How to Classify Your Personality Type

How to Classify Your Personality Type

Let’s look at where different types of personality come from and look at examples of personality types.

Personalities are the collections of traits that determine how each individual understands their experiences and behaves (Asendorpf, 2002). When we can recognize that certain people can be grouped together, based on sharing a handful of personality traits, we call this a personality type (Asendorpf, 2002).

For a long time, psychological research was mostly interested in understanding the components of personality (Laursen & Hoff, 2006). The thinking was that if we know what all the pieces are that go together to make up all personalities, then we can theoretically draw conclusions about how people will behave based on which traits they have or don’t have. However, more recently, psychologists have become more interested in what is called a person-centered perspective: what does it mean for a particular person that they have a particular grouping of personality traits?

It seems likely that a combination of both approaches is important. For example, it is definitely useful information to know that somebody is very extroverted or introverted. However, it is the combination of their traits that will make it easier to predict things about them. Two people high in extroversion may want different things depending on how high they are in another personality trait, such as openness to experience. A person high in both traits might get most excited about trying a new activity, while a person high in extraversion but low in openness might strongly prefer doing a familiar activity with their friends over trying something new.

Where Do Types of Personality Come From?

A person’s personality is determined by all the experiences they have had in their lives as well as their genes (Barlow et al., 2014). That said, our experiences with attachment figures as we grow up may be the most powerful determinants of our personalities. People who develop a secure attachment style because of their early relationships tend to be classified as resilient, while people who are avoidantly attached look like the undercontrolled type and people who are anxiously attached look like the overcontrolled personality type (Cooper et al., 1998).

“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Types of Personality: Type A, B, C, and D

There is another grouping of personality types, into types A, B, C, and D. These people have the following characteristics (Denollet, 2000; Hagihara et al., 1997; Steca et al., 2016):

● Type A people are competitive, achievement-oriented, aggressive, impatient, and susceptible to stress. Perhaps you remember somebody from high school who was obsessed with their grades and wanted to know everybody else’s so they could assure themselves they were doing the best.

● Type B people are the opposite of Type A. They tend to have low levels of stress, are easygoing and patient, and are more focused on creative pursuits than on achievement.

● Type C people tend to be angry. They repress their emotions, except for hostility towards others, and see the world with suspicion.

● Type D people tend to be socially anxious, experience lots of negative emotions, and tend to hold back their feelings and needs.

Types of Personality: Disorders and Symptoms

Personality disorders exist when people’s personality traits are so inflexible and unhelpful that they cause great suffering or struggles in their lives (Widiger & Rojas, 2015). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), there are ten distinct personality disorders, summarized into three clusters here:

Cluster A: Odd or Eccentric: This group is characterized by beliefs that range from odd to utterly delusional. People with these personality disorders are often paranoid because they hold very strongly to their own beliefs, but nobody else seems to agree with them. These personality disorders share some traits with the psychiatric disorder called schizophrenia. Because people with these personality disorders see the world so differently from others, it is often hard for them to connect with others.

Cluster B: Emotionally Explosive and Labile: These people engage in highly emotional, impulsive, and often self-destructive behavior. They have a very hard time regulating themselves and therefore try to manipulate their environments to regain a sense of stability. People with borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder fit into this category.

Cluster C: Fearful and Anxious: These people avoid experiences, often to a very debilitating degree, that they fear they will not be able to handle. They may keep their lives extremely organized or rely heavily on other people. An example of this cluster is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In Sum

Personality types are a helpful shorthand for understanding people. While they can’t predict everything about us, they do provide useful information and an easy way to classify people. If you find personality types informative and interesting,we encourage you to pick a personality classification system that makes sense to you, and then use it to better understand yourself, others, and the interactions you have.


● American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th ed. Arlington: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

● Asendorpf, J. B. (2002). The puzzle of personality types. European Journal of Personality, 16(1S), S1-S5.

● Barlow, D. H., Ellard, K. K., Sauer-Zavala, S., Bullis, J. R., & Carl, J. R. (2014). The origins of neuroticism. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(5), 481-496.

● Cooper, M. L., Shaver, P. R., & Collins, N. L. (1998). Attachment styles, emotion regulation, and adjustment in adolescence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1380–1397.

● Denollet, J. (2000). Type D personality: a potential risk factor refined. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49(4), 255-266.

● Hagihara, A., Tarumi, K., Miller, A. S., & Morimoto, K. (1997). Type A and Type B behaviors, work stressors, and social support at work. Preventive Medicine, 26(4), 486-494.

● Steca, P., D’Addario, M., Magrin, M. E., Miglioretti, M., Monzani, D., Pancani, L., … & Greco, A. (2016). A type A and type D combined personality typology in essential hypertension and acute coronary syndrome patients: Associations with demographic, psychological, clinical, and lifestyle indicators. PloS One, 11(9), e0161840.

● Widiger, T. A., & Rojas, S. L. (2015). Personality disorders. Psychiatry, 1706-1748