Could your personality type be harming you, or is your personality actually helping you live a longer life? Our personalities play such an important role in determining our behaviors and habits, so it is little wonder that personality type has a connection to your health. Everything from how often you visit the doctor to how you deal with stress is connected to your personality.
Philosophers, physicians, and researchers have long tried to find connections between personality and physical health.
During the time of the ancient Greeks, Hippocrates and Galen suggested that there were four humors (or personality types) and that each was connected to susceptibilities for certain physical or mental illnesses.
Interest in the topic persists to this day and research has found that personality traits can be important health predictors. One study even found that the personality traits exhibited during childhood are linked to self-rated health during middle age. Not only that, but researchers have also found that personality traits are also tied to other key health markers including physician-rated health and overall longevity.
So how is your health impacted by your personality? Take a closer look at a few common personality types to discover what the possible health implications might be.
The classic type A personality is often characterized as hard-driving, controlling, and perfectionistic.
People who exhibit characteristics of this personality type tend to be more competitive, impatient, tense, assertive, and even aggressive.
Type A’s are often seen as hard-driving workaholics who will do anything to get ahead. They often feel a need to dominate, both at work and in personal interactions, and may derive their feelings of self-worth and self-concept from their perceived achievements.
This personality type has been a subject of interest since it was first described in the 1950s and research has associated it with a number of negative health outcomes. Some studies have shown a relationship between the Type A personality type and hypertension, increased job stress, and social isolation.
Older studies suggested that there was a connection between the Type A personality type and heart disease, but subsequent research has complicated these findings by failing to confirm the link. Type As do tend to experience more hostility, a characteristic that has been tied to an increased risk of heart disease.
The initial research conducted more than 40 years ago suggested that Type A personalities were at a 7-fold increased risk of developing coronary artery disease. But more recent studies suggest that the real culprit behind the increased risk of heart disease is likely related to anger and hostility.
So what can you do to reduce your health risks if you have a Type A personality?
Understand what you can change. Even if personality type is linked to increased health concerns, some have suggested that there may be little patients and doctors can do to mitigate these risks. However, some experts suggest that personality change is possible and that even if you don’t necessarily change your personality, there are steps that patients can take to minimize the potential health consequences of their overall personality type.
Focus on the negative traits associated with your personality type. If you tend to have some of the more negative features of the type A personality, such as a tendency to be stressed out, hostile, and socially isolated, explore things that you can to lower your chances of developing hypertension and other health problems.
Practice quality coping and stress management skills. Effective stress management techniques can help you learn how to better cope with daily life stress. Learning how to manage feelings of anger and hostility can also help. And looking for ways to improve your social connections can help improve your well-being both now and in the future.
More Laid Back
People with a laid-back personality, often referred to as a Type B personality, tend to be much more relaxed and easy-going than their Type A counterparts. In contrast to Type As, Type Bs are typically less stressed and less competitive. These individuals are apt to be more focused on performing tasks for the enjoyment of doing so rather than being so driven by a need to achieve, win, or dominate. That isn’t to say that Type Bs do not value accomplishment. They work steadily toward their goals but also enjoy the process and experience less stress if they do not win.
People with the Type B personality type may also be more attracted to careers and hobbies that are more laid back and creativity centered, such as becoming an artist, writer, actor, or therapist.
So what sort of health implications might there be for people with more of a Type B personality?
Maintain healthy behaviors. Being laid back might mean taking a more lackadaisical approach to your health. Being relaxed can be great, but don’t slack on your healthy habits.
Focus on the positive. For Type Bs, the news is mostly good. If you have this personality type, you probably have a lower risk of developing health issues related to anxiety. You tend to enjoy life, are pretty good at coping with stress, and likely have a good quality of life. All of these factors may mean that you are less likely to experience negative health outcomes that are linked to stress, anger, and anxiety.
People with an “eager to please” personality type tend to be accommodating, passive, and conforming. This personality type can have its health upsides and downsides. On one hand, their eager to please nature means that they are more likely to follow their doctor’s orders.
A negative aspect of this personality type is that their passive nature also means they are more likely to feel hopeless or helpless in the face of a negative health event. They may also be less likely to seek help when something is wrong, instead feeling that they don’t want to be a burden or inconvenience to others. When faced with a diagnosis, they may simply throw in the towel and assume that nothing they do will make much of a difference.
So what can you do to protect your health if you tend to be a people-pleaser?
Don’t ignore yourself. People-pleasers sometimes place their own well-being last. Being conscientious of others can be a positive trait, but be sure to take time for your own health as well.
Take an active role in your health. In can be easy to fall into thinking that your health is out of your hands, but taking a more internal locus of control may help you feel more in control of your current and future health. Instead of focusing on the external influences that affect your health, pay attention to the things that you can change through your own actions.
If you tend to have a neurotic personality, you may tend to respond to feelings of loss, frustration, and other stresses with negative emotions. Experiencing intense emotional reactions to relatively minor life challenges is common. Researchers have found that this trait can be a predictor of a variety of physical and mental disorders, including overall life longevity. Neuroticism has been associated with generalized anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and substance use.
One research review found that those who were higher in neuroticism and lower in other Big Five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness), particularly those lower in conscientiousness, tended to be less healthy than their less-neurotic peers. Those who are high in neuroticism may also be more likely to experience physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and asthma.
Are there any strategies you can follow to help minimize the possible health risks of a neurotic personality?
Preventative strategies may help. Being a worry wart can have health risks, but the upside of better understanding your personality is that you can take steps to engage in preventative care.
Control your worry. Excessive worrying can be troubling, so finding ways to control your thoughts and replace negative emotions with more positive ones is important. Strategies such as distraction, talking to a friend, and relaxation techniques can all be helpful if you find yourself overcome with neurotic feelings.
The type D personality was first introduced in 1996 and is characterized by “distressed” traits such as being more prone to negative emotions and a lack of self-expression. Stress, depression, anxiety, anger, and loneliness are also associated with the Type D personality. It can also come with serious health consequences.
So what are the possible health implications of having a Type D personality? One study suggested that people with Type D personalities are at a four-fold risk of death compared to those with other personality types.
According to another study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, people with this personality type are at a three-fold increased risk of heart problems, including heart failure. The study also suggested that approximately 20 percent of American adults have the Type D personality, with an estimated 50 percent of patients with heart problems exhibiting characteristics of this distressed personality type.
So what should you do to help mitigate the potential health risks of having a Type D personality?
Talk to your doctor. Some experts hope that screening heart patients for these traits would allow doctors to connect those at risk with behavior and cognitive counseling.
Practice good stress management techniques. Self-help approaches such as practicing good stress management techniques and reframing events to focus on more positive emotions may also be helpful.
Research has also linked some of the famous “Big Five” personality traits to physical disease and psychological illness. One study found that people who tend to be more extroverted, conscientious, and agreeable also tend to be healthier. This is due, in part, to the fact that people who exhibit higher levels of these Big Five traits also tend to be more likely to communicate more effectively with their doctors.
A 2009 study found that social support was linked to physical health outcomes including healthier behaviors, better coping skills, and observance to medical routines. Doctors and other health experts have long understood that quality social support and connections can have an important protective effect on both physical and mental health.
So what can you do if you are not an extrovert?
Build your social support. Even if you tend to have a more introverted personality, seeking out strong social support is one way to help lower potential health risks associated with your personality type. Lack of social support has been linked to a variety of ailments including decreased immunity and an increased risk of heart disease.
What It All Means
While research indicates that personality type clearly plays a role in health and well-being, certain ailments are more likely to be influenced by psychological characteristics. Heart disease, for example, is more strongly linked to personality type than cancer.
So why does personality have an impact on health? Why are certain traits so tied to certain ailments? The answers are not clear, but one potential explanation is that personality impacts behavior and lifestyle choices. People who are more conscientious may be more likely to make healthier choices while those who are high in neuroticism may be less likely to seek medical help or have weaker social support systems.
Just because you tend to have a certain personality type does not doom you to a future of acquiring certain ailments. As with many things, your individual risk of developing a health problem can depend upon a variety of factors beyond your personality, including genetics, environment, lifestyle, and behaviors.
Understanding your personality might be a great way to help determine what sort of health choices or changes you need to focus on making. By being aware of the potential hazards you may face, you can work with your health care professional to come up with a plan to minimize the dangers.
A Word From Verywell
Research clearly shows a connection between personality and health. If you believe that your personality, mental state, or behaviors are causing illness or worsening your current symptoms, talk to your doctor for advice on possible treatments which may involve psychotherapy, medication, or self-care.