07/01/2011 10:01 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Psychology Behind A Cold

We all know about the physical symptoms that are part and parcel of having a cold. But apart from all that wheezing, sneezing and streaming, could a cold affect your personality too?

TV psychologist Dr Jo Hemmings seems to think so. And a survey by Kleenex Balsam confirms it too, with two-thirds of adults claiming they undergo an emotional transformation when they catch a cold.


"When we come down with a cold it plays on our emotions and makes us act and feel out of character," says Dr Hemmings. "I for one know that I become more withdrawn from my friends and colleagues, preferring to hibernate in my bed than socialise."

According to the survey's findings, more women are affected emotionally than men when they have a cold. In fact the survey suggests 'man flu' is a myth, since men are less likely to cancel social engagements, moan or look for sympathy when they have a cold than women.

But both sexes find having a cold stressful. A third of those quizzed said they thought it's more stressful than arguing with their partner, while a quarter claimed having a cold stresses them out more than work pressures, money worries or even moving house.

So how do you react when you go down with a serious dose of the sniffles? Dr Hemmings has categorised four common cold personality types - which one describes you best?

Solitary sufferer You may be the life and soul of the party normally, but when you have a cold all you want is to be left alone. Forget being comforted by friends or family, the only way you'll get through is to soldier on by yourself.

According to Dr Hemmings, however, you shouldn't try to suffer by yourself for too long, as social isolation could end up leaving you feeling depressed.

Marching martyr Do you battle on when you're in the full grip of a cold virus? The marching martyr is normally level headed, says Dr Hemmings. But when you feel poorly you're determined to convince yourself and everyone around you that nothing's wrong. And despite feeling rotten you don't complain, whinge or cancel social or business appointments.

But while you're busy trying to prove that your cold isn't affecting you, your friends and colleagues may be annoyed that you're hell bent on sharing your germs with them. So do yourself a favour and spend a night on the sofa so that your body can recover, advises Dr Hemmings.

Whingeing weeper The most emotional of all the cold personalities, the whingeing weeper is prone to bursting into tears and gets upset easily while suffering with a cold. Chances are you also find it so stressful you just can't cope with everyday life.

The best remedy for a whingeing weeper, says Dr Hemmings, is to surround yourself with supportive friends and family members who may help distract you from the fact that you're feeling unwell.

Feisty fighter If you're normally calm and collected but become short tempered and irritable when you come down with a cold, you could be a feisty fighter. This sudden personality change is caused by feelings of frustration and anger that your cold is interfering with your life.

Deal with it by trying to stay calm and concentrate on feeling better, says Dr Hemmings. And if you do find yourself lashing out, avoid other people until you feel better.

How does having a cold affect your personality? Do you take on one of the four personality types listed above?

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