Introvert vs. Extrovert: Mental Health

As an introvert I have been made to feel many times that my ways are unhealthy or that I am even borderline mentally ill. My values and priorities are so alien to them that they naturally assume something is wrong with me. Worst is when they try to intervene and ‘fix’ me!

Never does it seem to occur to them that many of their behaviors are strange and disturbing from the introvert point of view.

What I notice most about extroverts is their almost compulsive need for constant stimulation. There’s this upset stomach look that comes across an extrovert’s face when they’ve no one(or even not enough people) to talk to. What happens next? Stimulation, any kind from anywhere. As introverts, we’ve ended up in cars and at restaurants with someone to whom we just couldn’t give enough interaction. It’s an annoying and heavy burden of responsibility. Most of us are not willing to babysit a grown person. The extrovert gets desperate, starts talking about pointless stuff, which causes an introvert to disengage entirely. We’ve seen what happens when an extrovert gets stuck in their nightmare scenario:

-The cell phone immediately comes out. Anyone who will say anything to them will do.
-Next step is loud music. The louder the better. Somehow this is soothing. The sheer white noise seems to fulfill some deep set need.
-The extrovert in question starts talking as loudly as possible, almost to the point of shouting in order to stimulate themselves. They don’t usually seem to conscious of doing this. In the case I’m forced to ask them to tone it down a little, they usually seem genuinely surprised at my request.
-Extreme fidgeting, finger snapping, knee slapping, humming to themselves. Often in conjunction with very loud music. By itself, it’s something of a last resort. When it reaches that point, I sometimes wonder if they’re going to snap.
-Amazingly, sometimes interaction deprivation(especially if prolonged) causes them to be quiet. Uncharacteristically quiet. When this happens they turn sullen and depressed. So much so that their dark mood practically fills a room.

Now, tons of extroverts have supposed there’s something wrong with me, but I have to wonder which way is unhealthy? It seems that the extrovert requires constant distraction from their own selves. That doesn’t seem like an indicator of good mental health!
-I have to wonder, what are they perpetually running from?
-Is it boredom from being forced to engage an underdeveloped inner life?
-Is it simply an unfilled vacuum, deferred questions, unaddressed personal insecurities that they must suddenly face?
-If it is that awful to spend time with yourself, doesn’t that strongly suggest you don’t like yourself very much?

They literally cannot live with themselves and I think by projecting their needs upon me suppose I must be thoroughly wrecked in the head by not constantly socializing. I quite realize that extrovert has very different needs from my own. I also realize that extrovert is incapable of empathizing with me.

I, the warped, sick, mentally ill introvert am at peace with myself, I enjoy just being me. In spite of this I recognize that other people have other needs. I don’t have to overload my system to feel happy and stimulated by the world around me.

The healthy, outgoing, achieving extrovert
-writhes in agony when forced to live in their thoughts
-can enjoy interaction with others but not themselves
-is unable to empathize with non-extroverts in spite of their fascination with other people.

Most worrisome of all, the extrovert has a relationship with sheer volume and noise of stimulation that follows a pattern very like chemical addiction. They are physically incapable of living without regular ‘fixes.’ They have to keep upping the volume because their tolerance is sky high.

Frankly, I find it a little disturbing that I’ve just described the sort of person who is thought to be the epitome of ‘having things together’ in our society.

In a mass society where most people are strangers, those most determined to break the ice and engage in networking win. Thus, I suspect that those most determined to project themselves outwards are naturally those trying hardest to escape from themselves.

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17 responses to “Introvert vs. Extrovert: Mental Health

  1. Good article. One thing that I would point out though is that the extrovert is probably under-stimulated, while the introvert is more likely overstimulated. The constant stimulation, for me anyway, is what can be exhausting. While quiet activities are perfect for creative thought and reflection. The observation about extroverts remains true, however, they do need stimulation, they hunger for it. For some reason they don’t experience sensations to the same degree, almost as if they experience a dampening effect with social stimuli. Regardless of its source, I’ve noticed that this is one of the key differences between us. It’s the difference between smooth, fast, yet superficial processing and careful, slow, and deep processing.

  2. @Tom, it has been shown that introverts have higher cortisol levels. So we are already stimulated just from that, and other outside stimulation quickly becomes too much.

    I have to thank you for this post. I am so tired of being made to feel “unhealthy” and “wrong” because of my extreme introversion. The worst of it is when it comes from slightly introverted people. I guess they think that because they wear the Introvert title and are still social, then my “excuse” of Introversion must be a cover for deep psychological problems! Yeah… no.

    Anyway, it’s nice to hear from another Subtle person. Looking forward to more posts!

  3. Extroverted people are different from introverts but that does not make them inferior. Myself being an introvert I can understand some extroverts annoyances and shallow conversations.
    Instead of just your observations try reading up on the difference between the two types. Obviously you haven’t because your rant about extroverts is in exactly the same vein as the introvert name calling you mention.

    • Inferior or superior depends what you are talking about. I readily concede that extroverts are superior when it comes to social interaction and attaining high social status. They are superior in other ways besides.

      I suppose from your general tone that you mean to accuse me of suggesting they are inferior as human beings? I will address this even though it’s pretty much a straw man.
      I would not phrase the question in such a malicious and loaded manner. Rather what I would ask is: Who is focused on what is truly important in life at the most fundamental level?

      How am I a name caller or a ranter?
      To me, rants are writings wherein the main point is to attack another party without logic, without purpose, mainly just to vent frustrations that may or may not have been caused by the topic at hand.
      There is unavoidably a level of emotional involvement in my posts. As such, it cannot constitute ranting in itself. I am a human being and I am incapable of being unbiased. As such, I cheerfully embrace bias. I have made this stance clear in previous instances in which I have attracted criticism: to write what ought to be written one must accept the possibility of stepping on toes.

      What do you suggest I read? I’m familiar with Meyers-Briggs typology. I am also aware that while it can be a useful guideline, it is by no means absolute or proven. Specifically, what knowledge do I need that I currently lack?

  4. I find it almost impossible to understand how it feels to be an extrovert. Just can not see what their mechanisms are (I guess empathy is not my strong side). I would love to hear an extrovert talk about this. For sure, they must have some thoughts about it?

  5. The disconnect lies in the concept of ‘mechanisms.’
    We tend to see patterns in the way people behave. It comes from long practice of being social observers rather than actors.

    Extroverts do not think of their actions as being in any way efficient or mechanical. Yet they are the amazing survivors of society.

    Extroverts like being around people and would generally resist the idea that the social dynamics on which they thrive have certain fundamental patterns. They are so heavily involved that they never perceive the system. They function so naturally and smoothly that they never become aware of even their own survival tactics.
    Introverts are slowed down by consciously thinking about about every social action. Extroverts are able to go through most of the necessary processing without even having to trouble their conscious minds.

    When I guess what an extrovert is going to do next, I first reflect upon their social ‘mechanisms’ and then factor in their lack of awareness of these very mechanisms.

    • I imagine it feels good at times and it doesn’t feel good at times, just as with anybody else. The difference I’ve noticed is that introverted people tend to take far more responsibility for their personal happiness and wellbeing. Extroverts being directed outward tend to allow the world around them to tell them whether or not they’re happy or successful.

  6. THANK YOU for this post! Nice to know I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. I’ve been thinking about this same thing for a while now, being an extreme introvert living with extremely extroverted roommates. They are SO extroverted, that they literally cannot spend more than 2 hours alone by themselves – they always have to have at least one other person around them (needless to say, they rarely get any studying done, and are doing badly in school because of excessive partying).
    This observation got me thinking: why do they seem to be afraid of themselves? These extroverts seem to be insecure about being alone; as if they are either uncomfortable with and are running away from themselves, or that they lack a healthy level of inner-life and stimulation.
    Yet, the funny thing is, we introverts are the ones getting all the flack from society regarding our so-called “mental issues.” I mean, really? Who are the ones with the deep insecurities and neuroticism, when you think about it? Introverts are comfortable with ourselves, with being alone, and have a rich inner-life which perpetually entertains us wherever we go. We are confident beings – even socially confident – regardless of the fact that we usually prefer to get away from the hustle of large rowdy groups.
    Thing is, we don’t need external validation from others, like extroverts seem to need to an unhealthy degree.

  7. Pingback: Introvert vs. Extrovert: Mental Health | Neurodiversity

  8. You can be at peace with yourself as an extrovert. Being an extrovert does not mean you can’t enjoy quiet time. It’s more like when you wanna have fun, you’re probably headed for a big party/concert over dinner with a few friends. Not directed at you, but there are a lot of blogs that imply extroverts cant experience life as deeply as introverts. It’s just a different way of experiencing things.

  9. I’m an extrovert who prefers to be on my own. As an ‘actor’ rather than a ‘watcher’ social situations very much involve me focussing on other people – from my experience we are deeply envious of introverts due to the fact that we see you as ‘quietly confident.’ Most of the time we’re acting as court jesters and our uncomfortableness with silence is because we feel we haven’t done our job. After all the introvert isn’t doing much.

    I enjoy being by myself and act completely differently when alone or with other extroverts. This isn’t because I’m uncomfortable with self examination, or that I dislike myself. Its because an introvert and extrovert together create an expectation where the introvert judges and the extrovert performs. The quiet people have a lot more power than some of them realise, but its not because we as extroverts are stupid or unaware and its not because we’re scared of a vacuum in ourselves, we just want to avoid having a vacuum between us and other people.

    Introverts usually accuse extroverts of being arrogant but I would argue the opposite – we are happy to offer up our inner lives for examination because we don’t have absolute confidence in our own beliefs (not always a negative) whereas introverts act in an opposite manner. ‘Breaking the Ice’ and ‘Projecting ourselves outwards’ isn’t a hobby, its not arrogance and we’re not doing it to avoid thinking about ourselves. Its just that sitting in companionable silence could possibly outstay its welcome whereas conversation has limitless possibilities. When I want some ‘me time’ I stay by myself, when I’m with other people I try to engage with them and I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of.

  10. WB, I understand extraverts a little better, but you are wrong about introverts. Introverts never judge, they process. The problem is that extraverts think that they know what introverts are thinking. It’s extraverts who are judgmental (i know it is not on purpose), what they see on the outside is fact and they go off telling everyone and everything that has an ear, without checking. You mention that introverts don’t do much, but the introvert does do a lot, they just think before they act, sometimes not acting at all is the best thing to do. The introvert decides so, with confidence, because they know in detail what is going on. To the extravert, just hearing something does not mean it is fact, it is hear- say until you KNOW!. It does not mean one has to (re) act to what one has heard, this prevents one from making assumptions and jumping to conclusions and doing stupid things and hurting people, yes hurting.
    I have had my share of extraverts, going around babbling about things that turned out to be different, but turned out hurting the person they were talking about. Was it personal? No it was not, but being judged by others just because one assumes things is horrible.

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