Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Paul the Shark and Other PD Fables

Last week I met a fellow called Paul the Shark (not his real name). No, he is not a professional shark or a lawyer. He is a friend of Big Jerry. We shared a meal together, with our spouses, and wanting to know more about the man with the pronounced dorsal fin on his head I asked him lots of questions.
You see Paul the Shark shares the Parkinson’s diagnosis with Big Jerry and me. But more interesting than that, I discovered he has a theory about People with Parkinson's (PwP). He says that PwP are almost all "A-type" personalities. Wikipedia, the source of all wisdom and pooled ignorance, defines "A-type personalities" as, "high energy, out there, socially confident and decisive. Type A individuals can be described as impatient, time-conscious, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing; and are sometimes disliked by individuals with Type B personalities for the way that they're always rushing. They are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, drive themselves with deadlines, and are unhappy about delays. Because of these characteristics, Type A individuals are often described as "stress junkies." Type B individuals, in contrast, are described as patient, relaxed, and easy-going, generally lacking any sense of urgency.”

Simply put, A-type personalities live “damn the torpedo” lives, whereas B-type personalities blame A-type personalities for having fired the torpedo in the first place.

Paul the Shark, Big Jerry and I are all A-type persons. We don’t really understand why anyone would want to be a B-type personality. We even married A-type personalities. It is sort of a caste system. Who else would understand why we drive so fast?

However, in the rush to get to the finish line, we A-type persons forgot to ask what it means to get there first. In our case, first prize was Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (we were all under 55 when diagnosed). It does not always pay to be the first in line!

Type-A types seem to be more prone to encounter heart attacks, but who would have guessed Parkinson’s. Now I don’t know a large number of PwP, but applying Paul the Shark’s hypothesis to those I do know, he may well be right. Further support for the theory seems to come from listening to my PwP cyber-friends. They all seem to come in one type. Now perhaps that is because the Type-B personalities are off quietly taking their diagnoses in stride, all the while shaking their heads at the Type A’s running around with their hair on fire.

While it is a little late to change the diagnosis, it may be beneficial to warn budding A’s to consider the cost of being a stress junkie before its too late. PD does seem to play with your head. Literally. At least the dopamine-producing part.

On the other hand, maybe Paul the Shark is wrong (something Type-A’s rarely admit). Maybe it is just the Type-A people who need to have a theory to explain the battle they are fighting. Recent studies state that personality types most likely to get PD are “ . . . more rigid, introverted, nervous, and cautious”. Sure we are. If those studies are even remotely accurate, Paul the Shark’s theory just got shot down by the theorist himself, with help from his new friends. Don’t go into medicine Paul, stick with the sharks.


  1. Love it! The part about the Type A's running with their hair on fire had my family laughing! :0)* Guess who is the Type A in my house?

  2. Sorry Bob - the science does not back it up. As far as dopamine goes, it's generally the meek who inherit the dearth...

  3. Absolutely fantastic! Paul the Shark is my papa :) Love the article.

  4. I know two people with this awful disease, and both were type B. I'm thinking it doesn't discriminate on personality types.