Someone called you out for having a “type D personality” and you thought, “What on earth does that mean?”
You’ve heard plenty about Type A personalities, but this is the first time you’ve heard about a Type D.
It’s true Type As tend to get more attention.
There’s a reason for that, but it’s probably not what you think. Type As have a greater risk for heart disease than Type Bs.
Type D behavior can also increase your risk of that and other health problems.
So, the more you know about it, the better.
What Is Type D Personality?
First of all, what does it mean to have a Type D personality? While you’ll see a list of traits further on in this post, let’s start with the letter D, which stands for “Distressed” — meaning anxious, worried, lonely, tense, and struggling.
On a Type D personality test, this type scores high in both negative affectivity and social inhibition. If you’re a Type D, you tend to overthink things, isolate yourself, and stress about worst-case scenarios. Cognitive distortions are your Halloween funhouse.
Except it’s not fun at all. Read on to learn more about how Type D compares to others and how its behaviors affect every important thing in your life.
The 4 DISC Personality Types
Now, let’s mix it up a bit. You’ve heard of Type As and probably Type Bs. Here’s a brief overview of the four types most often classified as “type” + letter:
- Type A: Ambitious, driven, competitive, perfectionist, self-motivated
- Type B: Laid-back, adaptable, highly flexible, easygoing, carefree, relaxed
- Type C: Conscientious, detail-oriented, perfectionist, people-pleasing
- Type D: Distressed, anxious, worrying, pessimistic, withdrawn
But there’s more.
American psychologist Dr. William Marston developed the DISC personality model, based on four main behavioral traits:
- Drive (Dominant)
- Influence (Inspirational)
- Steadiness (Supportive)
- Compliance (Cautious or Conscientious)
Each person is actually a blend of all four traits. Look at the DISC personality diagram, and you can probably see yourself in one of the four main quadrants, according to whether you’re outgoing or reserved and whether you’re task- or people-oriented.
- Types D and I are both “outgoing,” while Types C and S are “reserved.”
- Types D and C are “task-oriented,” while Types I and S are “people-oriented.”
But what does the DISC Type D have to do with the “distressed” Type D? Since when are socially inhibited folks “outgoing”?
If you’re a distressed Type D, you might relate more to the description for DISC types starting with Cs or S, depending on whether you’re more task-oriented (C) or people-oriented (S).
If you’re curious, take a DISC personality assessment to see which one is the best fit. With 41 total combinations, your result will likely be more precise than the results you see from tests with fewer possible combinations.
For example, I know someone who identifies as a distressed Type D whose DISC type is C/DS, with C (Cautious) as her primary trait and D (dominant) and S (supportive) as her complementary traits. The D is definitely there, but since C is her primary trait, she has a “high C” personality: task-oriented and reserved (Trust me, it fits).
A high D personality has D (dominance, drive, etc.) as their primary trait. Looking at the other words used to describe a Type D you might get a strong Type A vibe.
The DISC Type D is an outgoing, task-oriented go-getter. While you can be a DISC “high D” who struggles with distressed Type D traits, the two are not equivalent.
If you can relate to the distressed Type D, though, chances are the letter D will be somewhere in your DISC profile.
- Both tend to be perfectionists who get down on themselves if their results don’t measure up to their high standards.
- Both tend to keep their personal challenges private, suppressing emotion, and withdrawing from potential critics and distractions to get things done.
- Both can be intense in a way that puts them at greater risk for various health problems.
The distressed Type D’s negativity can wreck their health, relationships, and career, while the DISC Type D’s ambition and hyperdrive can also have adverse effects on all three.
Type D Personality Traits
The distressed Type D exhibits the following behaviors:
- Strong tendency to worry (obsess, catastrophize, etc.)
- Negative self-talk / incessant self-criticism
- Sadness and depression
- Avoidance of social situations
- Fear of rejection or judgment
- Lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem
- Difficulty trusting others
- Hopelessness and pessimistic outlook
The Type D personality often feels weighed down by their emotions. But if this is your type, it’s often hard for you to share what you’re feeling. You fear burdening others — especially loved ones — with your emotional distress.
While compassionate toward others, you have difficulty managing your own emotions or steering their thoughts in a better direction.
All About the Type D Personality
As mentioned earlier, both distressed Type D and DISC Type D behaviors can affect every area of your life. Since this post deals more with the effects of negative thinking and emotions, we’ll focus on the distressed/disease-prone Type D.
Type Ds are more likely to withdraw from other people, often from fear of rejection or judgment.
They need a good friend who knows how to listen empathetically and help them see what they do not see, with as much compassion as clarity. But type Ds are less likely to expect that of others or to feel that they deserve such a friend.
Give a Type D a good therapist, and they’ll finally open up, thinking, “This person is paid to listen to me and help me. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be a burden to them. I don’t have to be low-maintenance or to keep my struggles to myself.”
Everyone needs a good therapist. But Type Ds might need one more than most.
Social inhibition plays a role here, too, since it makes it more difficult for the Type D to create and maintain strong connections with their professional colleagues.
If this is you, you’re also more likely to feel more stressed in your work environment and to experience more job burnout, which can mean more sick days. You likely also have the general feeling that you accomplish less than your peers.
All of this can make you feel you don’t belong or don’t have much in common with your coworkers, making group projects and collaborations awkward.
You need work with a purpose, where your accomplishments yield tangible or visible benefits not only for you but for people you care about. It also helps if you see what everyone at your workplace — including you — brings to the table.
Type Ds are more likely to self-medicate to address unpleasant emotions, help themselves focus, or calm their minds.
That alone can lead to various mental and emotional health issues, including chemical addictions, depression, and self-destructive behavior. People who abuse alcohol, for example, often use it to escape negative thoughts or feelings.
There’s no such thing, really, as an alcoholic personality, but some traits can make you more susceptible to developing a substance abuse problem. You want to keep your negative “issues” private, so you find a way to treat it yourself.
The usual result is a deepening depression, more intense anxiety (when you’re not actively drinking, smoking, etc.), and an even stronger desire to self-isolate.
Because they’re more likely to withdraw when they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, type Ds tend to experience stress-related diseases — including coronary heart disease and neurological disorders — in clusters.
If you’re a Type D, you can relate. Your mind and body can only take so much of the negativity and worry, especially if you feel you have to deal with it alone.
Since you probably neglect self-care — because getting things done feels more urgent — your diet and exercise are likely to slip further down the priority list as your to-do list gets longer. It never seems to get shorter.
And at some point, you crash and have to take time off or end up in the hospital.
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What Motivates a Type D Personality?
The D in Type D personality isn’t always “distressed.” It can also be driven, determined, decisive, and direct. These can be assets in more than just the workplace. But to make the most of your best qualities, it’s good to know what motivates you:
- Setting and meeting goals
- Competing with others (that 1st place ribbon isn’t just for Type As)
- New, exciting challenges
- Freedom from tedious tasks, routines, and repetition
- Recognition and appreciation by others (awards are nice, too)
- Having the power and authority to make decisions and take risks
You have a fierce independent streak and like having the freedom to do things your way. Your biggest fear is being taken advantage of. And you’re not afraid to rock the boat.
How to Be the Best Type D You Can Be
The life of Type D isn’t all gloom and doom. There are things you can do, starting today, to bring more joy and peace into your life. And you deserve it as much as anyone.
The following steps are an excellent place to start.
Step 1: Start using positive affirmations.
Use positive affirmations — for money, self-confidence, etc.. — to correct negative self-talk and brighten up your thinking. Find those that resonate with you or create your own. And use them every day. Here are some ideas for doing that:
- Use a positive affirmations app like ThinkUp to remind you of your chosen affirmations throughout the day.
- Set smartphone alarms for different times of the day, each with a favorite short affirmation as their “label.”
- Write a morning page or journal entry with a favorite affirmation, which you can use as a journaling prompt.
- Write a favorite affirmation for the week on a whiteboard you often see.
Use whatever helps you remember important things. Better yet, use more than one.
Step 2: Practice mindful awareness of your emotions.
Acknowledge and accept your feelings without judgment. You don’t have to understand them perfectly. Just be aware and be willing to ask yourself what you need in that moment.
“When I’m feeling lonely/sad/frustrated/anxious, what am I needing?”
Think about how you might help someone you care about who’s experiencing those feelings. What would you say to them? How would you want to help them?
Show yourself the same compassion.
Step 3: Learn and practice effective stress management.
Along with mindfulness meditation, try different breathing exercises or other calming routines to help you manage stress before it overwhelms you.
The more aware you are of your emotions, the easier it will be to take this step and respond to stress with something that helps you feel better and more in control.
What works for someone else might not work as well for you, and vice-versa. Keep an open mind about new methods and techniques. Create daily habits around those that work for you.
Step 4: Cultivate some new habits.
A new morning ritual that addresses physical, mental and spiritual needs can help prepare you for whatever the day brings. You can also start a new evening ritual to get your thoughts in the right place for bedtime.
If you’re wondering what habits might help you most, look up “good habits for ____” and see what you can find.
Along with building good habits, it’s essential to identify the habits you already have and determine which ones make your life harder than it has to be.
To compound your benefits and speed up your progress, you can “upgrade” that habit to one that makes you happier, calmer, or more confident.
Step 5: Brush up on your interpersonal skills.
Reach out to a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while — to check on them, ask if they need anything, or just catch up.
You could also take up public speaking as a new challenge, or find another way to put yourself out there. Maybe you could start a book club and invite coworkers or book-loving members of your community.
Or maybe you’re thinking more along the lines of a bake sale to support a charity or cause that’s important to you. Choose something that stretches your social muscle. You might make a lifelong friend you otherwise would never have met.
Step 6: Make fresh air and exercise a regular part of your day.
Daily movement is as vital to your mental and emotional health as your physical. And there are loads of ways to make this a regular part of your day.
Take a daily walk, join a dance class, take up yoga, etc. Get your blood pumping to improve overall health and boost your mood.
Even if all you’re doing is using a 7-minute workout app or a yoga app like DownDog, the benefits will add up, and your body and mind will thank you.
Find something new to love that gets you moving every day (without overdoing it).
Are you a Type D Personality?
Now you know what it means to be a distressed Type D, and you know how to have a great life despite the inherent challenges — or maybe because of them.
You’re up to the challenge, after all. Use that innate drive to make the world better. Let your resourcefulness and compassion lead you to something you’ll be happy to wake up for each day.
You don’t have to be dominant or outgoing to make your impact on the world. Your unique personality has plenty to give. All you need, sometimes, is a reminder that you most definitely have what it takes.
Make self-compassion a priority, too.