Energetic, outgoing and creative, ENFP are highly social individuals who crave fun and freedom. The free-spirited go-getters of Isabel Briggs Myers' personality theory, they love coming up with new ideas and original solutions and sharing them in an enthusiastic way. Empathetic ENFPs also love connecting with others emotionally and helping them to express their feelings. Together these traits form a person who is friendly, interesting and popular with almost everyone they meet.

Despite their fun-loving and gregarious nature, however, ENFPs are just as susceptible to stress as any other personality type. So what is it about these compassionate people that makes them so vulnerable to stress? And what can they and their loved ones do about it?

Why ENFPs Become Stressed

While the ENFP's strengths appear to predispose her to become successful in both work and social settings, she also faces some challenges, just like any other type. Here are some reasons why ENFPs become stressed:

  • Poor practical skills. While ENFPs excel at idea generation, their personality test results show they struggle with the details and administrative work needed to follow projects through to completion, leaving many of their ideas stagnating and unrealized.
  • Lack of focus. ENFPs are curious, philosophical individuals who are interested in people and ideas, but this can lead them to exploring the next exciting concept rather than the work at hand.
  • Independence. While some autonomy is healthy, ENFPs tend to have a hard time accepting rules or regulations, causing them to balk at any perceived restrictions on their freedom.
  • Overthinking. ENFPs question everything, but they can become obsessed with asking themselves why people act the way they do, what it all means and what they should do about it, leaving them worried and anxious.
  • Intense emotions. ENFPs are an interesting combination of empathic socializer and sensitive dreamer, and they tend to be very emotional. Unfortunately, their passionate outbursts of feeling, especially when they’re under stress, can be damaging to their relationships. They also dislike conflict and are likely to withdraw rather than deal with difficulties.
  • Sensitivity. While sensitivity is not a flaw, it can present challenges for the ENFP, who is highly aware of others’ feelings and takes any kind of criticism personally, which can weaken her self-esteem. A study in the journal Psychological Bulletin showed that low self-esteem can lead to depression. ENFPs also overextend themselves and give too much in response to people’s demands for help and end up feeling overwhelmed.

The ENFP Under Stress

When ENFPs become stressed, their normally friendly and cheerful natures turn irritable, emotional, defensive and reactive. They often feel overwhelmed, struggle to communicate, shut out other people and reject new ideas.

Feeling trapped, out of control and unable to find a way out, they can become extremely critical of others, lashing out, blaming and finding fault with everything and everyone as they try to regain control. For some ENFPs, this can develop into a focus on routine and order, and a strict demand that everything is done their way.

ENFPs under stress also fail to see any fault in themselves. They deceive themselves as a way of coping, pretending that they are not at fault. Eventually, however, they can feel hopeless and depressed as their energy turns inward and they begin to feel numb inside.

This normally energetic type also feels the effects of stress physically, becoming exhausted and suffering from fatigue. Their tendency to give too much and do too much can make them neglect their own needs for sleep, rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately, this type is the least likely to recognize when stress has affected them and it’s only when they become ill or a crisis occurs that they realize how stressed out they’ve become.

How ENFPs Can Help Themselves

When ENFPs are stressed, they can feel locked in their interior selves as they become increasingly depressed and struggle to find a way out. Their efforts to regain control by criticizing and controlling others, working harder and pushing people away only makes things worse. There are ways for ENFPs to cope with stressful situations, however. Here are some tips to help you get back to your normal, enthusiastic self:

  • Attend to your own physical needs. ENFPs spend so much time bouncing from one activity to the next that they often fail to look after themselves. You can help to prevent and alleviate your stress by getting enough sleep, eating properly and taking time out to rest and enjoy some ‘down time’ in your daily routine. Exercising outdoors with a relaxing walk in nature can also be extremely calming.
  • Learn to say 'no.' ENFPs are sensitive souls who love to engage with others, but they can easily give too much. Many people are drawn to your engaging and compassionate personality, but there are many who will take advantage of your kindness. Keep a balance between giving to others and taking care of yourself by delegating tasks and pausing before you say ‘yes’ to requests for help. Remember, it’s okay to say 'no.'
  • Check in with yourself. If you are becoming picky about details, overly critical or unnecessarily controlling, take a step back and check to see how stressed you are. There may be circumstances that are causing you stress that you haven’t paid attention to, especially those involving doing too much for others. Take some time to relax and don’t make any serious decisions while you are stressed.

Tips for Friends and Family

Friends and family can be very helpful in getting the ENFP out of his stressful state. Try these stress-busting techniques before the ENFP finds it all too overwhelming:

  • Give a stressed out ENFP some time and space to calm down.
  • Encourage her to take a break from the stressful situation and get a change of scenery.
  • Don’t offer advice or solutions when he’s feeling stressed.
  • Listen with compassion, not criticism, if she wants to talk about her feelings.
  • Encourage him to take regular outdoor exercise.
  • Ask her to join you in a nature walk, watch a movie or a weekend away.
  • Reassure him that he is capable and competent.

It’s often difficult for ENFPs to even recognize when they are feeling the effects of stress and so they struggle, often in counterproductive ways, to get themselves back on track. Awareness of what causes you stress and how it makes you feel, whether it’s depressed, critical, irritable or controlling, is the first step. With a little help from loved ones, you can then give yourself the time, care and compassion you so often give to others.

Deborah Ward
Deborah Ward is a writer and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. She has written two books on mindfulness, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness and Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness. Her latest book, Sense and Sensitivity, is based on her Psychology Today blog of the same name. It's about highly sensitive people and is out now. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.