Wait, Am I the Problem? Six Signs of an Unhealthy Introvert and What You Can Do About It

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!).

Final Thoughts

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.

Naomi Harrington

Naomi Harrington is a mother and wife, speech-language pathologist, writer, and an INFJ. She loves traveling with her family, being outdoors with her dogs, and learning about personality psychology. Her mission is to help people learn more about themselves and to help connect them other people who have the desire to feel understood, affirmed, and supported.

Comments

Pursuetruth (not verified) says...

Excellent article!

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...

Hi, Mark,

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.

  • Has a fear of conflict:  You listed that IPs have a tendency to share this trait.  To me that's a trait of being an IP.  It seems to hold up Je (preference for an extraverted judging function) users as what is acceptable, labeling Ji users as unacceptable.
  • Becomes very overwhelmed: Again, this appears to take a trait (especially of those Introverts who are also HSP--Highly Sensitive People) and label it as something unacceptable rather than a trait.

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.]

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