What Are Type A and Type B Personalities?

What Does It Mean by Type A Personality?

Study results are mixed as to whether type A personality traits can lead to heart disease.
Study results are mixed as to whether type A personality traits can lead to heart disease.

Do you feel an intense drive to succeed? Are you often impatient, irritable, or angry? Do you feel like you need to do as much as possible in the shortest amount of time? 

These traits are all signs of a type A personality. There's some evidence that such a high-stress personality might affect your health.

In a 1959 study, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, both heart doctors, compared heart risk factors in several groups of men. Each group included men of a different personality type. Friedman named men with an intense personality "type A." He called men with the opposite traits "type B." 

The type A men had much higher cholesterol levels. They were also more likely to have coronary artery disease than the more laid-back men. 

Since the release of that study, other researchers have found links between type A personality and heart disease. The personality type might play a role in other stress-related diseases too. But don’t worry. Not all the effects of this driven personality are negative. 

Type A and Type B Personality Traits

Your personality type forms from a combination of factors, including your:

  • Genes 
  • Natural temperament since birth
  • Environment and the people around you

Type A Personality Traits

People with type A personalities have several traits in common. They are often:

  • Highly ambitious
  • Competitive
  • Aggressive
  • Insecure about their status in work or life 
  • Irritable or angry
  • Impatient
  • Obsessed with deadlines
  • Goal-driven to achieve as much as possible in the shortest amount of time
  • Willing to take risks

Type B Personality Traits

By contrast, type B personalities are more relaxed, laid-back, creative, and easygoing.

Is Type A Personality Bad?

Researchers first linked heart disease to type A personality back in the late 1950s. A few studies that followed shortly after had similar results. 

If those studies are correct, type A’s may have greater heart risks, in part, because they are under more stress than other people. Stress raises blood pressure. That can increase the risk for a heart attack. Type A’s also may relieve stress in unhealthy ways like drinking alcohol and smoking

But, newer studies don’t find any connection between type A behavior and heart disease. Some researchers even say that type A’s with heart disease live longer than other people with the condition.

Type A Personality, Stress, and Other Health Risks

Over the years, studies have also found connections between type A personality and other diseases. 

  • Among men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the ones that have a type A personality get more infections and have more severe shortness of breath than others. Increased stress and anxiety may cause them to breathe harder and faster. That could make their airways tighten up. They take more risks with their health, which could explain the infections. 
  • People with type A personalities may also be more likely to get a disease called central serous retinopathy or CSR. CSR is an eye disease that causes fluid to collect under the retina. This can lead to blurry and distorted vision. Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol. That can cause fluid to leak out of the blood vessels into the retina.

Benefits of Having a Type A Personality

Having a type A personality isn't all bad for your health.

  • For one thing, it could drive you to stay on top of your screenings.
  • In one study, women with a type A personality were 46% more likely to get mammograms than those with other personality types. 

Type A’s may also take better care of themselves. This could lead to better health outcomes.

  • Studies show that type A people are less likely to die early from diabetes.
  • Type A women in menopause have more mood changes and other emotional symptoms. But, they're also more likely to take hormone therapy to treat those symptoms.

How to Prevent Heart Disease

A type A personality doesn't mean you're destined to have health problems. In some cases, your ambitious nature might actually protect you.

Also, when it comes to the stress aspect of being type A, there are things you can do to lower your risk for heart disease and other harmful conditions such as:

  • Manage the heart risk factors that are within your control. 
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish. 
  • Exercise every day.

You can also try therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a program that teaches you how to solve problems in a healthier way. CBT may help lower risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack in people with type A personalities.

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American Journal of Public Health: "Type A behavior pattern and coronary heart disease: Philip Morris's 'Crown Jewel.'"

Archives of Internal Medicine: "Randomized controlled trial of cognitive behavioral therapy vs standard treatment to prevent recurrent cardiovascular events in patients with coronary heart disease: Secondary Prevention in Uppsala Primary Health Care project (SUPRIM)."

Cancer Medicine: "Personality and breast cancer screening in women of the GAZEL cohort study."

Clinical Cardiology: "Treating Type A Behavior and Your Heart."

Diabetes Care: "Type A behavior and risk of all-cause mortality, CAD, and CAD-related mortality in a type 1 diabetic population: 22 years of follow-up in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study."

Meyer Friedman. Type A Behavior: Its Diagnosis and Treatment, Springer Science & Business Media, 2013.

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine: "Associations between hunter type A/B personality and cardiovascular risk factors from adolescence through young adulthood."

JAMA: "Association of specific overt behavior pattern with blood and cardiovascular findings."

Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology: "Differences in menopausal symptoms and coping strategies according to personality in Japanese nurses."

Medical Science Monitor: "Type A behavior pattern, impulsiveness, risk propensity, and empathy as predictors of dyspnea and number of infections in men with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A cross-sectional study."

PLoS One: "A type A and type D combined personality typology in essential hypertension and acute coronary syndrome patients: Associations with demographic, physiological, clinical, and lifestyle indicators."

Psychiatria Danubina: "Type A personality, stress, anxiety, and health locus of control in patients with acute myocardial infarction."

Royal National Institute of Blind People: "Central serous retinopathy (CSR)."

UNC Charlotte: "Personality type A/B."