Stress is a typical phenomenon in human life and each day, people face stress inducing events. Stress occurs when a person deems the demands of an encounter as about his/her ability to cope. While stress is universal to all human beings, the way it affects people differs. In particular, the personality type of a person dictates how stress affects them.
Studies indicate that personality type is associated with an individual’s level of anxiety as well as stress (Arnten, Jansson, & Archer, 2008). As such, it would be a worthwhile endeavor to discuss in detail how stress affects the major personality types; Type A, Type B, and Type D.
How Stress Affects Different Personality Types
Type A Personality
Type A personality is characterized by competitiveness, hard-driving, achievement oriented, and being hostile and irritable (Heilbrun & Friedberg, 1988). As a result of this, Type A personalities are inevitably exposed to high amounts of sustained stress due to their self drive. Individuals in this group are forced to confront more frequent, severe and prolonged challenges which they manufacture for themselves.
Therefore, Type As who experience relatively normal stress loads may still end up overwhelming themselves since their personality traits enhance stress. Heilbrun and Friedberg (1988) note that the personality attributes of Type A personalities not only make pressured situations more likely but the personality traits also augment stress once it is aroused. Stress is further escalated as the pursuit of achievement reaches high levels as the individual is driven from one competitive situation to the other.
Heilbrun and Friedberg (1988) theorize that Type A personalities are susceptible to putting their self-esteem on the line with little regard for their own welfare. Depending on the effectiveness of the coping strategies adopted, Type As may continue experiencing stress from the same source for extended periods of time. Even so, Type A personalities have low social inhibition and can therefore rely on social support to alleviate their stress.
Type B Personality
Type B personality is regarded as the inverse of Type A since people with this type lack the Type A attributes of competitiveness and time orientation. Kupper and Donollet (2007) describe type B as the psychological flipside of type A and individuals with this personality type are even tempered and patient people. Type B personalities are generally characterized by a low or no desire to achieve, being rarely harried and little sense of time urgency.
Heilbrun and Friedberg (1988) describe Type B individuals as being more easygoing and philosophical about their lives and lower on competitiveness, time urgency and anger/hostility. Type B personalities tend to live at much lower levels of stress than the other groups since they are able to isolate themselves from the stressful situations. Individuals in this group are also able to postpone tasks that cannot be done at the moment for another time instead of fretting about the task.
This can be attributed to the fact that this personality type is characterized by an ability to modify one’s behavior in accordance with the current situation. The individual who has Type B personality is flexible and can control and express emotions appropriately. Owing to their easy going nature, Type B personalities are more social and hence have adequate social support which makes stress less severe.
Type D Personality
Type D personality is also known as the “distressed” type and is characterized by high levels of negative affectivity and social inhibition. Polman et al. (2010) document that the high NA associated with type D increases the likelihood of the individual to experience distress, anxiety, pessimism, and worry.
People with type D personality are therefore more susceptible to stress since this personality type is associated with a negative view of the world, the future and others. Polman et al. (2010) theorize that people with Type D personality do not express their emotions well mostly as a result of fear of rejection or disapproval. The high levels of social inhibition translate to fewer personal ties as well as lack of ability to socialize with other people.
The person is therefore more adversely affected by stress since they exhibit negative emotions while at the same time are unable to cope with these emotions. Social support from others is beneficial in controlling stress in a person (Polman et al., 2010). Individuals with Type D actively reduce their efforts to seek out social support when experiencing stress. This low availability of social support is associated with poorer outcomes for the individual.
From the discussions presented here, it is evident that stress affects the different personality types in unique ways. Particularly, the personality type of individuals predisposes them to experience stressful situations in varied ways. Type B personalities exhibit the lowest levels of stress and anxiety while Type A and D personalities are predisposed to high levels of stress. From this discussion, it is clear that Type D personality is associated with the highest levels of stress since this personality type is correlated with hostility and anger.
Arnten, A.A., Jansson, B. & Archer, T. (2008). Influence of Affective Personality Type and Gender Upon Coping Behavior, Mood, and Stress. Individual Differences Research, 6(3): 139-168.
Heilbrun, A.B. & Friedberg, E.B. (1988). Type A personality, Self-Control, and Vulnerability to Stress. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52 (3): 420-433.
Kupper, N. & Denollet, J. (2007). Type D Personality as a Prognostic Factor in Heart Disease: Assessment and Mediating Mechanisms. Journal of Personality Assessment, 89(3), 265–276.
Polman, R., Borkoles, E., & Nicholls, A.R. (2010). Type D personality, stress, and symptoms of burnout: The influence of avoidance coping and social support. British Journal of Health Psychology, 15 (1): 681-696.