The link between stress and personality
Are you more prone to stress than someone else?
Everyone has their share of life’s strains, pressures and misfortunes. But why is it that some people are more vulnerable than others to the stressors that life throws up at them? Some people seem to be permanently on edge and twitchy whereas others take everything in their stride and nothing appears to trouble them, even if they have high-pressure jobs with important responsibilities and problems at home as well.
By now, you will not be surprised to learn that one of the key factors that influences how vulnerable you are to stress is you – or more precisely your personality. Whether we like it or not, some personalities are more prone to suffering from stress than others – this trait is sometimes easier to see in friends and colleagues than in ourselves.
Two American researchers on a coronary prevention project, Drs Friedman and Rosenman, have identified two personality types which they have labelled ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’. Their research has shown that Type A personalities suffer significantly more coronary heart disease than Type B personalities.
The Type A personality has what Friedman and Rosenman called ‘hurry sickness’.
A typical Type A personality:
- always seems busy and runs his or her life by the clock;
- speaks quickly and loudly;
- walks quickly;
- eats rapidly;
- is impatient and irritable;
- tries to do more than one thing at a time;
- feels guilty when relaxing’
- is competitive and plays to win;
- schedules too many activities into a day;
- and is intolerant of failure.
Not surprisingly, Type B individuals are the complete opposite.
A typical Type B:
- can stay patient and calm;
- has no inner anger nor hostility;
- cooperates with others;
- can relax without feeling guilty;
- plays for fun, not to win;
- is flexible and easy going’
- and works without agitation.
In general, Type A men have higher blood fat levels than Type B and are six times more likely to have a heart attack. Similar health traits are found in Type A women. Type A business or professional women are around seven times more likely to suffer from coronary heart problems than Type B women who do not work.
How to assess your own Type A / Type B behaviour
The test below will help you to as certain whether you are Type A or Type B personality. Read each statement and then answer it as honestly as possible by ticking one number that best reflects the way you behave in your everyday life.
For example, if you are generally on time for appointments, tick a number between 7 and 11; if you are usually casual a bout appointments, ctick one of the lower numbers.
When you have finished, add up all the numbers you have ticked to find your total score. Your total will be somewhere between 14 and 154.
The highest score is 154 and signifies an extreme Type A – a coronary-prone personality. A score of 14 signifies an extreme Type B personality.
That's the end of the test. Now total your score for each statement (enter a number from 1-11 in the boxes below depending on which number you ticked in the test).
It is important to remember that there are no absolute divisions between Type A and Type B but most people lean towards one type more than the other.
The average score is 84 - a total above this means that you will tend to exhibit Type A traits, a total below is indicative of a Type B personality.
If you scored above 84 then it is important for you to learn how to manage your Type A behaviour. In Part Two:"How to control your stress" you will find strategies to help you control your stress and so lesson your risk of illness.
For now, continue learning how to understand stress by going to the next section.