Type A Behaviour

In the mid 1950s two American cardiologists investigated the possible role of emotional stress in bringing on a heart attack. They asked several hundred industrialists and 100 doctors treating coronary patients, ‹“What do you think caused the heart attack of a friend or patient?’. The majority said stress. The pressure to meet deadlines and excessive competition were singled out as the main culprits. Fascinated by the fact that emotional stress might play a role in coronary heart disease, these two cardiologists started to look at their own patients in a different way. As well as taking blood pressure and assessing cholesterol levels they looked for signs of emotional stress. It soon emerged that many of their coronary patients behaved in a similar way. Body movements and speech characteristics, as well as what the patients said during consultations, painted the same picture of individuals who were rushed, impatient, excessively competitive, ambitious and easily irritated. These early observations of what became known as Type A Behaviour formed the basis of much research investigating the link between emotional stress and heart disease.

So what exactly is Type A Behaviour? We described earlier how much of the way in which we interpret situations depends on our beliefs, attitudes and expectations.

Type A individuals have beliefs, attitudes and expectations that engage them in a constant struggle to gain control over their environment.

Type A people battle vigorously to achieve and maintain control and when they sense this is being challenged or threatened, they respond by behaving in a Type A manner. Each time Type As perceive such emotional threats and challenges, they automatically trigger their stress response. But there is no real threat or challenge to their life. As a result they generate much unnecessary stress for themselves which keeps them frequently outside the normal zone of the stress balance and in the distress zone. Traffic jams, queues at the supermarket and bank, and finding the toothpaste squeezed from the middle of the tube are examples of situations that Type As find threatening. So in response to these situations their heartrate accelerates and pounds, their blood clots more easily and cholesterol levels rise; all for no purpose. With his body prepared for physical action

by activation of the stress response, the Type A individual can only sit and fume in his car. He cannot get out and run up and down the traffic lanes or abandon his car and run away. Nor can he engage in a fight with other motorists.

To be Stresswise you need to identify Type A Behaviour in yourself so that you can take steps to reduce and modify it. This is possible because Type A Behaviour is primarily a learned way of interacting with the environment. Type A Behaviour is chiefly identified by a constant sense of time urgency and easily aroused irritation and aggravation. It is observed in an individual who tries to do more and more in less and less time, thinks about or does two or more things simultaneously, and frequently becomes angry in response to trivial happenings.

Type As might be described as agitated, hard-driving, hasty, hostile, hurried, impatient and irritable. They are often poor listeners, rushed, over-competitive and over-ambitious. People who have very few of these characteristics are described as Type B. They are calm, content, controlled, easy-going, good listeners, not easily irritated, patient and unhurried.

The assessment you completed at the beginning of this blog will give you an idea of your self-perceived level of Type A Behaviour. The questionnaire below will provide a more accurate measure of this. For each question tick the box that best represents your behaviour.

You should note that this is a self-assessment of your Type A Behaviour. It is only as accurate as you are honest in your answers. Furthermore, Type As are often blind to their own behaviour for example, doing things fast. Type As may not think they are as fast as they actually are.

The questionnaire is based on some common Type A characteristics, many of which are simple to detect whilst others are subtle and not so obviously related to time urgency and easily aroused anger and hostility. If a person possesses a large number of Type A characteristics and displays these frequently and excessively then he is considered to be an extreme Type A. On a scale of 0-100, the spectrum of Type A Behaviour ranges from mild (score 40-59 per cent) and moderate (score 60-79 per cent) to severe (score 80-100 per cent), with Type B individuals described as having very few Type A characteristics (score less than 39 per cent). Using a similar questionnaire we have surveyed over 5000 people and found that only 10 per cent were Type B, 80 per cent mild-moderate Type A and 10 per cent extreme Type A.

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