Strong Type A Personalities with Poor Self Control Are Prone to Excessive Stress, Hypertension, and Heart Disease


A man with excessive stressType A behavior is someone who is hard-driving, highly competitive, ambitious and always feeling a great urgency to complete a desired task in the fastest possible way. Type A individuals are work-obsessed and since they usually have a lot of stress at their jobs with heavy demands on time, this in turn creates more excessive stress and more Type A behavior. In other words, it is a never ending vicious circle.

People with Type A personalities are often viewed as high-achieving “workaholics” who are able to multi-task and able to push themselves with deadlines at work and for some people, this is seen as a good thing if they can manage excessive stress. This is because Type A individuals are often seen by their bosses to be outperforming their Type B counterparts because of their high-energy and intense drive to achieve their assigned goals and this usually leads to more successful careers or speedier promotions.

The bad thing about people with Type A behavior is that they are often self-critical, impatient (such as easily frustrated with a situation like waiting in a line, interrupt others often when they are talking, walk or talk at a rapid pace), feeling hostile and easily aroused to anger, which they may or may not express overtly. They are therefore easily ‘wound up’ and tend to be rude, overly aggressive (this is often seen to be ‘having a short fuse’). Finally, Type A individuals can be identified by the following physical characteristics: Facial Tension, Tongue Clicking or Teeth Grinding, Dark Circles Under Eyes and Facial Sweating (On Forehead or Upper Lip) according to Elizabeth Scott, a wellness coach who specializes in stress management and excessive stress.

The results of a 1988 study indicated that men and women in their late adolescent with Type A behavior were more emotionally dependent and that their competitiveness could be the underlying motivation in order to elicit approval from others.

People with Type B personality has the opposite traits of Type A personality and they are often described as “laid back” or easy going, relaxed and non-competitive. These people are often creative and able to work steadily and patiently, enjoying achievement but not becoming stressed when they do not achieve. They also tend to be more tolerant of others and therefore are more relaxed than Type A individuals, more reflective and experience lower levels of anxiety.

In a study published in 1988, study authors Heilbrun AB Jr and Friedberg EB found that Type A women displayed significantly better self-control then Type B women. Interestingly, the opposite result was found to be true as the study found that college men with Type As displayed poorer self-control than Type Bs men. This study concluded that only Type As who have poor self control would be vulnerable to excessive stress and at risk for heart diseases.

As to the question of whether or not people with certain personality types are more likely to get cancer, the answer is no according to a 2010 study which looked at nearly 60,000 people who were followed over time for a minimum of 30 years. According to the American Cancer Society, this careful study was controlled for smoking, alcohol use, and other known cancer risk factors and the study scientists found that there was no link between personality and overall cancer risk.

Type A individuals tend to suffer the following health problems:

Heart Disease: The classic Type A personality is described by some health experts as a heart attack waiting to happen. One study found that men with the strongest Type A scores were more likely to have heart attacks within five years while those with lower scores had them a bit later, within nine years.

High Blood Pressure: Personality characteristics such as anxiety and anger have long been associated with essential hypertension and it comes as no surprise that high blood pressure is common among “Type A” personalities. As a matter of fact, in a research done by the U.S. National Institute of Aging (NIA), it has been proved that aggressive people have 40% higher risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Metabolic Syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke. Type A individuals have short tempers, often angry and are continuously exposed to stressful situations at their jobs, all leading their bodies to have higher levels of adrenaline (this is a hormone produced by your body which increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies), which then worsens inflammation, leading to increased risk for Metabolic Syndrome.

Social Isolation: Since Type A individuals are overly ambitious and goal-oriented in their jobs, they are often seen as “workaholics”, spending long hours in their workplaces and neglecting to pay attention to their inter-personal relationships with their loved ones and close friends. Their aggressive and impatient personality makes them sound rude and hostile which often alienate others, leading to social alienation. When a person feels socially isolated from others, he or she may develop feelings of loneliness, social anxiety, helplessness, or depression, among others.

Source: Heilbrun AB Jr, Friedberg EB. Type A personality, self-control, and vulnerability to stress. J Personality Assessment 1988; 52:420–33.

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Dear Dr. Lam
 
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5 Comments

  • Diane Winkler says:

    Any experience with tinnitus and electro sensitivity due to adrenal fatigue?

  • Katie says:

    I think there is more to it than Type A. Through my personal soul-searching/research I’ve discovered that temperaments and sensitivity can be just as important. The people I know who have adrenal fatigue (including myself) fall into the Highly Sensitive Person spectrum. Being highly sensitive has caused my health problems because I’m so over aware of other people’s emotions, so sensitive to what’s going on around me and can be so introverted at times that living itself can be overly stimulating and extremely stressful. Yet I put myself in situations and jobs that require extroversion, and in relationships with people who perceive my inwardness and communication style to be shyness and weakness that needs to be fixed, rather than an innate part of my makeup that goes hand in hand with my best qualities.

    The main research into Highly Sensitive People is clinical and evidence-based and conducted by a research psychologist so I would highly recommend people who find themselves perpetually stressed out consider their natural sensitivity as a possible factor.

    And Dr Lam, I would also (humbly) recommend that you look into this as I believe high sensitivity and adrenal stress could go hand in hand, and this could help you add to the already amazing wealth of information you provide.

  • Sue says:

    I feel like I am a type- B personality but with type- A tendencies. Where is there a healthy balance to still be a productive person who works hard, but still not stress myself out the very max?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Thats a holy grail question, and each person has to find his or her own level and feel comfortable. The body does tell us if you really pay attention and listen closely. If you are not sure, just simplify you life and lower your standards.

      Dr Lam.