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What is a Type D Personality?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term "type D" personality is used to describe several different personality types, which can sometimes be confusing, since, on occasion, the term describes entirely different personality traits. As a general rule, psychologists describe people with distressed personalities as “Type D,” but the term can also be used in the A, B, C, D personality framework, in which case it can describe someone who is reliable but who has little motivation or creativity. Furthermore, the term may also be used to describe someone with a very results-driven, direct personality, just to add to the confusion.

In the sense of a distressed personality, a type D personality is one that is characterized by a tendency towards negativity. Someone with this personality type may experience a lot of stress, anger, worry, hostility, tension, and other negative and distressing emotions. Classically, this type is also characterized by low self-esteem and social inhibitions, and a tendency towards depression.

Research has suggested that people with this type of personality may be at increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. There are, however, ways to combat the negativity, especially when someone is aware that he or she has this personality type. These techniques can range from using regular therapy sessions to talk over life issues to working hard to create a structured life that promotes social interaction and healthy friendships.

Within the “A, B, C, D” framework used by some people in the business world, a type D personality is a highly dependable, but not very creative. People with this personality type are supposed to enjoy structured, orderly lives and workplaces, and they will work hard when called upon to do so. People who believe in this framework may seed the workplace with these dependable, compassionate, friendly individuals to balance the workplace.

Under yet another personality assessment framework, the D stands for "driven," and it is used for a very aggressive, outgoing, decisive attitude. Type D's in this case are leaders, with firm ideas about how to get things done, and they often relish challenges and risks. They may also have a low tolerance for wasted time and what they perceive as frivolities, which can sometimes make them a bit intense, especially in already tense situations.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon930462 — On Feb 05, 2014

Can a person change their personality to a driven personality?

By anon212935 — On Sep 09, 2011

A Type D personality is comparable to Introverted feeling personality, or enneagram type 6.

I don't see me as reliable, and I strive for independence and self knowledge, mostly because i feel too dependent.

Seeing them as uncreative is a little reductionist too. Brahms was a typical "type D", an I don't think his influence can be considered "minimal" or "uncreative".

But, right, I've some depression and depersonalization disorder.

And those company who use MBTI or this ridiculous ABCD systems are just jerks who can't explore a model in a profound way. There is some really more groundbreaking and accurate (and having potential for many things) theory, like Socionic.

By anon154959 — On Feb 22, 2011

Umm yeah. And I'm pretty sure that type D people are not driven. Seeing as I'm pretty sure I am a type D person. I have no organization, and I plan on keeping it that way, thank you very much. But I disagree with Kilorenz. I personally think I am reliable. You could come and talk to me any time. In fact, I want to be a physical therapist or counselor when I grow up.

By mutsy — On Aug 14, 2010

SurfNturf- I didn't even know that there was a type D personality type. The only type of personalities that I am most familiar with are type A and type B personalities.

Type A personalities tend to be driven, aggressive, and impatient. They tend to be very competitive and as a result are very successful. Type B personalities are the opposite.

They tend be relaxed and take their time when doing things. They never rush or feel rushed when doing things. They generally have a lot of patience.

By surfNturf — On Aug 14, 2010

SauteePan- The drawback to this personality type is that they tend to direct rather than inspire others to perform better.

They often tell people what to do and sometimes need to use a more thoughtful tone when directing a team. They tend to be blunt and brutally honest when dealing with people.

This type of manager might be difficult for someone to work with that is highly sensitive. High type D personalities often have few friends, but the friends that they do have are very loyal to them.

By SauteePan — On Aug 14, 2010

Kilorenz- I respectfully disagree with you. I think that many companies take personalities labels very seriously. It often helps them to determine which employees will be successful in the organization and which ones will not.

Many companies use the Myer Briggs Personality test that describes various types of personalities based on their questionnaire.

Applicants and employees answer hypothetical questions to determine if the employee has leadership potential or not.

For example, Type D personality traits involve a high degree of decisiveness. People with type D personalities tend to be goal oriented and focused on results.

The high D. personality type can get a team to reach results easily because they tend to be very focused and hard-working.

By kilorenz — On Jun 19, 2010

I hate to say it but I think the Type “A, B, C, D” framework is a little on the obsolete side. It’s just too vague. Many of the characteristics that are said to describe Type D people are completely contradictory. In my opinion, people that tend towards stress, anger, and tension are not often very reliable at the same time. I wonder why this method of describing personalities is so unclear.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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