Does Your Personality Affect Your Health?
Relaxed or rushed? Peaceful or panicked? Social or shy? Your answer to these questions may well determine more than just your character. Indeed, your personality and your physical health are tightly linked. Let’s take a closer look at the four main personality types, and what this means for your health.
The Origins of the Personality Type Theory
Personality Type Theory was first introduced in the 1950’s by cardiologists Ray Rosenman and Mayer Friedman. They observed the patients in their waiting room and identified two well-defined types of personality: Type A, highly strung and impatient, and Type B, relaxed and easygoing. Over time, psychologists have added two other types, Type C, the people-pleaser, and Type D, the depressed.
Type A: Ambitious and Stressed
The Type A personality is characterized by anxiety, competitive drive and high levels of stress. People with a Type A personality tend to be highly ambitious and favor positions of leadership. They are risk-takers, so suit an entrepreneurial environment. They are very active and always need to be doing something. On the flip side, they have workaholic tendencies. They have a short fuse, are easily irritated and angry, and tend to talk over people. Because of their anxiety and impatience, Type A’s can have trouble connecting with others, often appearing rude or brusque.
Pros: practical, driven, ambitious.
Cons: aggressive, impatient, cynical, mistrusting.
Type B: Relaxed and Patient
Type B’s are the polar opposites to Type A’s. Relaxed and easygoing, they are much less focused on competition, preferring to enjoy the game instead of being set on winning. While they appreciate achievement, they do not experience the same levels of stress or anxiety if they don’t hit targets. People with Type B personality enjoy exploring ideas and are reflective. They do not let stress get to them and remain calm even in difficult situations—but sometimes too calm when it comes to deadlines. Type B’s make friends easily, enjoy connecting with others and forming strong emotional bonds.
Pros: cheerful, calm, relaxed, patient.
Cons: can be too casual, procrastinate.
Type C: Reflective and Shy
Type C’s are curious and evidence driven. They are systematic and analytical thinkers, who like to see the workings of things. Because they focus on points other people often overlook, they are natural problem-solvers. They don’t like risk, preferring routine and a well-trodden path. Type C’s tend to be introverted and shy, sensitive and thoughtful. They can struggle making new friends and connecting with others, though they seek other people’s approval. They can easily fall into hopelessness or helplessness, and do not handle criticism well.
Pros: systematic, thoughtful, sensitive.
Cons: critical, cautious, introverted.
Type D: Depressed and Sensitive
Type D is the latest addition to the Personality Types, and stands for “distressed”. These types of people are generally negative, pessimistic and depressed. They don’t see much joy in their life or their surroundings, and don’t deal well with change. They prefer routine over uncertainty, and following instructions over being proactive. Afraid of rejection, they avoid opening up and therefore struggle to make friends and connect with others.
Pros: Direct, sensitive.
Cons: Depressed, stressed, negative.
Stress, Anger and Cardiovascular Disease
But what does this mean for your health? Rosenman and Friedman carried out an eight-and-a-half-year study to see how personality affects physical health. The results, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that Type A behaviors, specifically anger and stress, increase the risk of coronary heart disease two-fold.
But their theory has some limitations. Firstly, very few of us fit into one personality type; the majority of us are a mix of two or more. Secondly, their study observed only middle-aged men, so their findings can’t really be generalized to the remaining population. But regardless of that, their research helped develop the health-psychology field, where psychologists look at how a person’s mental state affects their physical health.
It is not as simple as linking one personality type to physical illness. As it happens, disease is linked not to one type, but to a series of behavioral and character traits. Unsurprisingly, negative emotions like anger, stress, hostility, depression and resentment are associated with inflammation, hypertension and heart disease. A study published in the American Heart Association’s Journal found that these emotions are also closely linked to increased incidences of stroke.
Too much stress, whether it’s due to a deadline at work or traffic on the road, creates a “fight or flight” response in the body—the same thing happens when you get angry, or are in a constant state of irritation. Adrenaline gets pumped to all your cells, cortisol is released into your blood stream. Too much cortisol slows down your cells’ ability to regenerate, weakens your immune system and leads to adrenal fatigue. This in turn affects your cognitive abilities and how well you’re able to sleep, impairs your thyroid function, increases your weight—particularly around the gut—and even leads to brain fog. How much stress do you experience in your life?
Time for Some Optimism
In a study published in the Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health, researchers followed over 500 men for 15 years and found heart related deaths were 50% lower among optimistic people. The study also found they had a higher quality of life and better mental health than people who are pessimistic.
Personality and Health
So, your personality does affect your wellbeing, but you don’t need to completely change yourself to protect your health. Make a conscious decision to step away from anger and stress, and turn the dial up on your optimism, to experience a calmer state of mind and a better state of health.References