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Personality types A, B and C and Disease

Personality type A, Type B and heart disease

Research has established a relationship between personality type and susceptibility to heart disease. People with personality type A seem to be more prone to heart disease, are typically more driven, impatient, energetic and ambitious. In contrast, people with personality type B, seem to take life more slowly, are usually more relaxed and less likely to develop heart disease.

Two American cardiologists named Friedman and Rosenman who were running a busy practice in the early 1950s, wondered why the seats in their waiting room wore out so quickly. The upholsterer who fixed the seats noted that it was rather odd the way patients must sit on the edge of their seats, clutching at the armrests, as if they were anxious to get out of there as soon as possible. It was not surprising that the seats kept wearing out in the same place. The unusual "sitting behavior" of their patients led Friedman and Rosenman to uncover the link between the restless personality type and heart problems.


However, it is believed that individuals with personality type B is actually composed of several different traits. Also, there is generally little agreement as to which personality types are more susceptible to heart disease, although some interesting studies have been completed in recent years. One study included a group of men and women given a frustrating anagram puzzle to solve. When doing the puzzle, individuals who stated on a questionnaire to be more hostile and suspicious had a tendency to show a higher increase in blood pressure than their more trusting peers. This study and others began to provide evidence that some people are much more reactive in response to stress and are more susceptible to the development of hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Personality type C. and cancer:

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the more developed countries after heart disease. Does your personality type affect your chance of getting cancer? There is some research to suggest that it might although the cause and effect relationship between cancer and personality type is not as strong as it is between personality type and heart disease. Psychologists have now identified a "type C." (cancer-prone) personality which may be characterized as someone who responds to stress with depression and a sense of hopelessness. Type C personalities have a tendency to be introverted, respectful, eager to please, conforming and compliant. However, these same studies have not identified how personality may affect lifestyle choices such as are these same individuals more likely to smoke?

There has been some evidence to suggest that your personality type may have some relationship to your chance of surviving cancer. Those who respond with a "fighting spirit" or sense of denial seem to do better than the type C personalities who seem to accept their fate passively. A Stanford University (in the USA) professor named David Spiegel discovered that cancer patients who joined a support group which fostered a "fighting spirit" had a tendency to live on average, 18 months longer than those who were not in such a group.

However, the data is far from conclusive, and there are many problems with overemphasizing personality type without considering various other factors and their effect on the disease process. Taken to an extreme, some individuals may even feel guilty in considering that their personality type may be responsible for their disease, which may only add to their problems. If personality type does have some effect on the disease process, it is probably related more to the weakening affect on the immune functioning through an individual's response to stress. This can then undermine the body's defenses and make an individual more vulnerable to infection. However, much more research needs to be done to understand the effect of personality type on physical health.

Some information from Making the Most of Your Brain by The Reader's Digest

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic M.A. Licensed Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate 

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