • Acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments. 
  • Spending time doing the things that bring you joy. 

If you struggle with the above practices or experience extremely negative emotions, talk with a professional mental health therapist. 

Toxic Traits and the Gender Divide 

When looking at toxic traits, Truity wondered whether the more gendered archetypes (such as Karens and Mansplainers) actually matched the stereotypes. With data from thousands of people, we had a unique opportunity to investigate whether Mansplaining is really a male phenomenon, or whether some Karens are actually Kevins. So, did these stereotypes hold up? Not quite — but the results do reveal some interesting insights. 

The results show that there’s some truth to the clichés we’re all familiar with—men are more likely than women to be Mansplainers, and female Karens are a bit more common than males. However, we also found some trends in less explicitly gendered archetypes. Men were also more likely than women to get a Slacker or Con Artist result on the Toxic Person Test; Women were a bit more likely to be Drama Llamas.

These results make sense in the context of previous research into the Big Five traits and gender. Multiple academic studies have shown gender differences in Big Five traits; on average, women score higher than men in the traits of Neuroticism, Agreeableness, and Extraversion, with further gender variation in more specific traits like arrogance (a facet of Agreeableness, and the core of Mansplaining) or negativity (a facet of Neuroticism, and the basis for our Drama Llama score). 

Understanding broader gender differences can help explain the roots of some of our stereotypes—but it’s important to note that in actual data, real gender differences are small, and may have more to do with our socialization than innate drives. For instance, women are often more socialized to express their emotions — whereas men are often socialized to repress most of their feelings, apart from anger. These social factors may explain some—or all—of the gender divide in our data.

What Else Do We Know About Toxic Traits?

There were a few other interesting findings from the Toxic Person Test data. When looking at the results broken down by age, it’s clear that most toxic traits seem to decrease with age, with the exception of Rigidity (the Control Freak). This matches previous research that shows people tend to become more Conscientious as they age.  

The level of education a person has completed also appears to play a role in their toxic traits. People with less education are most likely to be dramatic (Drama Llamas), while those with the highest level of education are more likely to be arrogant (Mansplainers). 

It’s important to note that these findings are statistically significant, but shouldn’t be used to generalize entire populations. 

What is your Most Toxic Trait? 

Do you know your most toxic trait? If not, take the free test to find out. And remember: having toxic traits doesn’t make you a bad person. But if you let these traits consume you and direct how you treat others, you may be a little problematic. 

As the famous quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban goes, “We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.”

Megan Malone

Megan is a freelance writer and brand marketing consultant at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


muffinstumps (not verified) says...

I took the quiz and got Debbie Downer - and the descriptions are hilariously accurate. I'm not very surprised by that result 😂

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