As I looked into research articles related to introverts, I was surprised to find that introverts are people who are susceptible to depression. As an introvert myself, I have had my share of feeling blue or a long phase of being down in my life. I have sometimes mistakenly used the term ‘depressed’ or ‘depression’ when friends or relatives asked me why I was sad or choose to shut down. To the extent I know, I have not been clinically depressed…
Janowsky (2001) found a growing body of evidence which suggests that introversion is linked to depression. A study (Moeller et al., 2015) on 301 Danish patients between the ages 18-70 years was done to diagnose a single depressive episode (based on ICD-10 criteria). The study excluded individuals with bipolar disorder, non-affective psychiatric disorder or recurrent depression. The study employed Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) to find if a correlation existed between personality types and depressive and anxiety symptoms (Moeller et al., 2015). The study used the psychometric validation analysis to identify 5 clinically relevant components of interpersonal sensitivity and depression. The study found that there was no association between extroversion and depression as it identified that extroversion acts as protective trait against depression. However, the study found a positive correlation between introversion and depression. As introverts have the tendency to withdraw socially, their response to stress causes them to increase the risk of social withdrawal which further leads to lack of positive reinforcement thereby triggering a depressive episode (Moeller et al., 2015).
Perhaps there is some truth in this presented fact as research studies have found a link between depression and introversion. Introverts are more susceptible to depression than extroverts because of the reason they are people who internalize problems, unlike the extroverts. Extroverts externalize their problems by dealing with it interactively (Helgoe, 2013). Introverts prefer to take problems inside them and work on it (Helgoe, 2013). Since they spend a great amount of time thinking, reflecting, and evaluating their thoughts, feelings and events/people, the way they internalize problems takes a toll on their mental health.
Introverts perception of negative experiences from the environment or the external stimuli affects their feeling, judgment, and processing of the whole event. Since introverts take problems inside they sometimes can overdo it and this places a heavy psychological burden on them (Helgoe, 2013). This explains why introverts are more likely to be depressed?!
According to psychologist Elaine Aron and colleagues, introverts are ‘highly sensitive people’. They are good at picking subtle cues in their environment to the extent they can figure out what others think and feel (Helgoe, 2013). Sometimes they can be perceived as ‘mind readers’. That’s not exactly who they are…They are good at perceiving others’ motives, thoughts, feelings based on people’s gestures, the tone of communication and behaviors.
Further, introverts are carriers of societal problems or problems within the family as they are basically caring people (Helgoe, 2013). As highly sensitive people, they get bogged down by the unfairness/injustice in the world or wrongness happening to someone in their known circle.
While the link between introversion and depression seem like not so happy news, there is some good news to it. Introverts are realists and acknowledge the need to seek help or alternative solution (like self-help book/sharing with a friend) to come out of their depression. They honestly acknowledge their limitations and seek ways to transform their internalized problems. They seek to gain new insight to bring about a liberating change in their minds (Helgoe, 2013).
One of the powers of the introverts is their inside self. When problems arise they know how to engage themselves with their thoughts and feelings, find solutions (coping mechanisms), become content and comfortable, unlike the extroverts who either choose to ignore, suppress or distract the deep rooted problems of the mind (Helgoe, 2013).
Helgoe, L.A. (2013). Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. Second Edition. Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Janowsky, D.S. (2001). Introversion and extroversion: Implications for depression and suicidality. Current Psychiatry Reports, Vol.3, Is.6, pp.444-450