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Identifying and Assisting Type D Personalities

Edited By: Jake Ramirez

 If you have a tendency to feel gloomy, keep to yourself or hide your emotions from others, you might be a Type D personality. Personality types were originally identified by cardiologists back in the 1950s as part of research undertaken to determine which individuals might be at greater risk of developing heart disease.

Numerous additional personality types have been discovered in the years since and labeled with specific letters to represent a set of patterned personality traits. The Type A personality, for instance, consists of traits such as competitiveness, aggressiveness, and high levels of ambition. People with this personality were found to be at greater risk of experiencing cardiac complications such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Personality types do not refer to a mental health diagnosis – they actually refer to a pattern of traits that can help researchers learn who might be at risk of certain health complications.

Type D Personality

The Type D personality type was first identified during the 1990s by a Belgian psychologist and researcher named Johan Denollet. The “D” in the name stands for “distressed” and refers to a set of personality traits such as:

• Feelings of worry

• Sadness

• Irritability

• Pessimistic outlook

• Negative self-talk

• Avoidance of social situations

• Lack of self-confidence

• Fear of rejection

• Appearing gloomy

• Hopelessness

Although it’s true that we all feel these things at times during our lives, people with Type D personalities tend to experience them more frequently and consistently over time than those who are not.

How Do I Know If I’m a Type D?

Type D personalities are identified from an individual’s degree of social inhibition and negative affectivity. The former refers to the degree to which an individual shies away from social interactions for fear of rejection or judgment, whereas the latter refers to the degree to which an individual feels sadness, worry, and irritability.

Questions to Consider

The following questions can be asked to determine whether you have a Type D personality:

• Do I tend to bottle up my emotions and not show them to others?

• Do I find it difficult to meet new people?

• Do I become easily overwhelmed in sticky situations?

• Do I tend to avoid social interactions when possible?

• Do I often talk negatively to myself?

• Do I often find myself feeling sad or irritable?

• Do I tend to be in a bad mood much of the time?

• Do I worry a lot?

Emotional Challenges

Sharing our emotions with people can often lead us to feeling vulnerable, but for Type D personality individuals, doing so can be downright terrifying. In fact, they commonly fear rejection and judgment from others and usually work to hide their emotions in order to protect themselves from such experiences. Type Ds also find trusting people more difficult than others.

Physical Health

Seeing as Type D individuals work hard to stifle, cover and hide their most challenging emotions, they’re more susceptible to health complications such as coronary artery disease, compromised immune function and chronic inflammation. This is brought on by the enormous amount of distress that Type Ds tend to bring upon their bodies due to stifling, covering and hiding their emotions. It manifests itself in the form of increased heart rate and increased release of blood sugar, among others.

Relationships

Social interaction can be difficult for type D personalities due to the increased worrying and sadness that they experience over non-type D personality individuals. In addition, type D individuals usually find it difficult to grow and maintain relationships due to their heightened negative affectivity and social inhibition. This leads them to being perceived as pessimistic, gloomy and unapproachable in the eyes of partners, friends and family members. 

School and Career

Social inhibition as exhibited by type Ds tends to make it difficult for them to find a sense of belonging and shared interests with others, as well as causing them increased distress when faced with group tasks or projects. This often leads them to being perceived as disengaged our unwilling to participate. Furthermore, type Ds can also struggle with setting and achieving personal goals. They also tend to become exceedingly stressed over assignments or projects at work or at school, immediately forecasting a negative outcome to their endeavors.

Steps to Take If You’re a Type D

Here are some steps you can take if you determine that you’re a type D personality:

• Positive self-talk: Identifying and challenging old patterns of negative self-talk can help people begin to understand how this has impacted their decision making, behaviors, and relationships. Taking time to discover and incorporate honest, positive self-talk can be a game changer for type D individuals.

• Emotional regulation: Dealing with sadness, stress, and worry can be a challenge for type D personality types. Understanding how these emotions work and tuning in to how they can be of help to us can allow for healthier decision making and less distress. For example, they might consider, "When I feel irritable, what is it that I'm needing?"

• Healthy coping skills: Incorporating new, healthy behaviors to help cope with moments of distress can be helpful. Since many type D individuals have become so good at bottling up and hiding their emotions, learning to become more aware of their emotional patterns can help them to better navigate distress and cope in healthier ways.

• Interpersonal skills: Inhibition is a hallmark of type D personality types, so learning how to overcome social challenges is key. Finding ways to reach out to others, looking for common interests and learning how to take small emotional risks with others can offer great practice. This can be something as simple as saying, "Hello" to someone new, or learning how to initiate conversation with others.

• Exercise: Incorporating regular exercise into our everyday routines can be helpful on a variety of levels. For those with type D personality traits, it can allow them to better regulate their emotions and find healthy coping behaviors. Physical exercise helps to regulate stress hormones and can offer us an opportunity to relieve tension.

• Distress tolerance: Life naturally has ups and downs, so eliminating distress completely is not a realistic option. However, learning healthy ways to manage stressful moments is of great help. Techniques like breathing, mindfulness, and practicing gratitude are examples of appropriate ways to manage stressful situations.

• Self-efficacy: People with type D personality traits can find it hard to feel hopeful and empowered to influence change in their own lives. Discovering and celebrating small victories can help people to increase their sense of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a concept that refers to how competent we believe we are and the level to which we see ourselves as able to successfully complete tasks, for example. Celebrating victories, no matter how small, and taking inventory of our strengths can be of help to increase our sense of self-efficacy.

• Relationship building: Because of their inhibition and fears around rejection and judgment, it is understandable that type D individuals have a hard time building and keeping close relationships. Learning how to trust, communicate effectively, and be a healthy partner can be instrumental in increasing quality of life in this area. Counseling can help people learn how to effectively navigate conflict in relationships and offer people guidance on how to build and maintain close, healthy connections.

• Goal-setting: Hopefulness and optimism are a challenge for type D individuals. Learning to set meaningful goals can help people gain clarity of their personal values and priorities. Short term goal-setting can allow people to learn how to focus on their future with an increased sense of hope, optimism, and confidence.

• Mindfulness: Mindfulness, prayer, and meditation can offer type D personalities a way to find calm, increase peace, regain hope, and offer a reliable method for regulating their emotions in times of distress. There are a variety of benefits, emotionally and physically, to practicing mindfulness and learning how to slow ourselves down when beginning to experience distress.

 

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