Understanding the Type A Personality

Kirsten Schuder
Angry Man

The Type A Personality was first depicted in 1957 by Friedman and Rosenman. Type A Personality refers people with a certain set of characteristics and behaviors that may make them more vulnerable to developing heart disease.

Type A

The Simply Psychology describes the typical personality traits and behaviors associated with Type A Personality.

Personality Traits and Characteristics

Type A Personality traits have four dimensions:

  • Lack of patience/high impulsiveness
  • Angers easily, has a short temper, and might get aggressive
  • Always races against the clock
  • High degree of competitiveness

These personality traits influence the way people with Type A Personality behave.

Behaviors

People with Type A Personality traits often:

  • Micromanage their time
  • View caring for themselves as more of a hassle and rush through many of their daily activities, multi-task, or do things on the run, such as eating breakfast and driving
  • Seem tense
  • Talk very quickly
  • Interrupt others as if they become impatient for waiting for the end of the speaker's sentence
  • Have physical tics, such as making a noise with their mouth or tapping their foot or fingers

Other types of behaviors of people who exhibit Type A Personality are:

  • Being a workaholic
  • Easily angered and overreact
  • Are annoyed or angered by delays
  • Do not tolerate down time
  • Pack too many things to do in a day
  • People that are not team players and need to do everything themselves

Dr. Ronald Riggio observes that people who demonstrate a Type A Personality can also be "bossy and domineering." They often participate in high stress careers, are driven to compete, and often are able to accomplish great things, yet they are usually not happy with their accomplishments and are less able to enjoy them.

Handling Stress

There are several behaviors and emotions associated with Type A Personality that are not conducive to handling stress in a productive manner.

High Stress Careers

According to Yorkshire Stress Management, a person with Type A Personality often seeks out stressful situations in the belief that they perform best when deadlines are tight.

However, they don't handle stress with a "roll with the punches" type of attitude, and will often handle stress in a manner where they will get upset and be rigid in terms of their own performance or the performance of others. Moreover, the way they handle stress is dysfunctional.

As Robert Lussier and David Kimball state, people with Type A Personality often place themselves in highly stressful jobs or stressful situations. For instance, the CPA Journal found that a majority (approximately 60 percent) of certified public accountants are Type A Personality. It is also noteworthy that job dissatisfaction is extremely high in this profession.

Perfectionism

Monica Ramirez Basco notes in her book, Never Good Enough: Freeing Yourself from the Chains of Perfection (p. 77) that Type A Personality shares aspects of perfectionism, "such as having high expectations and feeling out of control, irritable and overwhelmed, stressed and pressured most of the time." They rarely enjoy the present and never feel like they've achieved enough to enjoy their accomplishments.

Higher Stress and Anxiety

A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that as workload increases, people with Type A Personalities have the highest stress levels and anxiety.

Health Concerns

Research has not consistently shown that the Type A Personality and all of its emotional and behavioral parameters cause disease. As research has progressed in this area, findings show that some aspects of Type A Personality are correlated with a higher occurrence of certain diseases.

High Blood Pressure and Coronary Disease

According to the Encyclopedia of Management Theory, coronary disease has been correlated with the anger/hostility factor of Type A Personality.

US News Health reports that Type A Personality people have higher rates of coronary disease and die earlier from heart attacks because of the increased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol and increased inflammation in their arteries.

Mental Health

One study in Personality and Individual Differences found that individuals with Type A Personality had higher rates of job dissatisfaction, overall health problems, and mental health problems. This is especially true when they blame their stress on external factors, which creates the feelings of loss of control, rather than on internal factors.

Health Complaints

The Journal of Human Stress contained a study where career women with Type A Personality were compared to career women without Type A Personality. High rates of job dissatisfaction and anxiety were correlated with health complaints and symptoms. Also, women with Type A Personality were found to neglect their health more often than women who did not display Type A Personality characteristics.

Stroke

The Atlantic reported that Type A Personality was associated with higher risks of having a stroke. If other risk factors were present, the risk of stroke increased with the inclusion of each factor. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • A high rate of stress
  • Habits bad for health, such as smoking
  • Compromised quality of sleep
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Consuming too many energy drinks

Poor anger management skills are what cause the most distress on the body and is correlated with heart disease.

Learning to Handle Stress

People who drive themselves hard, are impatient, anger easily, and see the clock as their never-ending enemy might be driven to succeed, but they should understand that this way of handling stress is not healthy or productive in the long run.

At the core of this personality type is the concept that stress is not handled efficiently. Studies have demonstrated that people with Type A Personality are driven to succeed, but rarely get any enjoyment out of their success or life and are often discontent and anxious.

Understanding the Type A Personality