Handbook of Health Psychology

By Andrew Baum; Tracey A. Revenson et al. | Go to book overview

9
Personality Traits as Risk Factors
for Physical Illness
Timothy W. Smith
Linda C. Gallo
University of Utah

The belief that stable patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior contribute to the development of physical illness has been present throughout the history of medicine (McMahon, 1976). Hippocrates, for example, argued that four basic temperaments or personality types reflected excesses of specific humors and caused corresponding medical disorders. Many centuries later, Sir William Osler (1892) suggested that coronary heart disease befell “not the neurotic, delicate person …but the robust, the vigorous in mind and body, the keen and ambitious man, the indicator of whose engine is always at full speed ahead” (p. 839). The descriptions of personality, disease, and the nature of their relation have varied widely, but the essence of this psychosomatic hypothesis has remained unchanged.

Earlier in this century, the hypothesis was refined by the psychoanalytic school in psychosomatic medicine (Alexander, 1950; Dunbar, 1943). These models assigned a pathophysiological role to unconscious personality dynamics, and suggested a correspondence between specific emotional conflicts and medical conditions. Unlike previous psychoanalytic formulations of hysteria or hypochondriasis (Freud, 1933), these models identified causes for actual disease, rather than unfounded physical symptoms. For example, an unconscious conflict between aggressive impulses and anxiety concerning the consequences of their expression was described as a cause of essential hypertension. Although a weak scientific foundation limited the impact of this approach on the mainstream of either medicine or psychology (Surwit, R. B. Williams, & Shapiro, 1982), it set the stage for current research on personality and illness.

During the same period, developments in the physiology of stress provided an essential, scientifically credible set of mechanisms connecting personality and disease (Ax, 1953; Cannon, 1939; Seyle, 1936, 1952; Wolff, 1950). Not surprisingly, the psychophysiology of stress and emotion remains an integral component of this research area (Contrada, Leventhal, & O'Leary, 1990). The immediate predecessor of the current interest in the issue is undoubtedly the seminal work of M. Friedman and Rosenman (1959) on the Type A coronary prone behavior pattern. Although M. Friedman and Rosenman actively avoided describing their work in the language of personality traits, their work is now recognized as involving personality characteristics (Suls & Rittenhouse, 1987). Friedman and Rosenman's version of the centuries- old psychosomatic hypothesis was a major force in the early development of the larger fields of behavioral medicine and health psychology (G. C. Stone, F. Cohen, & Adler, 1979; Weiss, Herd, & Fox, 1981).

An often overlooked forerunner to current research on personality traits as risk factors for illness are early studies that used psychometrically sound measures of personality in large, prospective designs (e.g., Ostfeld, Lebovits, Shekelle, & Paul, 1964). Effects of personality variables on subsequent disease were examined while attempting to control statistically the possible confounding medical or demographic variables. Studies of this type provided important evidence of the merit of

-139-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Handbook of Health Psychology
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 962

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.