May 18


​Types of Temperament

Everyone has his or her own unique chemical balance, rather than imbalance. At one time, it was thought that all behavior was learned. Since the 1980s, much has been discovered about how chemicals released by glands (hormones) and nerves (neurotransmitters) influence feelings and behavior. Other substances (enzymes) regulate chemical reactions. The major players that mold your temperament are:

  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) inhibits neural activity. Alcohol and tranquilizers increase levels of GABA in the brain.
  • Testosterone is the male hormone that is also found in women to lesser degrees. High levels of testosterone may be associated with increased aggression.
  • Norepinephrine enables the nervous system to respond to incoming stimuli.
  • MAO (monoamine oxidase) is an enzyme that regulates norepinephrine. Too little may result in a barrage of incoming stimuli, causing agitation and inattention. High levels reduce responsiveness to incoming stimuli, leading to depression.
  • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and self-stimulation. Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine have chemical structures similar to such drugs as LSD.
  • Serotonin balances the action of dopamine and norepinephrine.



Sensors or on-edge people may have low levels of nature’s tranquilizer, GABA, causing them to be very reactive to their surroundings but to back away from triggers due to a limited comfort zone. They can be sensitive and perceptive or anxious and fearful. Panic attacks, social phobias, and avoidant disorders can become problems.


Focusers or low-keyed people may have high levels of MAO and low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. This causes them to underreact to external stimuli and turn inward to find interest through fantasy, pondering, reading or ruminating. They can have great powers of concentration and task orientation or brood and feel empty. Obsessions, compulsions, dependency, and depression can become problems.


Seekers or go-getters may have an abundance of nature’s pleasure pill, dopamine, and low MAO. This leads to underreactivity to threat and may cause them to seek excitement and even danger to feel alive. They can be friendly, high achievers, and courageous or restless and dissatisfied. Attention deficits, addictions, and cycles of elation and despair can be problems.


schargers or quick-triggered people may have low levels of serotonin and MAO and high levels of nature’s antagonist, testosterone, causing them to overreact to external stimuli. Because they are outgoing, they lash out at what bothers them. They can be passionate, sensuous, energetic, and lively or explosive and unpredictable. Personality disorders with poor insight and blaming others can be problems.

The chart below can help you identify your temperament. The temperament with the most points may be your type. If the sum of your sensor plus focuser points in the left column is high, you may be introverted. If the sum of your discharger plus seeker points in the right column is high, you may be extroverted. If the sum of sensor plus discharger points is high, you may be over-reactive. If the sum of focuser plus seeker points is high, you may be under-reactive. If your point total for all types is similar, you may be evenly balanced or cycle in moods. It can help to have others rate you.

Identifying Your Temperament

Directions: Give yourself 1–4 points for each item that describes you. Score items that list more than one quality according to how many traits characterize you. For instance, if you both worry and expect the worst, score that item 2 points. If you are a pessimist but don’t worry, give yourself 1 point.

​Introverted   LIMITED   <— COMFORT ZONE —>   EXTENSIVE   Extroverted

Sensors (SN)—Low GABA

Dischargers (D)—High testosterone, low MAO

I worry or expect the worst.  (2)
My worries exhaust me.
I can be anxious and not know why.
It’s hard to calm down when I’m anxious.
I notice details others would find trivial.
I don’t like to be the center of attention.
I push myself and then get overwhelmed.
When uncomfortable, I get sweaty/shaky.
I find it difficult to relax.
I try to avoid confrontation.
I seek reassurance.
I often feel like an outsider.
Security or safety is important to me.(2)
use alcohol or drugs to calm down.(2)

I am:
Sensitive, perceptive, or empathetic.(3)
Tense in new situations or easily startle.   (2)
Very aware of bodily sensations.
Shy, quiet, or a “peoplepleaser.”  (3)
Most at ease with family or close friends.
Drawn to exciting but comforting people.

Total Points: __ (28)

Focusers (F)—Low serotonin, high MAO

I often ponder, imagine, or dream.   (3)
I can focus and ignore my surroundings.
I attend to details in my work.
I focus on problems to try to feel better.
Often, my brooding does not help me.
I dwell on criticisms or cry easily.    (2)
I pursue exciting or unavailable partners.
I get angry or bored when my partner doesn’t “make me” happy.    (2)
I eat to relieve boredom or sadness.(2)
I use caffeine or drugs for energy.

I easily feel:

Sad, exhausted, lonely, or unimportant.   (4)
Dissatisfied with myself, guilty hopeless.    (3)
Tense, bored, or indecisive.  (3)

My concerns can:
Make it hard to enjoy life.
Keep me from sleeping.

Total Points: __ (28)

I react quickly when others upset me.
I don’t hold back angry feelings.
Sometimes I don’t know why I’m angry.
I get angry about things others find trivial.
It’s hard to calm down when I’m mad.
I use alcohol or drugs to help my anger.

I am:

Easily irritated, frustrated, or impatient.   (3)
Critical, complaining, or rigid.   (3)
Intense, sensuous, lively, or passionate.   (4)
Drawn to tolerant or calming people.

I can:

Confront others or intimidate people.(2)
Take out my anger on anyone.
Be aggressive, forceful, or explosive.(3)

Holding back anger:

Makes me feel tired or depressed.   (2)
Can lead to an explosion.

After an outburst:

I feel regretful.
I don’t feel sorry or I make up excuses.

Total Points: __ (28)

Seekers (SK)—High dopamine, low MAO

I seek achievement or pleasure.     (2)
I rarely get bored but tire of repetition.
Once I’ve finished a project, I move on.
It’s hard for me to relax and slow down.
I’ve had many jobs or partners.     (2)
I idealize people and can be let down.
I prefer caffeine or stimulants to downers.

I enjoy:

Attracting attention or shocking others.    (2)
Excitement, parties, or travel.     (2)
New experiences, people, or variety.    (3)
Intense romance and later get bored.
Debates or competition.    (2)
Scary rides or fast driving.   (2)

I can be:

Unconventional, spontaneous, or rash.   (3)
Energetic or a leader.    (2)
Bold and brave or restless and dissatisfied.    (2)

Total Points:___(28)


See Mastering Your Moods by Melvyn Kinder (Simon & Schuster, 1995) for more on biochemistry and description of temperaments.

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