“Specific inherited characteristics, early experience in life, and particular, learned cognitive predispositions make individuals more or less susceptible to the effects of stressors.”
In this blog post, I will identify personality characteristics of those prone to stress and those that are resistant to stress to better help aid in your self-discovery and possibly to correct some harmful perceptions you may currently have that you are unaware is damaging your well-being.
The characteristics of people who are prone to stress include:
- Type A: People with Type A are driven by time urgency (impatience and always in a hurry), polyphasia (multi-tasking), ultra-competitiveness (about everything), manipulative control (controlling and somewhat of a bully), as well as hyperaggressiveness and hostility (overly aggressive and hostile, rude, raises voice, easily upset, short fuse, doesn’t want to see other people’s POV). But don’t be concerned if you have displayed these traits (most of us have). It’s not an either, “You’re a Type A or you’re not” because personality types can be seen on a continuum. It’s not strange to exhibit Type A, but the question you should look out for is to what extent are you Type A? One of the Type A characteristics that is most detrimental to health is hyperaggressiveness and hostility because it causes one to react to anger with an excess of adrenaline, which puts them more at risk for heart disease.
- Codependent: Codependent people base their feelings of self-worth and self-identity on the approval of others. Characteristics of such people is described as a, “I can’t survive without a relationship”. They often are “addicted” to a relationship and feel abandonment greatly. They are over-controlling, over-trusting, approval seekers, overachievers, perfectionists, and see themselves as the “victim”.
Helpless-Hopeless: Hopeless and helpless people feel no control over their lives. They feel their life is controlled by external events. Learned helplessness was discovered by Seligman and his revolutionary dog experiments which taught the global community that some people feel that no matter how hard you try, it doesn’t help so they give up. This person gives up easily and quickly when things get tough. Depression is strongly associated with the Helpless-Hopeless personality.
What differentiates a severely stressed person from a not so stressed person is their perception of how much control they have over their lives, referred to as Locus of Control. A person with strong external LOC feels external events rule their lives. For example, an athlete who misses practice and blames referee for losing a game exhibits external LOC. So does a person who can’t live with his or her means and blames high cost of living for debt, or a people who expects to have exceptions made for them.
Someone with a strong internal LOC on the other hand feels they are completely in charge of what happens to them even if there were unfair calls made. An example of this would be if an exam was written poorly by professor, the student will focus on how to study better next time.
The more in control of their lives that people feel, the less likely they are to feel stressed. Therefore, perception of control is key to stress reduction.
Scientists and psychologists have studied common characteristics of those who handle stress effectively. These people are:
- decisive ( and act with influence instead of helplessness)
In addition, they have:
- a sense of purpose (and commitment to life and have ability to interpret personal experiences at life’s most challenging moments)
- values (important principles and beliefs), flexibility (ability to adapt and respond to different ways)
- self-care (any actions you do to care for your physical, mental and emotional health)
- humor (gets feel good hormones circulating, helps manage chronic conditions)
- support (from relationships and relying on support when needed)
- optimism (focus on “can’s” not “cannot’s”)
Studies have shown that those with a hardy personality deal with stress issues with greater resiliency than others. Having a hardy personality helps in dealing with life’s hurdles because it means you are able to roll with the punches.
Clinical psychologist Susan Kobasa, from City University, New York, identified three elements to hardiness, known as the 3 C’s that include challenge (or seeing hurdles in life as challenges rather than as problems), control (feeling in control of one’s life) and commitment (or having a strong commitment to accomplishing goals).
If you have a stress-prone personality is it possible to change your personality?
Yes, it’s possible to change our personality to an extent. In fact, it’s possible to change all four components of personality (one being values, two being attitudes, three being beliefs, and four being behaviors). However, the least difficult component to change is behavior, as it’s more difficult to change deeply rooted attitudes, values and beliefs because most are instilled at a very young age.
Learning to change your behavior is critical in order to effectively manage stress. Learning to change your personality or one aspect of your personality is critical.
An area that deals with this change is known as Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.