The Type A personality
In a word, Type As overachieve. We accomplish more than most of our peers. Sure, the yardsticks vary across industries, but if we examine closely, we’ve also accomplished more than we’ve ever dared to dream, way ahead of our time.
A Type A is extremely cerebral— we’re great at analysing, and use rationality to mask any discomfort. Our heads are overactive places, we work on and smash multiple goals at the same time, and we have problems saying no— in other words, we overfunction.
As a psychologist and coach specialising in Overachiever Problems, the cocktail of traits behind the Type A personality pushes us to being our best, but up until a point.
The signs of high functioning anxiety
“But I’m going to work! I don’t fit the profile of an anxious person!”, Tamara protests.
Her psychiatrist tells her she needs to accept the facts.
To Tamara, an anxious person hides under the blanket, chowing down their nails, unable to face the world.
Tamara is on track towards being a young C-suite executive. She’s got an active social life, and a picture-perfect family. But her brain is a scary place, according to her. It won’t shut up. She can’t sleep, and when she wakes up, she’s more exhausted than ever. She spends her time checking herself and her work over and over again. And she’s addicted to worrying. Every night, Tamara calms herself down with two glasses of Merlot.
I explain to Tamara the three symptoms of high-functioning anxiety:—
1. Busy mind: It is a mind that overthinks, that believes worrying solves problems. Every thought that pops in must be entertained. As a result, more time is spent in one’s head than in actual life. When we miss out on real life, we feel bad, and we worry more. And, we worry if we might be having early onset dementia because there’s so much we’re forgetting.
2. Busy body: The pulsing heart, the jellied limbs, the quick breaths, sharp pains, dull aches. Whether it is severe anxiety or a crippling panic attack, anxiety also manifests as physical symptoms, because we’re so adept at shutting down any discomfort by telling ourselves “It’s not that bad!”.
3. Busy actions: From checking our locks and switches multiple times, to washing our hands, to finding ways such as drinking or shopping to numb ourselves, these behaviours are ways in which we try to gain control of our heads and bodies. Except that these become obsessive rituals that take us over. And with a religious fervour, we start to believe that something bad will happen if we don’t perform these behaviours.
Managing problems is passé.
It’s slapping on pore-clogging concealer without treating acne— you know it’s there, it’s going to get worse, and then you’ll need more concealer.
It’s the same with anxiety. No matter how the urban legend is that we can only manage anxiety all our lives, that only leaves us anxious and helpless.
The deal is, there’s no reason to feel bad.
No one’s ever taught us how to take care of our minds, the way we know we need to service our cars and our teeth.
And much as your Type A nature — and anxiety— has pushed you to where you are today, that’s as far as it takes you.
If you upgrade the OS of your tech all the time, isn’t it time you update the OS of your mind?
It’s time to become Type A about being Type A— in short, making your Type A nature work for you, and pay you untold dividends.