Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
In 1959, Dr. Meyer Friedman, along with Dr. Ray H. Rosenman, first pointed out that a strong relationship exists between coronary heart disease and certain emotional and psychological characteristics which they described as type A behavior. Last year, after thirty-seven years of researching and treating type A behavior in cardiac patients, Dr. Friedman published his book, "Type A Behavior; Its Diagnosis and Treatment." The book has a most comprehensive discussion of the symptoms of TAB disorder and the methods to identify type A behavior characteristics in everyday behavior.
In this article, I will discuss type A symptoms and behavioral characteristics. Unfortunately, Type A behavior is not as extensively studied in women as it has been in men, therefore, these symptoms and behavioral characteristics are biased in favor of male "patients." It is believed that TAB is preponderantly a male disorder, though the ratio of men to women is unknown. According to Friedman's estimates type A behavior "afflicts over three quarters of all urban American males." In no way would its prevalence among women match that of men in a masculine society such as ours.
Salient characteristics and symptoms of type A behavior can be categorized in three major groups, as follows:
1. Time-Impatience,. A type A person, is most often intolerant of how much time everything consumes. Impatience regarding inordinate or unnecessary delay is normal and justifiable, but what characterizes type A behavior is constant sense of time urgency and impatience regarding the time various tasks and chores ordinarily consume. In moderate cases, a patient has a constant sense of "time urgency," but in severe cases, the impatience regarding time becomes so intense that it creates a chronic sense of irritation or exasperation.
2. Ever-present and all pervasive hostility, or as labeled by Friedman, "free floating hostility." This is when the level of hostility one exhibits is often not justifiable or valid when compared with the cause or the event that provoked it. Type A behavior is often characterized by hostility that is provoked by trivial and insignificant events.
3. Constant apprehension of future disasters. People who suffer from TAB have a constant apprehension of future disasters they may encounter. For example, they may have just won a big victory, but even during the triumphant moment, apprehension may still persist of a disaster that may foul up the future for them. They live in dread of negative possibilities.
Its time for a little vignette. A Tabber who was always in a hurry, keeping one eye on the task at hand and the other on his wrist watch, received advice from his well-wishing coworker, "John, you are driving yourself too hard. Once in a while, relax, take your time and smell the roses." "I am afraid you are right," John said wryly, "I'll work on it." Next morning, John was waiting at the company gate for his friend. As soon as the friend walked in, John chirped, "This morning I got out of bed real early and smelled one hundred and thirty-two roses. How many did you smell?"
Tabbers are followers of the "cult of speed." They have an inordinate drive to participate in a myriad of projects and they busy themselves with acquiring more and more possessions and recognition's. At work, they find it difficult to delegate to their subordinates and impose needless deadlines upon themselves. At home, they have hard time in expressing affection or extending praise to their spouse and children.
They frequently lose their temper while driving because of other people's less-than-perfect driving. They rarely experience joy at the achievement of others. They are intolerant of even the trivial errors of omission and commission by others. They are suspicious of the motives of most people they encounter. Their view of others is cynical, that is, they believe that "everyone thinks only of himself and his goals."
A Tabber who was once my boss told me, "You
think everybody is nice. Well I have a news for
you. There are no nice people in this world,
Dr. Sharma." He followed it with a
rejoinder, "Everyone has stabbed me in the back at
some time or the other. I am just waiting for you
to do the same." I said "I am sorry,
you'll have to wait," and I said to myself,
"but, I can't wait to get out of this
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1996, Mind Publications