“Knowing yourself is the first battle won,” says Claudia Luiz, PsyD, a psychoanalyst and author in NYC. Learning how to achieve this, however, can be somewhat of a puzzle. While there’s an unfathomable amount of online tests to pick and choose from, trying to make sense of it all can get, well, overwhelming, to say the least (raise your hand if you’ve ever gone down the Buzzfeed spiral before). And as someone who’s spent hours poring over their Myers Briggs results, I can say this with unequivocal certainty: Figuring yourself out isn’t for the weak of heart. Yet despite this sea of personality test ambiguity, one thing has remained comfortingly clear: People are generally described as type As or Bs, high strung and competitive vs. laid back, ambitious and overachieving vs. chill. But what if I told you that in fact, the alphabet doesn’t end there? Turns out types C and D were there all along! And since you can never have too much self-awareness, I set out to find some much-needed answers about these less-commonly-discussed personality types. If you’re curious to learn what psychologists have to say about these elusive, lesser-known personality types (as I most certainly was), read on.
What is a type D personality?
We all know type As are considered highly driven and competitive, while Bs tend toward lower stress levels and exude a more laid-back approach to life. Ds, on the other hand, are the ones who experience negative emotions like stress and anxiety but choose to instead ignore their feelings, causing all manner of ills. Type D is far from being the new kid on the personality block—the term was first coined in the early ’90s by psychologist Johan Denollet at Tilburg University. The D actually stands for distressed, meaning that similar to type A individuals, Ds are also prone to health conditions like cardiac disease. “On the one hand, type-D people have the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and so on,” Denollet explained in an interview with Medscape’s heartwire. “At the same time, they also score higher [on tests] measuring social inhibition. Type-D patients are more closed in social interactions and are more unlikely to disclose their personal feelings toward others and tend to feel a bit insecure. This combination makes them more liable to chronic forms of psychological distress.” This may be due in part to type D’s propensity for a half-empty mindset. In one 2010 study, Denollet and the other study authors noted that “symptoms of depression/anxiety not only reflect episodic distress but also a more ingrained tendency to experience distress” in those with distressed personalities.
Signs to Look Out For
Find yourself feeling irritable all the time? According to Psychology Today, this could be a sign you have a type D personality. Here are some other questions to ask yourself: Do I keep mostly to myself and tend to hide my feelings from others? Am I often gloomy? While all personality types might struggle with these feelings from time to time, type Ds will find these statements to be true more often than not. In the work environment, this looks like someone who becomes more easily stressed and is more prone to experiencing burnout than their peers. At home, it could be a refusal to talk about feelings or becoming easily frustrated by minor irritations.
Wait—what happened to type C?
Considered the anti rule-breakers of the personality alphabet—those with type C personalities are known for their perfectionism. They strive for excellence, often devoting long hours to completing one specific task. While they may seem quiet and thoughtful on the outside, they are actually seething inside. “Type C personalities are prone to both stress and depression because they tend to be emotionally repressed, unassertive, and perfectionists,” Reichbach pointed out. That said, he also noted they also have plenty of positive traits, like being thoughtful and dependable. And though type Cs can be patient and kind, they tend to avoid their negative emotions and have difficulty coping with their problems, which can contribute to its own long-term effects and significant health issues. If you see yourself here, take heart. According to Sal Raichbach, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, the first step in overcoming these negative traits is by learning more about your personality type. “You have to be able to recognize a problem before you can address it,” he insists. Similarly, Luiz believes the biggest mistake people make is trying to change their innate personality. “You can’t always choose your thoughts,” she says. “You can, however, choose the attitude you will exercise toward those thoughts.”
Get to know your struggles.
Experts stress that it’s important to keep researching our personalities further because the more we understand, the more proactive we can be. Part of this means being aware of the difficulties that might arise. As Susan Krauss notes in Psychology Today: “Individuals in [the type D group] are likely to be anxious, lonely, and perhaps even traumatized, all of which cause their mental health to suffer.” One 2016 study published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry found a link between type D and childhood trauma (emotional and physical neglect as well as abuse). “The evidence is quite clear that personality D is physically harmful,” Raichback adds, “as these personalities are much more likely to have heart issues and the issues are more likely to be fatal—this is true with other diseases as well, where a type D ends up sicker than others.” While type C hasn’t been directly linked to health issues (despite early claims that it was connected to cancer), difficulties arise for people with type C personalities when presented with health issues. “If they get a serious diagnosis, they may be passive, throw their hands up, and say, ‘Well, there’s nothing I can do about it, anyway. If it’s my time, it’s my time,’” clinical psychologist Robin Belamaric told U.S. News & World Report.
I’m pretty sure I fall into one of these categories. Now what?
“We will often hear type A personalities say that they are not really controlling,” affirms Luiz, “and similarly, many type D personalities would prefer to think of themselves as victims of circumstance rather than know their own innate tendency toward negativity.” When it comes down to it, the difficulty in knowing your tendency toward negativity, anxiety, worry, and pessimism is often in finding it unacceptable and not liking yourself. “Then, you will want to revert back to defending against how your mind tends to work,” Luiz adds. “So the way to surrendering to what you really are is accepting it without judgment. “Knowing and then accepting your personality is what makes it possible for you to take care of yourself, nourish, replenish, and exercise compassion towards yourself,” she explains, “which is the path to a good life.”
Treatment Options for Improving Your Health
In terms of health, Denollet, the theory’s originator, spoke with heartwire about possible treatment options for type Ds. “It’s important to get these patients involved in cardiac rehabilitation programs, including exercise training,” he said. “I would also advise doctors to more closely monitor these patients, maybe by getting them into the office for a more regular checkup or even by telephone to see how they’re doing and to pay particular attention to things like quitting smoking.”
Moving Past C and D
Even as we accept our natural tendency toward various personality traits, knowing they aren’t set in stone or hereditary is important. It is possible to shift from one personality type to another. Moreover, experts believe we should continually strive to move past them. “D personalities need new coping skills to bring the stress down and their self-acceptance up,” says Raichbach. “The solution, of course, involves seeking professional help.” When it comes to C types, Raichback notes that making even small steps toward changing your temperament—learning to say no and building self-confidence—can go a long way in counteracting the negative traits of a C personality. He points to a therapeutic technique called “motivational interviewing” as an especially helpful method for finding the internal motivation to change the negative thoughts and lack of expression. This involves collaboration between a therapist and patient, where ideas about change are evoked with emphasis on the person’s autonomy, meaning the patient isn’t told what to do or why they should do it—instead, the therapist “draws out” these motivations and skills for change. Another crucial aspect of moving past identification with our types is exercising non-judgment toward ourselves, Luiz asserts. “It’s hard work,” she says, but the ultimate goal is figuring out how to get comfortable in a world that naturally offers up a lot of frustration and suffering (which can easily affect every personality type). “Non-judgment, acceptance, compassion, and self-protection are the best ways to go, regardless of your type,” Luiz adds. “This is what makes it possible to choose positive outcomes no matter what you think or feel.”