What It Really Means to Have a Type A Personality, Revealed

What do you think of when you hear the words, “Type A personality?” You probably envision somebody who’s competitive, spends a ton of time at work, and always seems stressed about something. But what does this notorious combination of personality traits mean for you? What does it look like to have a Type A personality? And, more interestingly, do you or someone you know have this personality type?

Read on to get the answers to all your questions about what it means to have a Type A personality.

What’s a Type A personality, and what’s a Type B personality?

Two angry businesspeople disputing

The two personality types are very different. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

It stands to reason that if some people have a Type A personality, then other people have a Type B personality. And the differences between the two will probably make it clear to you which one you are. VeryWell Mind reports that Type A personality traits include competitiveness, time urgency, and a tendency toward workaholism. Many people — particularly Type A people — see those personality traits as beneficial for career success.

However, Type B personalities can also be high achievers at work. They tend to focus less on competitiveness and more on enjoying the journey. According to VeryWell, “They may work hard and take real pride in their accomplishments, but they don’t attach the same stress to their outcomes if they don’t come in first or achieve the most, something that tends to create significant stress in Type As.” People with a Type B personality may also be more creative and low-stress by nature.

What other personality traits do Type A people have?

Do you suspect that you — or someone in your family or on your team at work — have a Type A personality? Then you probably recognize some of the personality traits above. VeryWell Mind reports that experts consider time urgency and impatience, as well as free-floating hostility or aggressiveness as hallmarks of a Type A personality. Psychology Today explains that the behavioral characteristics of a Type A personality also include a few more traits:

  • Hostility
  • Impatience
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Competitiveness
  • Drive
  • Perfectionism
  • An unhealthy dependence on external rewards (e.g., wealth, status, or power)

VeryWell Mind reports that Type A personality can also include strong achievement orientation and a need for dominance. Some people with a Type A personality may even have distinct physical characteristics, which result from years of stress and Type A behavior. These physical characteristics can include facial tension, tongue clicking, teeth grinding, dark circles under the eyes, and even facial sweating.

Can a Type A personality affect my health?

The extra stress that people with a Type A personality experience can take a toll on their health and lifestyle, according to VeryWell. There’s some association with hypertension, heart disease, job stress, and even social isolation. In fact, a Type A personality can play a distinct role in your health, according to U.S. News. “One of the aspects of the impatient, hard-charging Type A personality that is known to increase heart disease risk is hostility,” the publication notes. Hostile people eat more and smoke more than other personality types. They also exercise less.

Hostile people are also more likely to become overweight. And they often have higher cholesterol and blood pressure. Even worse? Researchers have found that hostile people are also more likely to die before reaching their 50s. These effects are due to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increased inflammation in the walls of the coronary arteries. Learning to control your anger and communicate clearly can have definite health benefits!

Why do people develop a Type A personality?

If you have a Type A personality and don’t particularly like it, are you stuck? VeryWell Mind reports some personality traits — such as extroversion or introversion — are innate. But others come about as a reaction to environmental factors. (Even if you have a natural tendency to certain types of behavior.) For example, your job or career could place heavy penalties on mistakes, or create extra stress.

VeryWell reports that some people “do have a natural tendency toward being more intense.” But not all hope is lost. As the publication explains, “This tendency can be exacerbated by environmental stress, or mitigated by conscious effort and lifestyle changes.” You can make changes to your work life, consciously shift your thought patterns, choose to become more patient with people, work on your patience levels, or take up stress-relieving hobbies.

Read more: Stress at Work: Signs You’re Headed for a Nervous Breakdown

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