Determining your personality type can help you learn more about your motivations and the ways in which you interact and relate to others. The Enneagram system is a popular theory that assigns everyone a personality type, and figuring out which one you are isn’t just interesting—it can also help you understand what motivates your behavior.
Finding your Enneagram type is the first step, but understanding what the possibilities are is just as important. Here’s a look at the Enneagram system and what each type means.
What Are Enneagrams?
The Enneagram system uses different personality types to help people better understand themselves and what motivates them. Exact origins of the Enneagram system are a bit murky, but researchers note that its roots trace back to South American philosopher Oscar Ichazo in the mid-20th century.
Research in the American Journal of Psychiatry defines the system as “a personality theory describing nine strategies by which the psyche develops a worldview and relates to self and others.” The system has been used by psychiatrists since the 1970s, according to researchers, who note that the theory “proposes that by adulthood, individuals have developed a predominant personality strategy to cope with the external environment.”
The Enneagram system has a personality type for everyone, which Ian Morgan Cron, a psychotherapist, Enneagram teacher, bestselling author of The Road Back To You and podcast host, explains as something “we gravitate toward and adopt in childhood as a way to cope, protect ourselves and navigate the new world of relationships in which we find ourselves.”
Cron says that each type has “a core motivation” that influences the way someone acts, thinks and feels on a daily basis. “The Enneagram provides a framework for how we can begin to live into the highest expression of ourselves,” he says. “It’s a powerful system for personal growth and a great resource for transforming our relationships in every sphere of life.”
A review of 104 independent studies found Enneagrams have mixed evidence of reliability and validity. With that said, the review also noted that some studies have shown that Enneagrams can be helpful for both personal and spiritual growth.
How Many Enneagram Types Are There?
There are nine Enneagram types, and the general idea is that everyone is assigned one type. Each type has “an associated fear, basic desire and predictable pattern of behavior in times of stress and security,” according to the American Journal of Psychiatry.
However, some think of the system a little differently.
“I like to think about the Enneagram as a circle, which has infinite points, reflecting the limitless possibilities for unique expressions of self,” says Kelly Gregory, a licensed mental health counselor and president and owner of Arena Counseling and Wellness in Gainesville, Florida. “Within the nine types, there are various specifications including subtypes, wings and levels of health. The Enneagram can be a very expansive tool with many layers.”
These are the nine Enneagram types, as explained by both Cron and Gregory and the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Type One: The Perfectionist
Type Ones focus on following the rules and doing things the right way. They are motivated by their desire to live the “right” way and to always avoid fault and blame. They are so intent on being perfect that it can backfire, and they can often be too hard on themselves and on others.
- STRENGTHS: Ethical, dedicated, reliable, strives to help themselves and others be the best they can be.
- FAULTS: Very critical, especially to themselves; tends to see things in black and white.
- BASIC FEAR: To be bad or corrupt.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be good or have integrity.
Type Two: The Helper
As the name suggests, Type Twos are always there to lend a hand and act as a support system for family and friends. They are motivated by their need to be loved and needed at all times. They’re extremely giving—to the point of ignoring their own needs. They really want to be liked and have a strong fear of being disliked by others, so they will do anything to ensure that they fit in. They tend to ignore their own boundaries for the sake of others.
- STRENGTHS: Caring, interpersonal, warm, giving, values relationships and service.
- FAULTS: Focuses so much on what others need that they don’t acknowledge their own needs; sometimes thinks they know best about the needs of others.
- BASIC FEAR: Being unworthy of being loved; being unwanted.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be loved.
Type Three: The Achiever
Type Threes are success-oriented and extremely driven. They are motivated by their constant need to be successful—or at least to look successful to others. They do everything they can to avoid failure. They never want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing, and they put a little too much focus on what others think of them.
- STRENGTHS: Adaptable and able to succeed in almost any situation; productive and image-conscious.
- FAULTS: Feels their worth lies in what they can do and accomplish rather than who they are.
- BASIC FEAR: To be worthless or insignificant; to disappoint others.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be valuable and accepted.
Type Four: The Individualist
Type Fours are motivated by the need to be as unique as possible—they never want to be ordinary. They are also very focused on feeling all of their emotions. Their moodiness can hinder them, and they have a fear of being flawed.
- STRENGTHS: Creative, sensitive, introspective, unique, understanding, empathetic.
- FAULTS: Desires to be seen and understood at all times; tends to be jealous and moody.
- BASIC FEAR: To have no identity or personal significance.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be meaningful based on their inner experience.
Type Five: The Investigator
Also known as scientists or professors, Type Fives love to learn. They are constantly striving to conserve energy and learn more about the world, and this tends to make them very private and detached. They can be secretive and not very social.
- STRENGTHS: Knowledgeable, curious, insightful, analytical.
- FAULTS: Struggles to connect with their emotions; very detached and tends to be a loner.
- BASIC FEAR: To be useless, helpless or incapable.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be capable and competent.
Type Six: The Loyalist
Motivated by fear and the need for security, loyalists are the most common type. They value friendship and loyalty, but they are also worst-case-scenario thinkers. They like to be prepared for the worst and feel anxious if they don’t think they’re prepared.
- STRENGTHS: Committed, practical, witty, great in a crisis, always prepared.
- FAULTS: Can be anxious and sometimes struggles with self-doubt.
- BASIC FEAR: To be without security and support.
- BASIC DESIRE: To have security and support.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
A positive, fun-loving type, Type Sevens are spontaneous and motivated by a need to be happy. They never want to be tied down and are almost always full of energy. They never want to feel any kind of emotional pain or discomfort, so they do everything they can to keep themselves busy and having a good time.
- STRENGTHS: Adventurous, always planning something fun, loves having new experiences.
- FAULTS: Struggles with recognizing limits and tends to overexert themselves; can struggle with doing fun things in order to avoid internal pain.
- BASIC FEAR: To be confined or in pain.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be happy and satisfied.
Type Eight: The Challenger
Type Eights are motivated by their need to always assert strength and control over everyone around them, and to never look weak and vulnerable. They can be described as defenders or protectors, and they always know what they want. They are leaders, but they are also obsessed with controlling everything around them.
- STRENGTHS: Commanding, direct, protective, very take-charge.
- FAULTS: Confrontational, always needs to be in control, always needs to get what they want.
- BASIC FEAR: To be harmed or controlled by others.
- BASIC DESIRE: To be in control and protect self and others.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
Nines value harmony, comfort and peace. They are motivated by a need to always keep the peace and avoid conflict at all costs. They go with the flow and tend to let others take control so that they can make other people happy.
- STRENGTHS: Pleasant, laid back, accommodating.
- FAULTS: Can explode with anger when keeping things in for too long; can be too complacent.
- BASIC FEAR: To be disconnected, separate and/or lost.
- BASIC DESIRE: To have peace and stability in their internal and external world.
The Three Triads of Enneagram Types
There are various groupings that can explain commonalities between the Enneagram types, according to Gregory. “One of the most common or well-known is the three triads of the Enneagram—body or gut, heart and head,” she says.
Body or Gut Triad
This triad is made of Types Eight, Nine and One. All of these types are associated with doing and anger. “It can also be called the ‘instinctive’ triad because this triad relies on their body to understand and solve problems by doing and responding to their gut instincts,” says Gregory.
This triad is made of Types Two, Three and Four, which are all associated with emotions and shame. “They are concerned with self-image and a desire to create a version of themselves that is loved and accepted,” says Gregory. Cron adds that these types can be overly emotional and their first reaction is always to feel something.
This triad is made of Types Five, Six and Seven, which are all associated with thinking and anxiety. “They can overthink in an attempt to seek security and guidance,” says Gregory, adding that these types are strategic and need help quieting their minds. As Cron notes, these types are always overthinking and tend to be repressed.
How to Determine Your Enneagram Type
The best way to determine your Enneagram type is through a test or assessment, according to Cron. There are many available online, but he recommends the Integrative Enneagram Questionnaire (iEQ9). “It’s extraordinarily thorough in the 175 questions it asks,” he says.
Meanwhile, Gregory recommends the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) through The Enneagram Institute or the Quick Enneagram Sorting Test (QUEST). “Whatever test you take, it can be helpful to read about the types for which you scored highest and then identify which one resonates with you the most,” she says.
 Alexander M, Schnipke B. The Enneagram: A Primer for Psychiatry Residents. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2020;15(3):2-5.
 Hook J, et al. The Enneagram: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Directions for Future Research. J Clin Psychol. 2021;77(4):865-883.