As humans, we like to put things into groups: clean socks or dirty socks; red wine, white wine, or rosé; movies with or without Jason Momoa. This helps us make sense of the world around us, assigning categories as shortcuts for our brain. This is also a technique we apply to other people — specifically, their personality. You’ve probably heard someone referred to as a “Type A” or having a “type A personality,” often with a negative connotation. Maybe they were even referring to you. But what is a type A personality, anyway? Here’s what you need to know about the definition of a type A personality, and some of the most common traits.
What is a type A personality?
The theory that people have either a type A or type B personality has been around since the 1950s. Two cardiologists — Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman — were looking at personality factors that may contribute to the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. They found that people with what they deemed “type A” personalities — who had a tendency to be competitive, driven, hurried, and easily angered — had a much higher risk of cardiovascular problems than those with the more laid-back “type B” personalities. Of course, Friedman and Rosenman only conducted their research on a sample of middle-aged men, and there are a number of other factors that contribute to heart disease (genetics and socioeconomic factors, among others), but their personality groupings — particularly in the form of labeling someone a “type A” — have stuck around since.
What are the traits of a type A personality?
There are several classic traits of a person with a type A personality. According to Healthline and VeryWell Mind, these include:
- having a tendency to multitask
- being competitive
- being aggressive or having a “short fuse”
- having a need for dominance
- having a lot of ambition
- being very organized
- disliking wasting time
- deriving much of their self-worth from what they are able to achieve
- feeling impatient or irritated when delayed
- spending much of your time focused on work
- being highly focused on your goals
- being more likely to experience stress when faced with delays or other challenges that affect success
- being prone to criticizing themselves, especially if they had to leave something undone or feel you didn’t do a good job
In case it helps to hear a bit about the flip side, here are some common traits of type B personalities:
- spending a lot of time on creative pursuits or philosophical thought
- feeling less rushed when completing assignments or tasks for work or school
- not feeling stressed when you can’t get to everything on your to-do list
And given that people with type A personalities were originally grouped together because of higher risk of heart disease, here are a few physical traits that they may experience as a result of stress:
- Facial tension (tight lips, clenched jaw, etc.)
- Tongue clicking or teeth grinding
- Dark circles under eyes
- Facial sweating (on forehead or upper lip)
What are some ways for type A personalities to deal with stress?
We should also point out that there is no “good” or “bad” personality types: it all comes down to how you deal with challenges and stressors that come your way. People with type A personalities can help to control (and ideally minimize) their stress levels using strategies including:
- Finding their stress triggers, and minimizing exposure as much as possible
- Taking breaks during periods of stress
- Making time for exercise
- Practicing self-care
- Learning (and then using) new relaxation techniques
If your stress has gotten to the point of causing high levels of anxiety or depression or otherwise being disruptive to your life or health, then it may be a good idea to make an appointment with a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional.