Wait, Am I the Problem? Six Signs of an Unhealthy Introvert and What You Can Do About It27 January 2019 / By Naomi Harrington Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on January 27, 2019
Are you an Introvert? Do you ever have those moments where you start to feel overwhelmed by everything and everyone? For me personally, when someone comes in demanding my attention and energy -- especially while I’m barely surviving by a thread -- it can make me pretty upset. After having to repeatedly stand up for yourself and reinforce your boundaries, it’s not surprising that anger and resentment might build up over time.
It’s easy for Introverts to feel like the victim in the situations when people are constantly intruding on our space and asking us to give more energy than we can actually expend. But is it actually other people who are to blame ….or is it ourselves? Are we spending so much time focusing on what others are doing wrong, that we’re forgetting to include ourselves in the equation?
What does an unhealthy Introvert even look like?
This is how an Introvert looks when she’s in an “unhealthy state” or when she’s under extreme stress:
1. Avoids responsibility - Sometimes I can avoid taking care of the basic responsibilities like the laundry, even when I absolutely need to do it. Being an overwhelmed Introvert makes everything just a little bit harder to take care of.
2. Has a fear of conflict - IP types (INFP, ISFP, INTP, ISTP) tend to avoid conflict with others because of the shame that can arise when someone calls out one of their weaknesses or areas of need. Even as an INFJ, if I don’t have harmony with my community, it can be really stressful for me.
3. Becomes very overwhelmed - Unhealthy Introverts become ridiculously overwhelmed when:
- Put into new, unfamiliar environments, especially when having to receive all of the sensory details
- They feel like their values have been violated
- Having to “Extravert” too much
- Having to take in an excess of sensory information such as loud auditory or distracting visual information
4. Can appear controlling, stubborn, and inflexible - As an INFJ, I get too attached to my own ideal outcome. I hate to admit this, but I definitely get upset when things don’t always work out my way. This can be a huge challenge in relationships. ISFJs, too, can get too attached to their routines, systems, and patterns and can be seen as inflexible and rigid.
5. Can be harsh in their expectations of others - As hard as we are on ourselves as Introverts, we can be just as harsh in our judgements towards other people who don’t meet our high-expectations.
6. Can appear passive-aggressive - Instead of confronting a problem head on, overwhelmed Introverts express their frustration in underhanded and passive-aggressive ways. IPs are especially guilty of expressing their frustrations indirectly.
What can we do?
What can Introverts do when they’re getting in their own way? Here are some tips to help you out of the unhealthy slump:
Communicate: Sometimes when we feel misunderstood, it’s because we haven’t even explicitly communicated our needs to others. As Introverts, we can help people to better understand why we feel overwhelmed and why it’s so important for us to talk about capacity, space, and energy in our relationships. Be honest! Tell people that you don’t put yourself first, you feel misunderstood and you need alone time. Sometimes we just need to take care of our most basic needs like eating, staying hydrated and sleeping to get back in balance.
Set Boundaries: You can tell your partner, family, and friends what your boundaries are over and over again until you’re blue in the face. But, we need to teach people how to respect our boundaries. Solely wishing for others to respect your boundaries is like casting a fishing line out to sea hoping to catch a fish, but never coming back to check the line is still in the water and that it’s still doing what it needs to do in order to get the job done.
You are in charge of your own energy, actions, and time. This gives you the power back to take action on how much of your time you dole out to others. Sometimes the hardest thing to learn is saying no when you need to.
Know that other people are capable of taking care of themselves (at least in some capacity): If you aren’t entirely helpless, then neither are the people around you. While you might feel the need to help others, allowing them to help themselves is sometimes the best gift of all. I learned that it’s not about being a doormat and it’s not about appealing to everyone. You’re an Introvert and still need time to yourself to recharge, process, and reflect.
Develop your Auxiliary Function: Sometimes we forget that we still need to nurture and develop our auxiliary or co-pilot function because it is our highest point of leverage in terms of achieving personal growth. As an INFJ, my co-pilot is Extraverted Feeling (Fe). I’ve learned that it is just as an effective a decision-making process as Te, but it works a lot slower. When I feel forced to make a quick decision, it stresses me out and I default to using Introverted Thinking (Ti), which is a faster decision-making process than Fe. But I don’t always feel so great about my decisions afterwards because I often feel cold and less in touch with my compassionate side. For me, developing my auxiliary function can help me use it in a healthier way so that I can make decisions that will be best for the group as a whole (with me included!).
To change a situation, you have to start taking your actions into your own hands. Only then do you become responsible for the decisions that you make. This means owning the times that we make mistakes and dealing with the consequences and emotions that come with it, too. This one has surprisingly made me less resentful of people who I used to think of as “energy vampires.”
With taking your control back, you will command your space, energy, and capacity more easily without being a commander. I had to lean into the uncomfortable and do some of the hard work before I could even start to feel a slight change in taking my power back. This can also help us as Introverts to not adopt the victim mentality or the perception that everything in the world is happening to us all of the time and that nothing is in their own control.
Pursuetruth (not verified) says...
Liisa (not verified) says...
Thanks for this article on introverts, it couldnt have come at a better time. After more than a year of being together with my boyfriend i learnt he was more introverted than extroverted. This helped me better understand how his mind might work , how i can better accommodate him and make it easier for him. Very helpful information, thank you.
uche (not verified) says...
great really helped.
Mark B (not verified) says...
This is a great article and I always learn a lot from posts on Truity. My wife is an INFJ and I'm an INTP. Communication and bounary setting can be tough for us--especially at work and in our personal lives. It's my understanding from listening to other personality experts that the key to fully inegrating our personalities is to find a way to incorporate the Inferior / unconscious part of our functional stack. For me that's Fe. That's pretty scary for me because it's so underdeveloped. When I'm really stressed, and my Introverted Thinking is overloaded, Fe is the part of me people typically see and it's usually not the best version of me, or the me I am comfortable showing others. I understand the importance of setting boundaries and enforcing them. What I think (no pun) is missing from this conversation is that boundries often have to be negotiated successfully to be respected. I believe this is especially true with our bosses and significant others. That requires a lot of finesse which I also struggle with. Do you have any suggestions on how we introverts can improve our negotiation and influence skills to set appropriate boundaries that will be respected? Thanks for your help.
C Lynch (not verified) says...
I can relate to a number of things in your post, especially your last question about how to set boundaries in a way that works, the key being "finesse". I suggest thinking of it as looking for "win-win" instead of as using finesse to get what you want.
If you do this, it can have a tremendous impact on the quality of the interaction, and ultimately make it more effective. So when you want to draw a boundary with someone, try to think about what is driving them to this behavior that you feel is violative. There is often a need that they have come to expect that you can satisfy. If you figure out what that need is, you can have a discussion about how you and they can satisfy that need while not depriving you of what YOU need. Once it becomes clear to them that you are thinking this way, they are generally more respectful because they feel respected.
Tina22 (not verified) says...
Naomi, thank you for this thoughtful article.
I'm curious about what you mentioned with Fe- how it's an effective decision-making process, but not as quick as Te. And when people put you on the spot/when you're in a stressful situation, you resort to Ti first. Can you give more examples of this? And how you developed your Fe auxiliary function and recognised that Ti is more unhelpful? (I thought Ti might help with boundary setting and speaking the truth/finding your own principles/worldview, but it's not as developed)
(or it might be Ni+Ti giving clues/insights and deciding boundaries/what's my truth)
I thought Fe would be quicker than Ti?- depending on how developed it is
I hope this all makes sense!
I'm FiNe (not verified) says...
Thank you for the article, but it seems to me that some of the "unhealthy" categories that you listed aren't signs of being "unhealthy" but rather simply a state of being. Here are the items that seem to fall into that category.
One of the greatest benefits I have gained from studying MBTI is the appreciation for how personalities differ and that those differences are simply that: differences. One person has one set of strengths. Another person has a different set. We may value certain strengths more highly in given contexts, but a comparative weakness that a person may have doesn't make it necessarily worthy of the label "unhealthy". It simply means that that person would have a comparatively more difficult time in some regards compared to a person strong in those regards. One person may be able to lift effortlessly 100 lbs/45 kg, while another may struggle with it. The one isn't necessarily more healthy than the other. The one is simply more gifted with physical strength than the other. Introverts aren't Extraverts. Expecting them to be Extraverts (or act as though they are) isn't fair, isn't allowing them to be authentic, is itself an unhealthy and unrealistic expectation, and can do harm (to both the one labeling as well as the one being labeled) when the label of "unhealthy" is applied to it.
[By the way I identify with INFP as my best-fit type.]
redglitter (not verified) says...
You brought up a lot of good points, and while it is good to get out of one’s comfort zone in order to evolve, it’s also important to be true to oneself and establish those boundaries with others. It’s interesting that you type as INFP; I also type consistently as INFP, and with Introverted feeling dominant, authenticity of our ourselves and our feelings is very important to us. Just a personal observation, but I’ve found that oftentimes those who use Extraverted feeling (even if inferior) are more likely to say what we “should” be feeling. Many people that I’ve been close with have Fe: INTP father, ISFJ mother, INTP boyfriend, INFJ ex, ENTP high school friends, etc. One area where we consistently clashed was in the expression of self and feelings. If my Fe loved ones felt that somehow my emotions or self expression were “inappropriate,” they would often tell me, and then give me advice as to how I “should” feel and act. I tried to understand their concerns, but at the same time I resented them for trying to (what I saw as) mold me into a socially acceptable person with socially acceptable feelings. This is troubling to an INFP, especially a young INFP, who wants to please those he or she cares about, but also has that powerful Fi that says “I am ME and this is what I FEEL.” It still comes up every now and then: with loved ones, on social media, in therapy (you know your therapist really is an INFJ/ISFJ as she claims when she tells you what you “should” be feeling). But this system has helped me understand how people view the world differently and think differently, and how that’s not always a bad thing. My Fe-using loved ones are so perceptive when it comes to other people, and I admire that. But it’s okay to be a stubbornly authentic INFP too.
Megs (not verified) says...
Everyone has the I am Me and this is how I feel as an extroverted ENFJ We have to curb it all the time to make space for other people...
you honestly think we like waiting two weeks for you to process? Nope. I don't like waiting two hours. But for some reason introverts can't see that. It's like (enter dramatic hand over forehead) I've been to the grocery and now I must sequester in my room so I can heal... don't intrude upon my boundary (dramatic sigh)
so yeah... at least for me as a person I don't think that introverts realize Extroverts don't wanna deal with you like that either so the should is often softened cause we know you can't take honest criticism either... so we're like ok you should care about others when your task list hasn't been that big of a deal...
and the implied truth is... cause as an extrovert I have. I woulda loved to be self indulgent too after every task but I am not an island. I have todo things call people back etc... because I am aware.
in fact I don't think introversion and extroversion are different in feeling they seem to just be different in awareness.
I am aware others need me to call them to stay friends for example. Not doing it or "half ass calling it in" is very offensive to me as a person because I'm like what's broken in you that you don't get that you have to do this for others!
Other people matter!
or did you think those extroverts were just handing out free samples of love? And you had no obligation to them but to play premadona when they need you?
As an extrovert I'm giving the introverts in my life some rope and letting them decide their fate. I think I've been making too many people feel good while they just think about boundries and narcissistic thoughts. And don't have awareness one of how they use people.
its actually horrifying to realize how self focused that is.
Michael321 (not verified) says...
You sound quite bitter and angry at introverts and introversion in general.
Who hurt you? Perhaps you need a good therapist to work these things out.
eyenfp (not verified) says...
thank you for this feedback... It's just differences, not necessarily unhealthy
Megs (not verified) says...
MBTI isn't a place to sit down. The Junging identification system was ther to encourage your growth towards your ENFJ shadow. Just saying. I'm me and that's that... isn't actually doing the work.
INTJUNICORN (not verified) says...
This was an interesting train of thought. This is the second time that I have read this. Honestly the first time I just thought it was hogwash. After reading it another time I still have some issues with a lot of the content but I do relate to some of it. I think my main issue is that a lot of these “marks of an unhealthy introvert” are not introvert exclusive. Statistically speaking the INTJ is the most introverted of all the MBTI and I find that naturally these things happen in my life but I’ve also seen them in the life of my ENFP mother and ENFJ friend. I personally have no problem with conflict but that’s just a me thing. In terms of your solutions I agree that they are good ones no doubt. A problem that I have faced in my life is that no matter how I try to explain to people and set boundaries it doesn’t change the way that people view me. I am an enforcer of my boundaries but that is a cross I have to bear. I am still constantly being told that I am antisocial and I need to get out more simply because I am trying to survive. I know that sounds dramatic but after living in a house with 12 girls for 9 months that were spent interacting with thousands of people I know what I need. I guess I’m just saying that feeling these things doesn’t mean you are unhealthy and it’s not always your fault. I’m not a victim and I don’t believe my friends and family are trying to harm me at all but I also know that they don’t fully understand the way that I feel and my needs. It is just part of existing in a world full of different kinds of people
Megs (not verified) says...
ENFP and ENFJ are introverted extroverts. Just saying. So yeah. A little specific to introversion.
Adrian Sandy (not verified) says...
The girl in the main pic is from that distracted guy meme ! lol
Emma T (not verified) says...
i am growing into an introvert as I am growing older. There is a peace and sense of calm which is healthy for me I believe. But it is people around me who tell me I am abnormal because I don't wish to go out to social gatherings and I don't miss taking to people. Mind you in my job I have to communicate all day which I do comfortably..but then precious time after for me, myself and I. I am content until an upset friend barges in to tell me that I am failing at friendships ..because I have turned down an outing for delicious time by myself at home and my garden.. It makes me feel so bad because I would be happy if I could feel differently..then, I am told that with my behaviour I will die all alone..the strange thing is that my job is about caring and supporting other people.. I don't know but it upsets me to be told "there is something wrong with you" ..so ..I withdraw because I cannot argue about it and cannot feel any different.
Megs (not verified) says...
Funny you call extroverts energy vampires. I consider that's introverts who steal your energy when it suits them but wanna have a conversation about boundaries when you need their help. Really funny how selfish introverted feeling and extroverted feeling feel to the other one.
im not here for you to feed on introverts. If you can't get youbigkidpants on when it's your turn to bat then don't play. I think this articles "solutions" sound self indulgent and the wrong advice for people that need to get out of themselves and consider others. Going further in won't build community... but then again if you are an introvert most likely you are for little beyond you and your immediate circle anyway... right? That's how it works?
Seems so self focused to me as an extrovert... I know we opposite differently but I didn't listen to all your problems so you could be in self care boundary mode when the reverse was needed. Smh. Just didn't.
Rin (not verified) says...
Some extroverts seem to not understand how personal introverts are. Simply, if you’re mostly communicating with them or doing favors for them on a surface level, that’s why they feel fed into by an extrovert. Introverts are intuitive. They can tell when they’re only being cared for superficially, and whenever an introvert desires to vent or express their feelings to an extrovert, usually, the extrovert dismisses it. Introverts listen to the personal experiences of an extrovert, hence why introverts feel used or neglected by the extrovert if they’re not reciprocating in the same way. How does one expect to spew their issues onto someone without allowing that person to do the same? That’s why introverts tend to overtime dismiss extroverts. To no longer subject themselves to bottling up their emotions in order to keep the extrovert happy.
Florencia (not verified) says...
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Jared B (not verified) says...
Reading this has caused a light bulb to go off in my head regarding a dear, introverted friend right now. I said something to her that I probably shouldn’t have (I’m a high functioning autistic person) and right now she’s doing some of all six of these. I apologized to her profusely but right now she’s avoiding the responsibility of explaining herself (autistic people find explanations helpful) and she said acting rather rigid instead of having a little bit of flexibility over the fact that sometimes autistic people say things they don’t mean. She never set any boundaries or ground rules at first, so I had zero idea about what lines could and could not be crossed, and it is upsetting me deeply right now. I care about them ( as they do me) and I know she is as conflict averse as I am. I’m not looking for a fight or conflict, I just want to sit down and talk about why what I said was bothersome and help each other look for solutions to avoid it occurring again. Both she and I do not have good social skills