An investigation into the psychobiological mechanisms underpinning the relationship between type D personality and physical health complaints in the general population

Allen, Sarah (2017) An investigation into the psychobiological mechanisms underpinning the relationship between type D personality and physical health complaints in the general population. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Type D personality is characterised by high levels of social inhibition and negative affectivity, and is traditionally associated with poor prognosis and negative outcomes in cardiac patients. Research has also demonstrated links between Type D personality and adverse health outcomes among other clinical populations, and in apparently healthy individuals. A number of psychophysiological mechanisms have been suggested to underpin the relationship, including sympathetic dysregulation and maladaptive immune activation. However, previous findings are relatively inconclusive, and further exploration of potential psychobiological mechanisms is warranted. This project therefore aims to elucidate the potential mechanisms underpinning the relationship between Type D personality and poor physical health in the general population.

In the current project, physical symptom clusters were derived from an existing tool designed to assess everyday health complaints, in order to ascertain the relationship between specific physical symptom clusters and Type D. Subsequently, a cross-sectional online questionnaire-based study was conducted to assess the associations between Type D personality and physical symptoms, in addition to a number of psychological and behavioural outcomes identified in the literature. Relationships between Type D and specific stress-related symptom clusters were observed. Subsequently, a one-year follow up was conducted to determine the dynamic nature of the Type D-health relationship and the potential mediating factors involved. Type D was related to metabolic, gastrointestinal and cold/flu symptom clusters, and anxiety and stressful life events were found to play mediating roles.

Given the findings regarding Type D and stress-related symptoms, the subsequent phase of the project comprised an experimental study, which objectively examined sympathetic arousal in response to an acute stress task, in addition to inflammatory activation. Findings indicated that sympathetic dysregulation may be involved in the Type D-health relationship.

Finally, a positive writing intervention was implemented to assess whether the influence of Type D on physical symptoms may be attenuated by means of increasing positive emotions. The utility of the intervention was demonstrated for reducing cold symptoms in Type D individuals over one month.

Overall, this project provides novel contributions to the literature on Type D and adverse health, demonstrating links with specific symptom clusters, further evidence of a potential mechanism of sympathetic dysregulation and the value of a positive psychology invention in Type D individuals.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2018 14:00
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:39

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