Physicians and the Workaholic or Type A Personality

Do physicians themselves identify with the personality traits often ascribed to physicians, such as being a “workaholic, Type A, and “control freak”?

It seems they do.

In a study in 2014, researchers sent a questionnaire to nearly 3,000 physicians in Canada (with more than 1,100 responding) and here’s what they found:

  • 53% of the survey participants identified with the workaholic personality trait.
  • 62% of the survey participants identified with the Type A personality trait.
  • 36% of the survey participants identified with the control freak personality trait.

There were also significant statistical differences in several wellness outcomes comparing participants who identified with those personalities and those who did not. These included higher levels of emotional exhaustion, higher levels of anxiety and higher levels of depression, poorer mental health and lower levels of job satisfaction. In addition, participants who did not identify with the workaholic personality compared to those who did reported higher levels of job satisfaction and career commitment.

These results, researchers, say run counter to the long-held belief that these type of personality traits enhance professional performance. They conclude by saying that a simple intervention asking physicians the extent to which they identify with the workaholic, Type A and control freak personalities “may offer the opportunity to recognize those at increased risk, enhance their awareness of potential harm, and teach strategies that could lessen the damaging effects, while maintaining any potentially beneficial adaptive elements of those personality traits.”