Do people really change? (3 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do people really change?” and explore the various aspects of life, the phenomenon of change as well as some forms of therapy that can motivate change to help understand whether people can really change. 

Do people really change?

Yes, people can and do really change. The following are 3 insights into how people can really change –

  • Goals and motivations. 
  • Personality changes can occur swiftly.
  • Treatment and interventions.

What are these 3 insights into how people can really change?

Goals and motivations. 

We may want to alter ourselves or the people in our lives for a variety of reasons. For example, if you’ve committed a mistake, you may feel bad about it and vow to improve and do better next time. 

If you feel like anything is wrong with you, Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a certified clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder,” says you may have tried but failed to change.

You could also desire to alter someone you care about, such as a kid or a lover, according to Damarus. 

Their words or behaviours may have wounded or offended you, and you may be anxious for them to change for your or their own good. You may find it tough to love them if they do not change.

You could even desire to make changes in the lives of others, such as your coworkers, instructors, neighbours, or other individuals you deal with. You may be perplexed or frustrated by their actions, and you may wish for them to change their ways.

Change may be feasible, according to research. People who desired to modify particular characteristics of their personality were able to do so and had higher well-being if the change was in line with their goals, according to 2016 research. 

Personality changes can occur swiftly.

The term “personality” refers to features that are constant throughout time and space. 

We anticipate a highly extraverted individual to be outgoing at home, work, and school, for example. While personality isn’t a perfect predictor of behaviour, it may help us get a sense of how someone will think and act.

Personality may evolve through time; for example, as we become older, we tend to become more responsible and emotionally stable. These alterations usually take years to manifest and appear to be part of a natural growth process.

The researchers wanted to know if therapy may affect someone’s personality in a short amount of time. Extraversion, emotional stability, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness were the “Big Five” personality qualities studied.

According to the authors, personality changes can occur swiftly. Additional research revealed that for therapy to have a meaningful impact on personality, it has to endure at least 4 weeks. Additional therapy, however, did not result in a bigger difference after 8 weeks.

The authors included a crucial caveat: it’s conceivable that a person’s personality altered as a result of the disease that led to therapy. A spell of depression, for example, may have drastically lowered a person’s emotional stability.

As a result, what appears to be an improvement in emotional stability as a result of therapy might really be a side effect of depression treatment, which restores the person’s pre-depression emotional stability. Based on the available evidence, this hypothesis cannot be ruled out.

Much of the personality change that occurs during treatment is simply a return to a person’s pre-anxiety, depression, or other ailment level of functioning. 

People typically seek treatment because they don’t feel like themselves anymore—they aren’t as tolerant, pleasant, easygoing, or sociable as they once were. 

People frequently remark on feeling “more like themselves” as treatment progresses. Family members will comment that they feel as though they have reclaimed their loved ones.

Treatment and interventions.

Roberts and colleagues looked at over 200 studies that included a control group and examined personality qualities before and after some form of intervention. 

The interventions, which lasted an average of 24 weeks, consisted mostly of drugs and various types of psychotherapy for a psychiatric disorder. 

Their research yielded some surprising findings –

  • Treatment does have the ability to alter one’s personality. The average modifications were minor to medium, implying that they would be seen by the individual and others in his or her life. A person who is easily disturbed, for example, may have an easier time dealing with pressure. Regardless of age or gender, the impacts on personality were the same.
  • Over time, personality changes occurred. The authors found that several of the trials they looked at had a follow-up period after the therapy finished, which lasted on average roughly 6 months. Even a year or more later, treatment-related alterations remained stable or even increased over the follow-up period.
  • Some personality qualities responded better to therapy than others. Emotional stability (the polar opposite of neuroticism) had the greatest impact, whereas openness to experience had the least. The second most significant shift was in extraversion. These differences might indicate features that are more likely to change, but they could also reflect what the therapies were aimed at, according to the authors. Treatment for anxiety or depression, for example, might focus on improving emotional stability.
  • Personality change resulted from a variety of approaches. Although cognitive-behavioural and supportive therapy had slightly greater impacts, other treatments were equally successful, with medicine having the least effect.
  • The amount of change was determined by the therapy. Those receiving therapy for anxiety and personality disorders changed the greatest, whereas those receiving treatment for eating and drug use problems changed the least.

With the help of treatment and interventions, people may transform their personalities and improve their mental health problems, according to a 2017 study that looked at the outcomes of 207 research.

It’s vital to remember, though, that change is difficult. As a result, it is a possibility but not a certainty, particularly if someone is resistant to change. People are not always emotionally ready to change. 

When offered a choice, many people, according to Daramus, will prefer a poor circumstance that is known over a better condition that is unfamiliar and terrifying. Even if it’s difficult in other ways, it’s far easier to be in an environment where you know the rules.

Damarus goes on to suggest that forcing someone to change is a form of manipulation. If the person you’re attempting to change isn’t you, there’s typically only so much you can do, no matter how badly you want them to change. 

You may, for example, provide them with encouragement and support, or you might serve as a role model and set a positive example for them. However, you have no influence over their behaviour, and it is ultimately up to them.

Types of Therapy.

People can modify their personality characteristics, habits, behaviours, ideas, and attitudes with the use of therapeutic therapies, which are widely used. Some types of therapy that can be beneficial are listed below.

Acceptance Commitment Therapy.

Acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) is a style of treatment that emphasises embracing undesirable behaviours, personality characteristics, or events first. Following that, it encourages people to commit to positive thinking and behaviour patterns in order to drive them to improve.

Consider a person who is attempting to reduce weight. This individual may engage in behaviours that are damaging to their physical and mental health if they are dieting out of self-loathing. ACT can assist people in recognising and promoting healthier, more sustainable, and safe behaviours.

Motivational Interviewing.

Understanding the stages of transformation is the goal of motivational interviewing

You meet someone where they are and offer thought-provoking questions. You ask a different set of questions to someone who refuses to change than you do to someone who is actively attempting to change.

This type of treatment aims to involve people and assist them in developing the drive to change. It can be especially beneficial if the individual is undecided about whether or not they want to change and isn’t confident in their abilities to do so.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do people really change?” and explore the various aspects of life, the phenomenon of change as well as some forms of therapy that can motivate change to help understand whether people can really change. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Raypole, C. People Can Change, But That Doesn’t Mean They Will. (2020, July 31). Retrieved from  https://www.healthline.com/health/do-people-change#:~:text=These%20common%20sayings%20imply%20people,can%20change%2C%20not%20everyone%20does.

Gupta, S. Can People Really Change? (2021, October 7). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/can-people-really-change-5203290

Can people really change, or do they simply modify their behavior to suit certain situations? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.quora.com/Can-people-really-change-or-do-they-simply-modify-their-behavior-to-suit-certain-situations

Gillihan, S. J. Do People Really Change? (2017, January 6). Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/201701/do-people-really-change

Kirby, S. Can People Change Or Do They Just Lie? How Experts Answer The Question, “Can People Change?”. (2022,  January 30). Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/behavior/can-people-change-or-do-they-just-lie/

Can People Really Change? PsychCentral. (2014, March 2). Retrieved from  https://psychcentral.com/blog/can-people-really-change

McBirney, J. DO PEOPLE REALLY CHANGE? (2020). Retrieved from  https://www.commonlit.org/en/texts/do-people-really-change

Fowler, S. Can People Really Change? (2017, March 14). Retrieved from  https://www.huffpost.com/entry/can-people-really-change_b_58c7f13ae4b03400023f4b2b

Ford, K. Can People Really Change? A Couples’ Therapist Debunks A Big Relationship Myth. (2021, December 25). Retrieved from  https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/can-people-change-in-relationships

Gottlieb, L. How Do People Actually… Change? (2019, April 2). Retrieved from  https://lithub.com/how-do-people-actually-change/

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