What to Know About Type D Personality

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 20, 2024
3 min read

Personality types are ways to understand temperaments and the way you tend to think, feel, and act. Here’s what to know about type D personality. 

Type D personality is often called "distressed" personality. If your personality is type D, you tend to have negative emotions across many situations but avoid expressing those emotions because of fear of rejection or disapproval. 

If you have type D personality, you typically have a lot of negative emotions like anger, irritability, or hostility, but you suppress your feelings. You might also be highly anxious or avoid people because you’re afraid of how they might see you and your emotions.

Personality descriptions are wide and general, so it’s first important to understand that you are an individual with many traits. Where you fall within type D personality characteristics can vary. 

Other type D personality traits include:

Having a type D personality does not necessarily mean you have depression, but you might cycle between depression and anxiety, especially during times of high stress.  

Type D personalities are more likely to avoid people, which can lead to loneliness, low confidence, and more emotional problems. With less support from others, events and situations are more likely to get you down. 

Some studies show that type D personalities are more likely to miss work and take sick leave than other personality types. You might find work more stressful than others do, and you might feel exhausted and unsatisfied. 

Type D personalities also tend to have poor coping skills, which can lead to higher levels of stress and burnout. Over time, this might lead to other health problems like general poor health, heart attacks, a low immune system, and lots of illnesses. 

Research hasn’t shown whether a type D personality can predict your risk for disease or change your physical health directly. It’s likelier that unhealthy behaviors and negative emotions lead to health problems rather than personality type.  

Psychotherapy or counseling can help you learn better coping skills, lower your stress, and connect with others. Medications can also help depression and anxiety.

If you’re lonely and find yourself avoiding others, reach out to someone you trust. Start with a simple walk, coffee date, or a dinner out. 

A type D personality can bring anxiety and stress. If you are experiencing burnout, high distress, or trouble coping, talk to your doctor or therapist about treatment and where to find help in your community.

Personality types organized by alphabet started in the 1950s with heart doctors Meyer Friedmann and Ray Rosenman and grew from there. 

There are a few types of personality described as:

  • Type A: competitive, irritable, hostile, ambitious, impatient, dominant
  • Type B: easygoing, relaxed, patient, lower stress, no urgency
  • Type C: passive, repressed, strongly focused on others, unable to express emotions, submissive, helpless
  • Type D: distressed, lonely, sad, fearing rejection and disapproval

Friedmann and Rosenman first described a type A behavior pattern as a risk for heart disease. However, it was shown that their conclusion was based on tobacco industry-funded research that concluded that personality problems caused heart disease rather than tobacco use. 

Over the years, research hasn’t produced any real evidence of a link between personality type and heart disease. However, research has found that depression may predict future heart disease and that people who are depressed don’t recover as well from heart surgery. 

However, even if negativity and social isolation are traits of a type D personality, there are other factors that may lead to heart disease that could be more prominent in that personality type. Smoking, inactivity, and reluctance to see a doctor for heart-related symptoms such as swollen legs and shortness of breath may contribute to heart disease. 

Lots of studies have looked at type D personality and health problems, but there are mixed results. 

While most modern research isn’t linked to the tobacco industry, research on personality types and heart disease risk is ongoing, even though it still often finds no connection.