Tinnitus and Type D “Distressed” Personality

Accustomed to the veneer of noise, to the shibboleths of promotion, public relations, and market research, society is suspicious of those who value silence.  ~John Lahr

Some interesting research is being done on the Type D for Distressed personality type and its link with tinnitus. Someone with a Type D Personality is more likely to experience worry, stress, anger and other negative and distressing emotions. People with T may be more likely to have a Type D personality and this distressed personality type might lead to perceiving T as more severe (Tinnitus Today, Summer 2010, p. 20). I found some interesting information on Type D personality at Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publications at www.health.harvard.edu.  Links between personality types and specific medical conditions have not always stood the test of time.  For example experts in the 1980’s use to say that Type A personality was a risk factor for heart disease but later large scale studies found no connection. The Harvard Health Publication suggests that it is too early to tell whether type D personality will hold up as a valid type and whether connections to specific diseases or conditions will hold true in larger studies in various countries and populations.  They also suggest that the problem with a personality type approach is that it is easier to change a particular mood like depression than it is to change a personality type.

Of course I had to take the on-line Type D personality type test. And no surprise I am Type D. I’m wound a little tight. I have a tendency towards anxiety and depression although I don’t think I have a negative outlook on life. As far as the research in Tinnitus Today, I think there are two sides to this issue. On one side, any research that helps lead us closer to better psychology based treatments is a great thing.  Counselling therapy approaches have helped many people with T cope better and have a better quality of life.  But then there’s the flip side.  And it hits a nerve for me.  To understand my explanation keep in mind that a buttercup is a small very delicate yellow flower that wilts easily.

Long ago when I was desperate for answers and seeing various doctors and specialists I got certain advice.  Around here we call it “Suck it up, Buttercup!”  I was basically told that if I wasn’t so anxious I would be able to cope.  So I needed to get on with life and quit whining about my T. My frustration was that I was anxious and upset because of my T. I still see it time and again in doctor reports for people having their tinnitus checked out. “This anxious man…”  “This anxious woman…” Labelling the personality.  When you’re searching for answers and you feel blame for your personality – it’s not a good thing. I know people struggling with T who have been told they must have a mental illness. Others who have been psychoanalyzed back to their childhood to find out what they were upset about.  Newsflash: they are distressed because they are struggling with T, and it makes it worse when they get a negative personality assessment instead of useful strategies. I think the same thing goes for other chronic conditions like sound sensitivity or fibromyalgia.

I think part of the emotional side of tinnitus distress is actually from grief. Grief at loss of silence. Grief over something that seems to have a mind of its own. Grief over no cure. Grief over bad advice. Grief over flare-ups. Grief over the sense of isolation at having something invisible with an emotional impact that is often not well understood. Grief hits people of all personalities. But perhaps it is more long lasting or harder to get past for people with T who are a Type D personality.  I’m sure the answers (and better treatment tools) lie in more research on this interesting area.  I just hope when seeking help from care providers, people with get therapy tool answers and not labels.

Jan L. Mayes ©2010


10 thoughts on “Tinnitus and Type D “Distressed” Personality”

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