How Mental Health Issues May Differ Among Introverts and Extroverts

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  There is nothing wrong with being either.  One of the key differences between introverts and extroverts is that introverts become tired when they are around other people and are able to regain energy when they are alone.  Extroverts, on the other hand, become energized when they are surrounded by others and will become tired and down when they are alone.  Whichever personality type you believe you possess, there are things to be mindful of with each when it comes to your mental health.

Introverts are sometimes looked down upon for being shy and timid, however, one should not be ashamed of being an introvert.  In fact, being comfortable with self and enjoying being alone can be looked at as a strength.  That being said, excessive isolation is generally an unhealthy behavior that can lead to depression and other mental health issues.  Conversely, individuals who always feel the need to be around others can be looked at as needy, clingy, and people who lack independence.  A healthy individual probably lies somewhere in the middle as an ambivert – an individual who enjoys people’s company but is also comfortable with being alone.  Furthermore, introverts and extroverts are generally not purely one or the other, but rather lie somewhere on a spectrum.

Introverts should be cautious of excessive isolation.  There is a key difference between being alone as part of self-care and being alone to isolate oneself from others.  One needs to look inward and be self-aware if they are isolating because they are depressed or socially anxious, or if they are alone because they need time to relax, regroup and reenergize.  Several mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders and addiction thrive on loneliness.  Subsequently it is extremely important for individuals to have a strong support system of people they can be emotionally vulnerable with, and to be socially interactive from time to time.  Additionally, as with assessing if one is isolating or engaging in self-care, it is equally important to assess if one is introverted because they feel more comfortable and energized when they are alone, or if they are avoiding social situations due to social anxiety.  If the latter is the case, such an individual may benefit from seeking out a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety disorders.

Isolation is not the only reason that introverts may be more susceptible to mental health issues such as depression.  Neurological studies have shown that brain activity in introverts is much more active than that of extroverts.  As such, it makes sense that introverts do not require or crave additional stimulus through other people since they already have a great deal of inner thoughts.  Although such brain activity can be a strength, as introverts are often great thinkers and very creative, it can also be a weakness as they may overthink certain feelings and emotions.  Overthinking, especially in relation to negative thoughts, compounded by harboring such thoughts due to social seclusion, can lead introverts to trapping their emotions.  Bottling up such negative emotions can trigger thoughts of guilt, shame, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, etc. and subsequently cause them to be more prone to mental health issues.

Individuals with an introverted personality type are also often known to be perfectionists and very self-critical.  Such characteristics can leave individuals feeling unsatisfied with themselves and with their lives.   It can also lead to stress, mental and physical exhaustion, as well as mental health issues.  As such, it is important for individuals who possess such characteristics to be mindful of these characteristics, and to attempt to be gentler on themselves with respect to self-criticism.

While introverts have many characteristics that make them vulnerable to mental health issues, extroverts have their own set of attributes to be cautious of as well.  Having the need to always be around others may be a sign that one is uncomfortable being alone with themselves.  Although there are many reasons why an individual may be uncomfortable being alone, one reason may be that they are avoiding their own feelings and thoughts.  Avoiding introspection is not healthy and is a sign that the individual has an underlying issue that they do not want to face.  Ignoring problems, be it with mental or physical health, or any problem for that matter, often leads to greater problems down the road.  It is encouraged to deal with any problems immediately before they grow into something bigger.

Extroverts should also be cautious about what their motives are for wanting to be around others.  While it is not unhealthy to crave social interaction and be energized from social engagement, it may be unhealthy to crave attention.  As such, extroverts need to be honest with themselves about why they want to be around people.  Craving attention may be a sign of a personality disorder such as Histrionic Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Or perhaps it’s not attention that the extroverted individual is craving, but instead, they may need to be around others to fill some kind of void.  Individuals who constantly need to be around others should look in-ward and be honest with themselves as to if they are trying to fill some kind of emptiness within them.

Extroverts and those who have friends or family members who are extroverts should also be mindful that symptoms that individuals typically identify with certain mental health issues such as depression or anxiety may be displayed much differently for an extroverted individual.  Just because someone enjoys being social and connecting with others does not negate the fact that they may be suffering from a mental health condition.  Extroverts may display mental health symptoms differently, and as such, one should be mindful of this and be hyper-vigilant of symptoms other than social withdrawal.

There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and there is nothing wrong with being an extrovert.  There are pros and cons to both.  Introverts suffer with mental health issues, as do extroverts.  We are all human, and suffering with any mental health issue is not a sign of weakness.  We all need to be a bit more mindful of our personalities and characteristics, aware of our vulnerabilities and blind spots, and knowledgeable of symptoms of mental health issues.  If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health condition, it is important to seek out a mental health professional in order to accurately assess, diagnose, and treat such conditions.  Help is always available; you just need to take the first step.

Author
Lin Anderson & Aaron Sternlicht

You Might Also Enjoy...

Is Therapy Working? Red Flags to Look for in Therapy

Sometimes therapy does not work the way we feel it is “supposed” to.  Sometimes we may find that therapy is not really “working.” Our latest blog post covers some warning signs for if therapy is working for you, or if it is stunting your growth process.