Exploring The Traits Of A Sanguine Temperament

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Humorism was a school of thought common In Ancient Greece. It refers to the view that each person has one of four personality types due to the dominance of a particular element in their body. While the theory was definitively disproved in the mid-1800s, some people still look to the four personality types or temperaments in general to learn more about themselves and their characteristics. One of these four is known as the sanguine temperament. If you identify with the traits that were thought to fall under this type, read on for more information about potential benefits and drawbacks, plus advice on how to shift tendencies or behaviors that may not be serving you.

Do you know how temperament affects your thoughts and behavior?

The four personality types, according to humorism

Again, while humorism is not scientifically accurate, some find it interesting to examine its historical roots as they learn more about how psychologists view personality traits today. According to this ancient system, the four personality types are:

  • Choleric: once thought to relate to yellow bile, represented by the element of fire, and presumed to be predominant during childhood
  • Sanguine: once thought to relate to the blood, represented by the element of air, and presumed to be predominant during adolescence
  • Phlegmatic: once thought to relate to phlegm, represented by the element of water, and presumed to be predominant during maturity or adulthood
  • Melancholic: once thought to relate to black bile, represented by the element of earth, and presumed to be predominant during old age

Over the years, notable minds in psychology and philosophy—such as Immanual Kant and Ivan Pavlov—attempted to adapt these types into more modern views on personality. Today, humorism and the four temperaments are not recognized by major psychological associations or schools of thought. When it comes to problems related to personality traits, personality disorders as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) are now the preferred and empirically supported way to address personality issues that present with clinical severity. That said, some individuals may still find it useful or interesting to learn about other methods of classifying personality traits—including historical methods—in order to learn more about themselves.

Characteristics of a sanguine temperament

The adjective “sanguine” has two key uses. One is to describe something that’s blood-red in color, since the temperament was originally thought to be associated with the blood. The other is to describe someone who is “marked by eager hopefulness” or is “confidently optimistic”, which relates to key elements of the sanguine temperament or personality type. 

People with this type of personality tend to be energetic, outgoing, talkative, and creative, though they may also be impulsive, lack discipline, and be prone to addictive behaviors.

One study that examined personality traits with a framework similar to the four temperaments found that those who aligned closely with sanguine traits were associated with “high activity and briskness” along with “high endurance and low emotional reactivity”. 


Addressing negative traits and tendencies

Every personality type has both positive and negative traits and tendencies. If you’re looking to focus on personal growth, becoming aware of your more negative or limiting characteristics can be a helpful first step. If you identify with some of the traits of a sanguine temperament, you might enjoy high self-esteem and a robust social life. However, you may also experience difficulties due to your natural tendencies. Read on for a few of these common traits, plus ideas on how you might manage or shift them.


Impulsivity means acting quickly on thoughts or desires, typically without thinking them through or weighing the consequences. Being action-oriented can be helpful in some scenarios, such as in making social connections and being productive at work or in creative projects. However, it can also present drawbacks. Impulsive words and actions can negatively impact relationships, for instance, or can make a person prone to engaging in risky behaviors. 

In some cases, impulsivity may be a symptom of a mental health condition like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety disorders, or some personality disorders. That’s why meeting with a mental health professional if impulsivity is negatively impacting your life may be helpful, as they can provide a diagnosis if applicable and suggest methods for learning to manage your impulses.

Lack of discipline

Another characteristic that may be associated with a sanguine temperament or other personality types is a lack of discipline. This trait may have many different root causes, from trouble concentrating or being easily distracted to perfectionism or a fear of failure that makes starting or committing to projects intimidating or otherwise difficult. Sometimes, what manifests as an apparent lack of discipline may simply be a work style that needs to be adjusted. For instance, you might need a quieter environment to get things done without distractions. You might also benefit from setting “SMART” goals to achieve what you’re aiming for, or using productivity tools like the Pomodoro technique to help you stay on track. In other words, if you’re having trouble getting things done, you may benefit from adjusting the way you approach tasks rather than labeling yourself as someone who lacks discipline.

Tendency toward addictive behaviors

Some people may find that they’re more inclined to engage in addictive behaviors, or may have more trouble resisting unhealthy or risky activities. Some may also find themselves facing substance use disorders, such as alcohol or drug misuse, or non-substance use disorders, such as gambling or shopping addictions. Help is available for individuals in such situations. Issues like these are classified as clinical disorders that can benefit from treatment. Or, for less serious manifestations of addictive behaviors, learning how to set effective boundaries and limits for yourself can be helpful.

If you’re experiencing challenges related to substance use, you can contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357—available 24/7/365.

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Do you know how temperament affects your thoughts and behavior?

Cultivating healthy traits through therapy

There are many different ways to classify personality types, but one thing is common among them: All types have both positive and potentially negative traits. Whether you identify with the characteristics of a sanguine temperament or some other set of attributes, there may be parts of your personality that you’d like to refine or shift to improve your mental well-being. If you’re looking for support on this journey, meeting with a mental health professional may be helpful. They can assist you in identifying patterns and devising healthy strategies for managing tendencies that may be holding you back, negatively impacting your relationships or daily functioning, or causing you harm.

Research suggests that therapy can be effectively delivered virtually as well, which means that those who are unable to or uncomfortable visiting a therapist’s office in person have other options. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, for instance, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. Read on for client reviews of BetterHelp counselors. Regardless of the format you choose, support for mental health and personal growth is available. 

Counselor reviews

"Charlotte became my friend and confidante the first time I talked to her. It is so helpful to have someone who's understanding and also known to be there for you every day. I think she is helping me get back on my feet and feel good again and able to enjoy life like I should. I will definitely call upon her if and when traumatic circumstances happen."

"She is meeting all of my expectations in keeping me accountable for my actions and helping me sort out the personal issues in a manner that best fits my lifestyle and temperament. She is very human and understanding of my worldly and spiritual struggles. She will give me homework and every session piggybacks on the last, so to continue chipping away at the onion. I enjoy our conversations and would recommend her to any professional looking to better themselves. Worth every penny."


While the humor theory that originally proposed “sanguine” as one of the four human temperaments has been disproved, some people may still identify with the personality traits traditionally associated with it. As with all personality types, there are both benefits and potential drawbacks to this type. If you’d like support in addressing tendencies in yourself that you’d like to refine or improve, connecting with a mental health professional may be helpful.
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