Most people have heard the phrase "type A personality." And if you're like me, you might wish you had more characteristics of a type B. Type A's may be responsible and dependable, but type B's know how to relax. As a type A first-born physician daughter I often wish I had the personality of my second-born and much more laid back type B brother.
But it's important to understand another personality type, the "type D," because being type D may place people who have survived cancer at special risk.
Type D is much less understood so I'll explain it a bit. People with type D personalities tend to be chronically stressed and have a tendency to look at life from a negative standpoint. In the article I'll share it is defined as "a propensity to psychological distress."
We often hear that a positive attitude makes a difference in our health when battling and moving beyond cancer, but what role does a negative attitude have. Does a propensity to think negatively affect survivorship?
To study this, researchers looked at the profiles of over 3,000 cancer survivors who had completed a personality questionnaire in addition to sharing other information about their cancer and state of health. 19% of the survivors in this group were felt to have type D personality.
Among those with type D personality, the incidence of "comorbid conditions" - that is, other medical conditions in addition to cancer, was significantly higher than among those without a type D personality. Some of these conditions included:
People who were considered to have type D personality also frequented the offices of their general practitioners and cancer specialists more often.
So what does this mean for you?
Obviously we can't change our personality. But if you find yourself being negative or stressed beyond what seems to be normal given your circumstances, it might help to seek help. Finding a good cancer survivor support group may be a start. Seeking out a counselor to help you sort out your feelings may also help - as long as you use the sessions to reframe your thinking into a more positive light rather than focusing on rehashing negatives you have no control over. Check out this article for some great tips.
Photo: Dreamstime.com, author Creatista
Mols, F. et al. Type D personality is associated with increased comorbidity burden and health care utilization among 3080 cancer survivors. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2012 Mar 26. (Epub ahead of print).