How to use the Type A Personality
It seems to me that it is no coincidence that more often than not, the folks who I chat with about their RA, will, at some point, mention that they are Type A personalities and having RA has really impacted the traits associated with Type A folks.
Type A Personality
First let’s clarify what I mean by Type A. Terms that define personality types have been around for many, many years, dating back to 1950, when cardiologists used Type A and B to predict coronary disease potential in middle-aged men which makes it completely outdated today! Of course, nowadays there are much more sophisticated personality tests, like Myers Briggs, but we still often refer to ourselves as either Type A or Type B.
So according to the original definitions, Type A people tend to be very driven, competitive, rigidly organized, ambitious, anxious, impatient with delays, often considered to be “workaholics” and experience a lot of stress due to many of these traits. Type A men were considered (in 1950) to be at high risk for heart disease.
Type B Personality
Type B folks, on the other hand, enjoy achievement and success but do not have stress-related reactions when they do not achieve them. When it comes to competition, they focus less on winning and more on enjoying the game. Unlike Type A folks who like multi-tasking careers, Type B folks tend towards the creative and are often artists, musicians, counselors, therapists, actors, writers, etc. Network and computer systems managers, as well as judges, tend to be Type B personalities. Type B folks enjoy exploring new ideas and concepts.
Of course, this is a massive over-simplification of personality types, but it is intriguing to look at them and consider where you fall. I mention this because it has really struck me over the years how often I encounter people with RA who characterize themselves as Type A. I thought of myself that way as well. Since there are some chronic disease experts who believe that stress plays a role in not only the flares we experience but, possibly, the initial onset of RA (and other chronic, inflammatory, auto-immune diseases) it makes sense that Type A folks would be more prone, if you will, to experiencing these diseases.
Stress has been shown in many studies to having an adverse effect on our health and so, by extension, if we function through the prism of Type A characteristics, it makes sense that we might be more susceptible to diseases that are tied to stress.
Changing personality types
So, with all of that said, I now believe that we can actually change what personality type we are over time. Because, theoretically, if we strive to do that, it may influence the course of our RA. I know that, without realizing it, I have moved much closer to being a Type B! I try to enjoy games now, without letting the competitive part of it dominate, I have become much more tolerant of delays and deadlines whenever I can, I strive to not let work dominate my life, etc. It is so intriguing to me that there is a clear connection to my success with this and my flare level.
Perhaps if we look at the Type B characteristics as something to strive for, we can use that as yet another strategy in our RA management! At the very least, it is an intriguing concept.
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