What Is a Type A Personality?

(Last Updated On: September 2, 2021)

The Type A personality is often characterized as determined, driven, and hardworking. There are a number of different ways of thinking about and describing personality, and categorizing people as a Type A or Type B is one way to do this.

While Type A and Type B are often thought of as polar opposites, people often have a mixture of traits from both types. It may be more accurate to think of these types as a continuum, with your own unique personality lying somewhere in the middle.

Type A Personality Traits

There is no single definition of a Type A personality, but people with these tendencies often tend to be:

  • Fast-Paced: Researchers suggest that the Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP) is characterized by a sense of urgency. Those who exhibit this pattern are often impatient and get frustrated easily by things like having to wait in line. They often walk quickly, interrupt others when speaking, and feel very pressed for time.
  • Competitive: People with this personality type have a strong need to win. This doesn’t apply only to situations that are genuinely competitive in nature. They often view everyday situations, including relationships and work, as being competitive. 
  • Aggressive: People with Type A personalities are often described as abrupt, blunt, rude, or even hostile. They tend to be short-tempered and are irritated easily.
  • High-Achieving: Type A’s are driven by a need for achievement. They are hard-working but tend to base their self-worth on their accomplishments.

Other Type A Characteristics

Other qualities associated with the Type A personality include:

  • A tendency to multitask
  • Highly ambitious
  • Perfectionistic
  • Very organized and orderly
  • High stress levels
  • Very focused
  • Goal-oriented
  • Outgoing
  • Status-conscious
  • Anxious
  • Proactive

In general, if you have a Type A personality, you probably tend to be highly motivated and hard-working. People may describe you as driven and highly committed to your goals, but you may also come off as impatient or overly competitive at times. 

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Causes

Like other personality characteristics, Type A traits are not caused by a single factor. Some of the things that contribute to a Type A personality include:

  • Genetics
  • Temperament
  • Environmental influences

It is important to note that while some personality traits are more connected to innate temperament, researchers believe that many Type A traits are a reflection of how people react to certain situations and environmental factors. 

For example, people who are naturally somewhat impatient or perfectionist may feel even more pressured to perform well when they are in a high-stress job. 

Because environmental variables can play a role in triggering Type A behavior, making lifestyle changes can be an effective way to temper some of the negative aspects of the Type A personality type.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Just like with other personality types, these tendencies can have their pluses and minuses depending on their expression and the situation. Sometimes these qualities can serve as strengths, but in other cases, they may be weaknesses. Learning more about your personality may help you better understand areas where you might excel.

Advantages

There are many advantages to having a Type A personality. 

  • On the positive side, Type A’s tend to get things done. 
  • When they set a goal, they tend to work hard until they achieve it. 
  • They are also decisive, which is one reason why they may excel in leadership roles

Disadvantages

Because people with this personality type are so highly driven and impatient, they have a tendency to overwork themselves. This personality type is more prone to stress, which can have negative effects on both physical and mental health. They may be “workaholics” who struggle to strike a balance between their work and home life. 

Previous research had suggested that people with Type A personalities were at a greater risk for coronary heart disease. A more recent analysis suggested this may not be the case. However, some evidence suggests that this personality type may lead to an increased risk for hypertension.

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The short-fuse and impatience associated with this personality type can also cause problems in relationships. At work, co-workers or subordinates may see this behavior as hostile or abrasive. In personal relationships, it can lead to conflict and feelings of resentment. In addition to alienating other people, people who have a Type A personality may not invest the time needed to build and maintain healthy relationships because they were focused on other things.

What Can You Do?

Having a Type A personality doesn’t mean that you’re bound to become a short-tempered workaholic. Understanding your personality can help you modulate some of your more extreme tendencies while building on your strengths.

Change Your Thought Patterns

Pay attention to your thoughts and notice how they contribute to your Type A behaviors. For example, when you are feeling irritable and pressed for time, ask yourself if the situation really calls for this sense of urgency. Consider stepping away from the situation for a moment and try to approach it again from a calmer perspective.

Keep a Journal

As you work to adjust your thoughts and behaviors, you may find it helpful to keep a journal to track your progress. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors may help you start to notice situations that trigger Type A behavior. Create a plan for what you can do in these situations to keep your stress levels and temper in check.

Reduce Work Stress

High-stress situations can trigger Type A behavior, so finding ways to reduce stress at work can be helpful. Are there certain aspects of your job that create high levels of stress? Are there things that you could do to help change those situations?

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In some cases, lowering your work stress might involve planning ahead and breaking projects up into smaller tasks. In other situations, you might consider delegating some responsibilities to others. 

Utilize Relaxation Techniques

Because people with Type A personalities are prone to stress, learning effective relaxation techniques is essential. When you find yourself getting impatient, angry, or frustrated, spend a few minutes practicing a tactic such as:

  • Deep breathing
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Exercise

To make this approach the most effective, practice these techniques regularly. Once you get good at inducing a relaxed state, you’ll be able to reproduce the same effect even the in heat of a stressful moment.

The Bottom Line

Having a Type A personality isn’t a bad thing! People who have Type A traits are highly motivated and decisive. Being aware of your tendencies can help you learn how to capitalize on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. 

Having a Type A personality may mean that you are more prone to stress, which can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. Finding ways to cope with stress can help mitigate the potential long-term impacts of stress and improve your overall mental well-being.

Sources:

Hisam A, Rahman MU, Mashhadi SF, Raza G. Type A and Type B personality among undergraduate medical students: Need for psychosocial rehabilitation. Pak J Med Sci. 2014;30(6):1304-1307. doi:10.12669/pjms.306.5541

Kirkcaldy BD, Shephard RJ, Furnham AF. The influence of type A behaviour and locus of control upon job satisfaction and occupational health. Personality and Individual Differences. 2002;33(8):1361-1371. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00018-1

Petticrew MP, Lee K, Mckee M. Type A behavior pattern and coronary heart disease: Philip Morris’s “crown jewel”. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(11):2018-2025. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300816

Steca P, D’Addario M, Magrin ME, et al. A Type A and Type D combined personality typology in essential hypertension and acute coronary syndrome patients: Associations with demographic, psychological, clinical, and lifestyle indicators. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(9):e0161840. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161840