Type A Personality Traits

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

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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 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.

    • Hypertension: 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 become 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).

      What Can Be Done for Type A’s:
      Fortunately, like traits such as optimism or assertiveness, Type A characteristics can be altered. The following are ways to soften Type A characteristics in yourself, if you possesss them:

      Change Your Work Life:

      Altering certain factors in your work life to make your job less stressful, more rewarding, and less demanding.

      Change Thought Patterns:

      With practice, you can alter your thinking patterns to more positive ones, you develop more trust in yourself and in thoses around you, and can soften your type a tendencies.

      Fake It Till You Make It

      Sometimes you can ‘act’ your way into new habits. Even if you don’t always feel calm and serene, if you make a conscious choice to try to slow yourself down and be more patient with people, that behavior will most likely become more of a habit and begin to come more easily to you. (Note: it’s not recommended that you become completely detached from awareness of your feelings, or that you keep them bottled up until you eventually explode, but if you focus on making some changes in your behavior in conjunction with some of the following emotion-oriented strategies, you should make more progress, more quickly.)

      Start Journaling:

      The practice of keeping a journal has many proven benefits for your stress level and overall health. It can also be a helpful practice in softening Type A characteristics, especially if done right. The following are the best ways to use your journal as an instrument of change:

      • Keep a record of how many times you lose your temper in a day, treat people rudely, or feel overwhelmed by frustration. Becoming more aware of your tendencies and what triggers reactions in you can be a valuable step in changing your patterns.
      • Write about your feelings. This helps you to process them, and takes some of the intensity from them, so you’re less overwhelmed by strong emotions.
      • Write about solutions. Solving your problems on paper (rather than obsessing about them in your head) can help you to feel less overwhelmed by them. You can also look back through your journal to remember old ideas on solving new problems.

      Face Your Fears:

      This may sound crazy, but a good way to work past Type A tendencies is to give yourself an extra dose of what frustrates you in order to show yourself that it’s not so bad. For example, some therapists would recommend that you pick long lines in the grocery store, just to show yourself that you can survive the frustration of waiting in line for a few extra minutes. (Or, perhaps the threat of having to wait in a longer line will force your subconscious mind to be more patient in one of the shorter lines.)

      Make It A Game:

      When you’re frustrated on the road, About’s mental health expert recommends that you make a game out of it and “count idiots”. The same can be done for life in general. If you see how many frustrating things you can playfully tally, for example, you’ll almost look forward to people’s quirks.

      Breathing Exercises:

      The next time you’re about to scream, why not take the deep breath and, instead, just breathe it out? Yes, when you feel you’re about to explode, a few deep, slow breaths can do wonders! Learn these breathing exercises and you’ll have a stress reliever you can use anywhere!

      Love Your Pets:

      Pets have many stress management and health benefits, and can help provide you with the extra calm you need. Walking a dog can be relaxing and social, get you out into nature (or at least out of the office), and gets you exercise as well! Caring for an animal and receiving its unconditional love can get you in touch with the best parts of your own humanity. Even watching aquarium fish has been known to have a measurable affect on blood pressure! Learn more about pets and stress here.


      Getting out into the sunshine, beautifying your yard, and getting back in touch with nature are some of the benefits of gardening. It all adds up to some great stress relief. This tension taming tool can reduce overall stress and learn to take it easy a little more, softening your Type A tendencies.

      What if you’re not the one with the Type A personality characteristics, but you have to deal with someone else who is? By practicing assertiveness and healthy conflict resolution techniques, you can maintain healthier boundaries and keep yourself from being overrun by a person who exhibits strong Type A personality characteristics.


      Sharma, Vijai P., Ph.D. Characteristics of "Type A" Personality. Mind Publications, 1996.

      Type A Personality Traits Associated With Higher Risk of Hypertension. Medscape, 2003.

      Type A Behavior. Job Stress Network.

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