Discuss Personality as a Medicating Factor in Response to Stress – Type a, External/Internal, Focus of Control and Hardness Essay

Type A personalities are hard driving, impatient, aggressive, competitive, achievement orientated, hostile, do two things at once, do daily activities such as eat walk and talk rapidly. These types of people have higher bloody cholesterol and are at greater risk of coronary heart disease than type B’s. However despite the fact that Type A’s seem to be at risk of stress related illness, many of them survive quite happily with their pressured and competitive lives.

One of the key factors in managing stress is a strong sense of commitment control and challenge which are key elements of the ‘hardy personality’ which is proposed to be resistant to the damaging effects of stress. There is no reason why type A’s should not be able to show high signs of commitment and control. In fact they are expected to as they are high achievers and so are likely to be very committed and they like to so everything themselves as they don’t believe anyone else could do it as well, they have a strong sense of control.

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According to Kobasa the concept of hardiness is central to understanding why some people are vulnerable to stress and some resistant. Hardiness includes a range of personality factors, as discussed above, which if present defend against the negative effects of stress: Control is the belief that you can influence what happens in your life rather than giving control to outside influences. It is similar to locus of control and attributional style which is the tendency to attribute causes either to yourself (dispositional attributional) or to external factors over which you have no control (situational attribution).

Also commitment, which gives people a sense of purpose and involvement in the world around them, including people as well as jobs and careers. The world is seen as something to engage with rather than something to stand back from. Committed people tend to resist giving up in times of stress. There is also challenges in the form of life changes or opportunities which have to be overcome rather than threats and stressors.

Those who possess a challenge orientation do not seek comfort and security as their main goals but rather they look for change and growth. Secure attachment helps hardiness and openness to challenge. Kobasa has presented evidence that people who have high scores on scales measuring hardiness are significantly less likely to suffer stress related physical and psychological disorders than those with low scores. In theory their positive approach means that life events are not seen as stressful but as challenges and opportunities hat can be overcome. This leads to less activation of the stress response and its negative consequences. Kobasa’s studies of personality and stress have identified other factors involved in coping with stress and have implications for stress management. Using previous work suggesting that physical exercise and social support also protected against stress related illness, Kobasa rated participants on the presence or absence of hardiness, social support and regular exercise.

In this study they followed the participants and assessed the severity of any subsequent psychological – depression and anxiety or physical illness. Results showed clearly that participants with no protective factors had higher scores of illness scales than any other group. In addition the presence of one, two or all three protective factors were associated with steadily decreasing illness scores. This implied that the factors acted additively in improving resistance to stress. Of the three, hardiness seemed to have the greatest impact.

However Kobasa’s work was largely carried out on males and so the findings may not be generalised to other groups as stressors and coping responses are known to differ between men and women. There is also the issue of the components of personality as control, commitment and challenge have never been clearly defined so control may be an important part of commitment and challenge rather than being separate from them. This would imply that Kobasa is only looking at the role of control in protection against stress rather than a full ‘personality type’.

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