Characteristics of "Type A" Personality

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Type A personality has almost become a household word.  The relationship between type A personality and heart disease has become a common knowledge, at least, among physicians and their afflicted patients.  In spite of its wide publicity and media attention, criteria of type A behavior or personality still remain vague.  Even the so-called experts don't diagnose it correctly.  There are two cardinal features of type A that we must remember, namely, "time urgency or time- impatience" and "free-floating (all pervasive and ever-present) hostility."

 One employee, an astute observer of human behavior, gives the following description of his boss Arthur:

"Arthur talks real fast at the rate of 140 words per minute or more. His voice is grating, harsh, irritating, excessively loud, and just generally unpleasant.  His posture is tense with abrupt jerky movement.  Every few minutes, he raises his eyebrows in a tic-like fashion.  Likewise, every few minutes, he raises or pulls back one or both shoulders in a tic-like fashion.  

His tongue is indented due to chronic pressure against the back of his upper incisor teeth.  When he speaks, you can hear a click because he has to separate his tongue from his upper teeth in order to open his mouth.  You can hear his breath as he continuously sucks in air to speak rapidly.  He sighs as he exhales which is not a sigh of relief but a sigh of frustration and emotional exhaustion.  He blinks every couple seconds.  He frequently exhibits beads of perspiration on his forehead and upper lip even at normal room temperature.         

The skin of his lower eyelid has become brown because of a diffuse and permanent deposit of melanin.  His facial expression with glaring eyes and lowered eyebrows make him look hostile.  His lower eyelid is raised permanently which makes him look like he's staring at you.  He looks aggressive and determined because the muscles surrounding his mouth are always tight.  His thin lips are slightly pulled on both sides, and a visible bulge is created by tense jaws which make him look angry with an artificial smile.  He has a habit of rapidly retracting the sides of his mouth that sometimes bare his teeth."

 Arthur exhibits all of the noted physical signs of type A behavior (TAB).  In fact, consider Arthur as the personification of TAB.  If Arthur does not change himself, he will have a cardiac disaster before the age 65.  Note that the prediction of heart disease before age 65 for him is not a mere possibility, it is a certainty.   

 Above we have depicted a comprehensive description of the scientifically identified physical characteristics of TAB.  Let's now return to the two cardinal psychological characteristics of TAB, namely, the time-impatience and the free-floating hostility.  Here are a few questions that I have adapted from Dr. Friedman's assessment techniques to determine each of the two characteristics.  Regard these informal questions merely as pointers and not as the standard scientific assessment of TAB disorder.  

 Following questions may be asked to determine the presence of time-impatience  1.  Do you eat fast and leave the dinner table immediately ?  2.  Does your partner or any close friend tell you to slow down, become less tense, or take it easy?  3.  Does it bother you a lot to wait in line at cashier's counter or to be seated in a restaurant?  4.  Do you usually look at TV or read the paper while eating?  5.  Do you examine your mail or do other things while listening to someone on the telephone?  6.  Do you often think of other matters while listening to your partners or others?  7.  Do you believe that usually you are in a hurry to get things done?  

 Pervasive and ever-present hostility can be assessed by the following questions:  1.  Do you often find it difficult to fall asleep or difficult to stay asleep because you are upset about something a person has done?  2.  Do you believe that most people are not honest or are not willing to help others?  3.  Do you become irritated when driving or swear at others?  4.  Does your partner, when riding with you, ever tell you to cool or calm down?  5.  Do you often have a feeling that your partner is competing against you or is too critical of your inadequacies?  6.  Do you grind your teeth or has your dentist ever told you that you have done so?  7.  Does the car-driving errors of other drivers, the indifference of store clerks, or the tardiness of mail delivery upset you significantly?  

 Dr. Friedman has identified two psychological and six physical signs as major indicators of TAB.  According to him these eight signs are almost always diagnostic of TAB.  The two psychological signs are:  1. Presence of impatience or easily induced hostility.  2.  Constant apprehension of future disasters (which is not a symptom of an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder).  The six physical signs are:  1.  Excessive perspiration of the forehead and the upper lip.  2.  Teeth grinding.  3.  Indentation of the tongue due to its chronic pressure against the top incisor teeth. 4.    Tic-like retraction of the upper eye lid.  5.  Tic-like retraction of the corners of the mouth.  6.  Brown coloring of the skin of the lower eyelid.

In another article, I will discuss ways to modify type A behaviors and characteristics.      

For more articles on Mind Publications about "Type A" personalities, please visit Type A Personalities.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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