Type D personality: The heart, stress and cortisol

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Many studies have demonstrated the role of psychosocial and behavioural risk factors in the aetiology and pathogenesis of cardiovascular disorders. Recently, a new personality construct, the type D or 'distressed' personality, has been proposed. Type D behaviour is characterized by the joint tendency to experience negative emotions and to inhibit these emotions while avoiding social contacts with others. The observation that cardiac patients with type D personality are at increased risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality underlines the importance of examining both acute (e.g. major depression) and chronic (e.g. certain personality features) factors in patients at risk for coronary events. Both type D dimensions (negative affectivity and social inhibition) are associated with greater cortisol reactivity to stress. Elevated cortisol may be a mediating factor in the association between type D personality and the increased risk for coronary heart disease and, possibly, other medical disorders. Studies of the effect of age on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function in healthy humans have produced inconsistent results. This may relate to a different prevalence of type D individuals in study samples (i.e. some type D individuals may have alterations within the HPA axis that are similar to HPA axis changes in depressed patients). Further studies of the psychological and biological features of type D individuals may help develop treatment approaches to improve the psychological and physical health of individuals with type D personality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-329
Number of pages7
JournalQJM: An International Journal of Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


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