Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

The Type A B C’s Of How Your Personality Effects Your Health

Could your personality kill you—or might it make you live longer? Could it give you heart disease, or protect you from illness? Could it push you toward or away from doctor appointments?

Credit: Angela Haupt , health.usnews.com

Personality traits play a distinct role in determining how healthy we are, psychologists say. “Everything is related to everything else. How stressed or angry you are, and how you interact with the world, is contingent in large part on your personality style,” says Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. “And that is going to have an enormous impact on your health.”

Here’s a look at common personality types and traits and how each can help or hurt your health (sometimes both):

Hostile
One of the aspects of the impatient, hard-charging Type A personality that is known to increase heart disease risk is hostility. Hostile people eat and smoke more and exercise less than other personality types, says Redford Williams, head of behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of Anger Kills. They’re likelier to be overweight in middle age and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure. Williams’s past research suggests hostile people are also more likely to develop irregular heart rhythms, and to die before reaching their 50s. Most of these problems can be traced back to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increased inflammation in the walls of the coronary arteries, which leads to a greater risk of heart attack.

No personality is set in stone, however, and Type A’s can be taught how to take the edge off their hostility. Hostile heart patients who attend workshops that teach coping skills, for instance, have a lower incidence of depression and healthier blood pressure than Type A’s who don’t go. The key, Williams says, is learning how to communicate more clearly and how to control anger and other negative emotions. He suggests asking yourself four questions when you get angry: Is this issue truly important? Is what I’m feeling appropriate to the facts? Can I modify the situation in a positive way? Is taking such action worth it? Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can damp hostility with a layer of calm.

Impulsive
Because Type A personalities are defined by competitiveness, a drive to succeed, and a sense of urgency, they are prone to take risks and act without thinking, neither of which is likely to improve health. Non-Type A’s can be impulsive, too. Such people are often not as well-grounded as others, says Robin Belamaric, a clinical psychologist in Bethesda, Md.: “They’ll look at an opportunity that comes along and say, ‘Hmm, that sounds like fun,’ whereas another, more thoughtful person, will say, ‘I’m going to pass, because I’m not sure it’s the best idea.’ ”

Relaxed
If you’re a Type B, you roll with the punches. You’re relaxed, take life a day a time, and handle stress without cracking. That translates to a higher quality of life and lower likelihood of heart disease—less anxiety strengthens the immune system. The more we chill, the better off we are, says Miller: “You don’t want to get locked into a stressful, tense state of mind.” Over the long term, he adds, relaxing and managing stress effectively will lengthen your life, help your heart and gastrointestinal system, and just make you feel better overall.

Extrovert
People who are outgoing, involved in their communities, and have strong social connections reap health benefits. An analysis of 148 studies published in the online journal PLoS medicine in July found that on average, adults enrolled in a study with many close friendships were 50 percent likelier to survive until their study ended than were those with few friendships. And a 2009 study published in Perspectives in Psychological Science suggests that social support leads to improved coping skills, healthy behavior, and adherence to medical regimens. Bonding with others also reduces stress and improves the immune system—so making friends and getting involved becomes, in effect, a well-being tonic.

What drives at least some of the health benefits goes beyond biology, Miller says. “It may have to do with the fact that when you’re around people, you think, ‘Oh, Martha has gone for her mammogram—that reminds me, I should, too.’ ”

Eager to please
People-pleasers—Type C’s—are conforming, passive, and want to accommodate. That can be a good thing when it comes to patient compliance: They’re more likely to take the right medicines in the right doses at the right times, for instance—once they see a doctor, that is. Making and following through on appointments can be challenging for Type C’s, who tend to accept their fate as inevitable and fall readily into hopelessness and helplessness. That means others must push them to take care of themselves. “They may be less likely to maintain their health on their own,” Belamaric says. “If they develop a problem, they may just complain about it, hoping somebody says, ‘I have a good doctor, I’ll make you an appointment.’ ”

Some Type C’s may be so mired that they don’t seek medical attention—even when it’s clearly necessary—and slough off preventive behaviors, like watching what they eat. “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,’ ” Belamaric says.

Click image to read reviews

Stressed and distressed
Type D’s—D is for distressed—dwell on negative emotions and are afraid to express themselves in social situations. Compared to more optimistic sorts, a Type D may face three times the risk for future heart problems, according to a recent study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Type D’s also face a higher likelihood of compulsive overeating and substance abuse. “If you’re a person who is prone to depression or anxiety, or if you’re overly self-critical, there’s more of a chance of turning to gratifying behavior to feel better,” Miller says.

Optimistic versus pessimistic
Optimism “heavily influences physical and mental health,” concluded a study published in May in the journal Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health after researchers followed more than 500 males for 15 years. The rate of heart-related deaths was 50 percent lower among optimists than among pessimists. “Optimists have a higher quality of life, and they may be more resilient in the way they deal with stress,” Miller says. “So if a problem comes along, they’re able to handle it better, and they become less symptomatic.” Glass-half-empty types harbor little hope for the future and tend more toward depression and anxiety disorders.

But there’s a catch for those at the extreme end of the optimism spectrum: They think of themselves as impervious to risks. Extreme optimists who smoke are the best examples. They believe they won’t develop lung cancer. Why give up smoking to prevent a nonexistent risk?

The “self-healing personality”
That is the name Howard Friedman, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside, attaches to people who are curious, secure, constructive, responsive, and conscientious. These traits translate to enthusiasm for life, emotional balance, and strong social relationships. “Positive emotions buffer hormonal responses to stress,” says Friedman, who studies the relationship between personality and longevity. Self-healers, he says, “have healthier behavior patterns: more physical activity, a better diet, and less smoking and substance abuse.”

Share/Save/Bookmark

Enhanced by Zemanta

September 24, 2010 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Thaerapy, brain, Cognition, Health Psychology, Identity, Personality Disorder, stress | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Be Active, Sleep Better! Aerobic Exercise Helps Beat Insomnia

Source: ScienceDaily (Sep. 15, 2010) — The millions of middle-aged and older adults who suffer from insomnia have a new drug-free prescription for a more restful night’s sleep. Regular aerobic exercise improves the quality of sleep, mood and vitality, according to a small but significant new study from Northwestern Medicine.

The study is the first to examine the effect of aerobic exercise on middle-aged and older adults with a diagnosis of insomnia. About 50 percent of people in these age groups complain of chronic insomnia symptoms.

The aerobic exercise trial resulted in the most dramatic improvement in patients’ reported quality of sleep, including sleep duration, compared to any other non-pharmacological intervention.

“This is relevant to a huge portion of the population,” said Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Medicine and senior author of a paper to be published in the October issue of Sleep Medicine. The lead author is Kathryn Reid, research assistant professor at Feinberg.

“Insomnia increases with age,” Zee said. “Around middle age, sleep begins to change dramatically. It is essential that we identify behavioral ways to improve sleep. Now we have promising results showing aerobic exercise is a simple strategy to help people sleep better and feel more vigorous.”

The drug-free strategy also is desirable, because it eliminates the potential of a sleeping medication interacting with other drugs a person may be taking, Reid said.

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, like nutrition and exercise, noted Zee, a professor of neurology, neurobiology, and physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Click image to read reviews

“By improving a person’s sleep, you can improve their physical and mental health,” Zee said. “Sleep is a barometer of health, like someone’s temperature. It should be the fifth vital sign. If a person says he or she isn’t sleeping well, we know they are more likely to be in poor health with problems managing their hypertension or diabetes.” The study included 23 sedentary adults, primarily women, 55 and older who had difficulty falling sleep and/or staying asleep and impaired daytime functioning. Women have the highest prevalence of insomnia. After a conditioning period, the aerobic physical activity group exercised for two 20-minute sessions four times per week or one 30-to-40-minute session four times per week, both for 16 weeks. Participants worked at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate on at least two activities including walking or using a stationary bicycle or treadmill. Participants in the non-physical activity group participated in recreational or educational activities, such as a cooking class or a museum lecture, which met for about 45 minutes three to five times per week for 16 weeks. Both groups received education about good sleep hygiene, which includes sleeping in a cool, dark and quiet room, going to bed the same time every night and not staying in bed too long, if you can’t fall asleep. Exercise improved the participants’ self-reported sleep quality, elevating them from a diagnosis of poor sleeper to good sleeper. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality and less daytime sleepiness. “Better sleep gave them pep, that magical ingredient that makes you want to get up and get out into the world to do things,” Reid said. The participants’ scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index dropped an average of 4.8 points. (A higher score indicates worse sleep.) In a prior study using t’ai chi as a sleep intervention, for example, participants’ average scores dropped 1.8 points. “Exercise is good for metabolism, weight management and cardiovascular health and now it’s good for sleep,” Zee said. The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging

Share/Save/Bookmark

Enhanced by Zemanta

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Age & Ageing, Health Psychology, Resources | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Scientists and Clinicians Meet to Better Understand “Rain Man”

UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) will host a workshop for clinicians and scientists seeking to better understand the syndromes associated with a brain development condition made famous in the movie Rain Man.
The workshop will feature some of the world’s leading experts in development of the corpus callosum – the largest fibre tract in the brain, which connects neurons in the left and right cerebral hemispheres.
Dustin Hoffman (right) played Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 movie Rain Man © 1988 United Artists Pictures Inc.
Malformation and absence (agenesis) of the corpus callosum are rare developmental disorders that result in a wide spectrum of symptoms, ranging from severe cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism to relatively mild learning problems.
The Hollywood screenplay Rain Man was inspired by the very real abilities of an American man, Kim Peek, whose brain lacks a corpus callosum. Like the character portrayed in the movie, Mr Peek is capable of extraordinary mental agility, although he nevertheless faces many day-to-day challenges with seemingly simple tasks.

QBI’s Associate Professor Linda Richards said the workshop was an opportunity for clinicians and scientists to better understand the fundamental brain mechanisms that regulate the plasticity and formation of connections in the brain.

“Understanding what happens inside the brain during its development may hold the key to solving a wide range of neurological disorders,” Dr Richards said. “Advanced imaging techniques being developed at QBI and other research centres around the world are expected to play an important role in better understanding this condition.” Among the workshop’s objectives is to form an international alliance of clinicians and scientists working together to develop diagnostic tests and treatments for children and adults with agenesis of the corpus callosum.

“We’ve already identified about 30 candidate genes in animal models, and it is likely many of these genes regulate corpus callosum formation in humans,” Dr Richards said. “If we could more accurately identify the causes of agenesis of the corpus callosum we can develop therapies to treat people with this range of disorders.” Among the 12 leading scientists and clinicians speaking at the workshop will be Associate Professor Elliott Sherr (University of California, San Francisco), an internationally recognised leader in imaging and genetics of corpus callosum agenesis.

The workshop will be held at the Queensland Brain Institute on Tuesday, July 24.

(Sourced from:http://www.uq.edu.au/news/)

Share/Save/Bookmark

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

July 18, 2009 Posted by | Aspergers Syndrome, Autism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments