Aspects of our personalities are engaged at various levels every day, whether at home, work, or other social situations. Personality types determine how we interact with people, how we manage our stress, and even guide what kind of professions we choose.
In the field of psychology, research around personality has roots as far back as the days of Socrates.
“People always try to find shortcuts to how we describe an entire person, but type tends to be the most researched and followed throughout time,” says Dr. Libby Brown, clinical psychologist at Deaconess the Women’s Hospital. “We categorize ‘types’ as encompassing an individual as a whole, but traits are what that person has. Sometimes a bundle of traits will be used to describe a type.”
Extroversion and Introversion
One of the common dichotomies in personality types surrounds introverted versus extroverted individuals. But, Dr. Brown says the definitions of these two groups are much more complicated than being either shy or outgoing.
“With introversion, you tend to get your energy from being in your head, time alone, walking, or reading. You store up energy so that you can go out and do your job and interact with people,” she explains. “Extroverted types tend to get their energy from interacting with people. They are out there talking and moving and usually thinking out loud; you can almost hear them process out loud. But when they’re too alone, they may lose energy.”
Understanding if you’re one or the other—or even a little of both—can help in all aspects of life, from career choices to relationships.
Connecting Personality Types to Health Conditions
Another set of personality types that has been studied over the years includes the A, B, C, and D types. Researchers hypothesize that certain types along this spectrum are more prone to specific health conditions. For example, people who are type A may be more likely to have a heart attack whereas type C individuals may experience more autoimmune disorders. However, that cannot be definitively determined as “cause and effect.”
“We’re looking at clusters and patterns to try to see where we could interject ourselves in order to help these types if they are prone towards certain health conditions,” notes Dr. Brown.
Some of the characteristics of each include:
- A: competitive, always striving, easy to overreact, self-critical, constant sense of urgency, impatient, lack of compassion
- B: patient, relaxed, lack of urgency, high degrees of creativity and imagination
- C: suppressed emotions, conflict avoidance, over-compliance
- D: negative, irritable, sadness/gloominess, social inhibition, "glass half empty" personality
Most people exist on a continuum of these types, but lean towards one more than the others. Per Dr. Brown, most people are unable to fully change their type, and coming to accept your type can be beneficial for health and overall wellness.
“I believe all of us are capable of layering on skills that help us cope with ourselves, with our environment, with our relationships. I believe you have to lean in to whatever type you are and accept the positives of it instead of just hoping you can change it and eliminate the negative sides,” she shares. “I want to honor the types you might have inherited; that is who you are. What may look like you’re changing them is likely accepting and coping with the negative side of that type.”
Building an Emotional Toolkit
When it comes to personality types, knowledge really is power. Understanding the unique aspects about yourself allows you to create coping tools for difficult or uncomfortable situations and emotions.
“Know thyself. Once you know something, you can’t not know it,” advises Dr. Brown. “Honor yourself to know where you get your energy from, because interacting with people, doing our jobs, studying, dating, and everything else we do requires energy. If you try to be a square peg crammed into a round hole, you may get it to fit but it won’t stay there very well.”