Researchers have been studying personality traits known as "Type A" for so long that it has become a household word. We call people who are work-obsessed and overly competitive—with increased risk of health problems as a result—"Type A" personalities.
But who are these people? Are they us? Not everyone, even the experts, agree on what constitutes "Type A" behavior (TAB). For some, the term applies to rude and impatient individuals, while for others it means "workaholic." Most agree that competitiveness is the main characteristic. That, and a strong orientation toward achievement. These people display impatience and tend to get frustrated while waiting in line, interrupt others when they are talking, and walk at a rapid pace.
That's an over-simplification of "Type A" behavior, but what's the result of it? High blood pressure is common among those with TAB, as is heart disease by age 65, if not before, and social isolation because of too much time spent on work and too little on personal relationships. Stress gets much of the blame for creating the typical "Type A" personality. Most notably, stress that comes from jobs with heavy demands on time, which in turn creates more stress and more "Type A" behavior. A vicious circle, in other words.
Some researchers have come up with a TAB quiz that can tell us whether we fit the "Type A" mold. Frankly, I found most of the questions could not be answered accurately with a simple "yes" or "no," but for what it's worth, here they are:
(1) Are you more often in a hurry than not?
(2) Do you grind your teeth, asleep or awake?
(3) Do you listen fully when others are talking?
(4) Do you consider people generally untrustworthy?
(5) Do you usually read or sort mail while talking on the phone or eating?
(6) Are other people always telling you to relax or slow down?
(7) Are you frustrated by having to wait in line or sit in traffic?
(8) Do you talk faster than others, sometimes having to repeat yourself?
(9) Are your facial muscles tense much of the time?
(10) Do you interrupt others when they are speaking?
(11) Do you focus more heavily on achievement than personal relationships?
(12) Do you have a significant need for recognition from your peers?
(13) Are you in a stressful, high-demand job?
(14) Do you eat faster or leave the table before others are finished?
(15) Do you walk faster, and have to slow down to keep pace with others?
(16) Do you lose sleep over rude or frustrating things that others have done?
(17) Are you often annoyed by slow waiters, rude store clerks or bad drivers?
(18) Do you anticipate disaster and worry about what could go wrong?
(19) Do you experience facial sweating or have dark circles under the eyes?
(20) Are you more competitive than other people?
I have paraphrased most of the questions on the quiz (which can be found at About.com Stress Management). When I took the quiz, I was told that I have some "Type A" features, although I am not a "typical Type A." But I already knew that.
I took the quiz again, this time from the perspective of my late husband. At the end I was told that I have many "Type A" features and should try to get the stress out of my life. I couldn't agree more. Professionally, he was a hugely successful, never-enough-hours-in-the-day attorney in a major law firm for most of his adult life, which ended at the age of 51 from a heart attack.
Would he have benefited from taking a quiz like this? Probably not. I think he would have considered it a waste of valuable time.