Howard S. Friedman, Professor of Psychology at the University of California Riverside and Psychology Today blogger, has researched the relationship between personality and health. In this research, he has distinguished between what he calls “disease-prone” and “self-healing” personalities.
Research shows that certain individuals are prone to develop stress-related illnesses in clusters. The disease-prone personality is associated with a pervasive negative mood, depression, anxiety, and irritability. They tend to dwell on the negatives of life and are often dissatisfied. As a result, they are more prone to stress-related illnesses, including coronary heart disease.
Self-healing personality is associated with being conscientious, emotionally secure, having enthusiasm for life, and strong social relationships. These characteristics lead to more healthful behaviors—avoiding smoking, better adherence to exercise programs and maintaining a healthy diet. This leads to greater resistance to stress-related illnesses.
Although personality is difficult to change, we can learn from the behavior patterns of disease-prone and self-healing individuals. A focus on maintaining a more healthy lifestyle can make all the difference. Cultivating good, supportive social relationships, as opposed to staying in stress-filled and conflict-ridden relationships. Developing good coping strategies for dealing with stress and life’s little hassles will stave off stress-related diseases.
Friedman, H.S. (1991). The Self-Healing Personality: Why Some People Achieve Health and Others Succumb to Illness. New York: Henry Holt.
Friedman, H.S., & Booth-Kewley, S. (1987). The “disease-prone personality”: A meta-analytic view of the construct. American Psychologist, 42, 539-555.
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