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Personality & Health

Personality and perceived Stress:
     An individual must perceive a stressor in order for it to have an impact on them, and people's personalities determine how they will perceive something. Some people perceive certain events as more stressful as others. Also, the very same situation can be experienced differently depending on their personality. A shy person who is at a busy loud party will experience more stress in the situation than an outgoing person that thrives on that sort of experience.

Personality Types and Behaviour Patterns:
     There are personality variables that are linked to certain health outcomes. Stress seems to be a factor in these personality types and specifically how a person responds to stress.

1) Type-A Behaviour Pattern: This type of behaviour pattern occurs in individuals when they demonstrate: a) a competitive orientation towards achievement, b) a sense of urgency about time, and c) a strong tendency to feel anger and hostility. They tend to strive very hard and competitively towards certain goals, often without feeling much enjoyment in the process at all.

2) Type-B Behaviour Pattern: This individual demonstrates low levels of competitiveness and urgency about time. They are more easygoing and relaxed and enjoy life.

     Type A and Type B personalities react differently to stress. Type-A's respond more quickly and forcefully and tend to view sources of stress as threats to their personal self-control. They act in ways that increase the likelihood that they will encounter stress. They create their own stress, by seeking out demanding, competitive situations, and by creating artificial deadlines for themselves. A number of studies have found a link between Type-A behaviour and coronary heart disease. The three specific components of Type-A behaviour that contribute to heart disease include anger and hostility. Anger and hostility directed against the self may be especially damaging to health. Also, hostility characterized by suspiciousness, resentment, frequent anger and antagonism towards others seems to be bad for health.

     Some reasons have been proposed as top why Type-A personalities experience more heart disease. As previously mentioned, these types of individuals experience more stress. One theory proposes that when people perceive stress, their bodies try to pump greater amounts of blood through narrower constricted blood vessels. This may wear out the coronary arteries, lead to lesions and produce heart attack. Another theory suggests that hormones activated by stress may cause continual change in blood pressure and undermine resilient blood vessels. A third theory states that stress could cause lipids to release into the blood stream, which contributes to atherosclerosis, a disease that causes fatty deposits to constrict blood vessels.

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