What Are The Differences Between "Type A" And "Type B" Personalities?

Medically reviewed by April Brewer , DBH, LPC
Updated November 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The terms "Type A" and "Type B" were first introduced by two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, in the 1950s to describe two patterns of behavior associated with personality. Despite criticism, the concept of Type A and Type B personalities has continued to be cited in popular psychology. Although these personality types are considered a theory and not a fact, it may be beneficial to learn more if you relate to the ideas within the theory.

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What Are The Traits Of The "Type A" Individual?  

Type A individuals are often described as ambitious, highly driven, and in a hurry to complete tasks. They may be competitive and have a profound desire to succeed. Some Type A individuals might be referred to as perfectionists or "workaholics." In addition, they may strive to take on more responsibilities and projects than they can handle to prove their ability. 

The personality characteristics of Type A individuals could include:

  • Impatience
  • A constant sense of urgency
  • A competitive nature
  • Perfectionism
  • Workaholic tendencies
  • A constant striving for success
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • High levels of stress and anxiety
  • A desire for organization 
  • A desire to take control of social situations 
  • Leadership abilities 

What Are The Traits Of A "Type B" Individual? 

Type B individuals are often called "relaxed" and "easy-going." They may be content in taking their time and enjoying life rather than striving for success. According to this personality theory, they are not as driven as Type A individuals and may be less likely to experience chronic stress. 

The personality characteristics of Type B individuals could include: 

  • Relaxation 
  • An easy-going personality 
  • A lack of drive or ambition 
  • Less likelihood of experiencing stress or anxiety 
  • Contentedness with life 
  • A more relaxed approach to success
  • A focus on enjoying how life passes by 
  • A laid-back attitude
  • People pleasing behaviors 

Differences Between Type A And Type B Personalities

While some common traits may be associated with Type A and Type B personalities, there are differences between these two personality types, including the following. 

The Approach To Success 

Type A individuals are considered driven and may constantly strive for success and recognition. In contrast, Type B individuals take a more relaxed approach and focus on enjoying life as it happens. Both approaches may come with benefits and drawbacks. For example, high ambition can lead to a lack of empathy or social connection. Contrarily, avoidance of taking leadership might lead to complacent behavior or a lack of personal growth. 

Attitudes Toward Stress

Type A individuals are often said to experience high stress and anxiety levels, while Type B individuals may focus more on relaxation and avoiding high-stress situations. 

Life Pace 

Type B individuals may take their time and be content with their pace of life, while Type A individuals may work hard, remain hyper-vigilant, and avoid taking breaks. These traits may also have drawbacks for both individuals if occurring out of proportion. Type A people may struggle to take time for self-care and self-reflection. In contrast, Type B individuals might miss opportunities if they can't motivate themselves to continue trying in the face of adversity. 

Leadership Abilities

Type A individuals might exceed in leadership positions, offering their advice and taking control when others aren't able to. Type B individuals might not feel comfortable with leadership and may step back to allow others to take the reins. 

Personality And Mental Health

The differences between Type A and Type B personalities could significantly impact an individual's mental health. The high levels of stress and anxiety that Type A individuals might experience could lead to adverse outcomes like burnout, depression, and anxiety disorders. 

Type B individuals' more relaxed and easy-going nature might help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. However, people-pleasing behaviors or difficulty with motivation and ambition could lead to missing out on opportunities, feeling depressed, or experiencing difficulties in relationships. 

Note that these personality descriptions are a theory. Not all individuals who fall into one category may experience the same outcomes. Individuals might also exhibit traits from Type A and Type B personalities simultaneously or not relate to either category.

How To Cope With Type A Personality Traits

For those who exhibit Type A personality traits, it might be beneficial to find ways to manage stress and anxiety. Below are a few coping suggestions: 

  • Mindfulness and meditation: Focusing on the present moment and practicing mindfulness may reduce stress and anxiety. 
  • Relaxation: It might benefit Type A individuals to find ways to relax and recharge, such as taking a break from work, engaging in leisure activities, or practicing yoga. 
  • Realistic goals: Type A individuals might be perfectionists and set unrealistic goals for themselves. Consider setting achievable goals and practicing self-compassion when you make mistakes. 
  • Self-care: Try to prioritize self-care and make time for self-reflection. 
  • Social support: Talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional could help you reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

How To Cope With Type B Personality Traits

Although many people may consider Type B "ideal," it can come with a few challenges. Consider the following coping suggestions: 

  • Visualization: Visualizing your goals and cementing them in your mind may help you be more prepared to advocate for yourself and make a choice. 
  • Pros and cons charts: If you're struggling to make a decision in a high-stakes situation, consider creating a pros and cons chart to weigh the options. 
  • Public speaking classes: If you generally sit back and let others make the decisions, consider taking a public speaking class to become more comfortable with expressing control and speaking to others about your ideas. 
  • Boundaries: Learning to set healthier boundaries could be beneficial if you often partake in people-pleasing behaviors to avoid conflict. 
  • Healthy risk-taking: If you often do not take risks or apply for opportunities, consider taking one healthy risk per six months. This risk might be applying for a job you've dreamed of, reaching out to a social group, or imparting your ideas in front of a crowd.

Counseling Options 

Although the "Type A" and "Type B" personality labels are theories, many individuals relate to them. If you think you might be experiencing adverse symptoms related to personality, you might consider reaching out to a therapist. Regardless of whether you identify with this theory, pushing yourself too hard or partaking in complacent or people-pleasing behaviors can be symptoms of a mental health condition or concern. 

If you struggle to reach out for help or don't have time in your schedule for in-person therapy, you might also benefit from online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp. A trained therapist can help individuals identify and manage stress, set realistic goals, and develop coping strategies for anxiety and burnout. With an online platform, you may also have the option to set appointments outside of standard business hours or choose between phone, video, or chat sessions to personalize your experience. 

Studies have shown that online therapy can benefit individuals with Type A personalities. In one study, researchers conducted studies on 44 male insurance representatives; participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group or a delayed treatment control group. The treatment group participated in nine weekly sessions of rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and showed improvements in Type-A-related behavior and time urgency compared to the control group. These improvements were maintained after follow-up and were accompanied by positive changes in self-reported behavior and limited beliefs.

A couple are sitting on a couch in front of a therapist; the man is leaning back and looking at the woman with an upset expression and the woman is looking away, with a remorseful expression.
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While some general tendencies are associated with each personality type, not all individuals in the "Type A" and "Type B" personality models might fit into one category. Understanding the differences between Type A and Type B personalities could help individuals better to understand their tendencies and the tendencies of others. 

If you want to learn more, therapy can be a valuable resource in helping individuals identify and manage stress, set realistic goals, and develop coping strategies for anxiety, burnout, or people-pleasing behaviors. Consider contacting a therapist to get started and gain further insight into this process.

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