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Type A Personality Traits: Characteristics and Effects of a Type A Personality

What Does It Mean To Have A "Type A" Personality?

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Updated May 30, 2014

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Since researchers started studying Type A personality over 50 years ago, it’s become a household term. Most people now know that Type A personality characteristics have something to do with being competitive and work-obsessed, and can bring an increased risk of health problems, but it’s not always understood exactly what traits constitute “Type A Behavior”, or exactly how these traits impact health and wellbeing. This article explains more about “Type A”, how it affects people, and how to deal with stress if you have a “Type A Personality”, or if you work closely with someone who does!

Traits of Type A Behavior
Key Characteristics:

While the term “Type A” is thrown around often, it’s not always fully known what specific characteristics make up “Type A” personality, even among experts. For example, some people, the term applies to rude and impatient people. Others see workaholics as “Type A”. Many see competitiveness as the main characteristic. According to research, the following characteristics are the hallmark characteristics of Type A Behavior (TAB):

  • Time Urgency and Impatience, as demonstrated by people who, among other things, get frustrated while waiting in line, interrupt others often, walk or talk at a rapid pace, and are always painfully aware of the time and how little of it they have to spare.
  • Free-Floating Hostility or Aggressiveness, which shows up as impatience, rudeness, being easily upset over small things, or ‘having a short fuse’, for example.

Additionally, Type A behavior often includes:

  • Competitiveness
  • Strong Achievement-Orientation
  • Certain Physical Characteristics That Result From Stress and Type A Behavior Over Years

Physical Characteristics:
The following physical characteristics often accompany TAB:

  • Facial Tension (Tight Lips, Clenched Jaw, Etc.)
  • Tongue Clicking or Teeth Grinding
  • Dark Circles Under Eyes
  • Facial Sweating (On Forehead or Upper Lip)

Negative Effects of Type A Behavior:
Over the years, the type of extra stress that most “Type A” people experience takes a toll on one’s health and lifestyle. The following are some of the negative effects that are common among those exhibiting TAB:

  • Hyptertension: High blood pressure is common among “Type A” personalities, and has been documented by research to be as much as 84% more of a risk among those with Type A characteristics..
  • Heart Disease: Some experts predict that, for those exhibiting TAB, heart disease by age 65 is a virtual certainty.
  • Job Stress: “Type A” people usually find themselves in stressful, demanding jobs (and sometimes the jobs create the Type A behavior!), which lead to metabolic syndrome and other health problems.
  • Social Isolation: Those with TAB often alienate others, or spend too much time on work and focus too little on relationships, putting them at risk for social isolation and the increased stress that comes with it.

Fixed Characteristic vs. Situational Reaction:
While many personality traits, such as extroversion, are innate, most researchers believe that Type A personality characteristics are more of a reaction to environmental factors, or tendencies toward certain behaviors, and are influenced by culture and job structure. For example,

  • Many jobs put heavy demands on time, making it necessary for workers to be very concerned with getting things done quickly if they’re to adequately get their jobs done.
  • Some workplaces put heavy penalties on mistakes, so efficiency and achievement becomes extremely important.
  • Other jobs just create more stress, making people less patient, more stressed, and more prone to 'Type A' behaviors.
  • Other people do have a natural tendency toward being more intense, but this tendency can be exacerbated by environmental stress, or mitigated by conscious effort and lifestyle changes (which I’ll discuss next).

See Page 2 for Tips on Dealing With Type A Tratis.

Could you have a Type A Personality? Take this quiz to see how closely you fit the Type A mold.

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