Do you feel annoyed in social situations? Is your favorite place at home, watching Netflix or reading a good book? Being introverted is not an inherently bad trait to have. Studies show that introverted individuals tend to be more intelligent. In fact, 60% of gifted children are introverts. However, high intelligence isn’t an indicator that someone is happy or well-adjusted.
Some people may only appear introverted but are suffering from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. They tend to isolate themselves out of fear. If this sounds like you or someone you know, here’s what the experts say about introverts vs. those who purposefully isolate.
Isolation vs. Introversion
To be clear, seeking time alone is a perfectly normal and healthy thing to do. Those who cannot stand to be alone throughout parts of the day may be suffering from anxiety, depression, or codependency. Being alone gives us time to think and do tasks without needing to worry about others’ needs.
Introverts love to spend time alone to recharge and think. They are authentic and know what they want most of the time. They are not without friends; they just like to have more time alone than other people do. They also may not be as conversational as others are because they prefer listening and taking the scene in. But with close friends and those they feel most comfortable around, they can open up. Introverts are thinkers. They may tend to have creative careers or jobs that require less face-to-face interaction.
On the other hand, someone who isolates does so out of a mental health problem or depressed/anxious mood. Many times, addicts and alcoholics isolate themselves because they are ashamed of their behavior and have trouble maintaining close friendships. Isolation is primarily about escaping and avoiding life’s stresses. Those who struggle with anxiety and depression may isolate themselves so they don’t have to worry about impressing others or acting “o.k.”
There are times where it is perfectly normal to isolate. During a mourning period or a difficult breakup, or when you are sick, you have a legitimate reason to avoid interacting with others. You need time alone to process the situation or recover without anyone else interfering. Others prefer to be with others and get out of the house during those challenging times. But, not everyone reacts this way to hardship. Some people like to be alone.
Why We Need Others
The key is to not claim you are introverted simply as an excuse to isolate yourself. We need other people. When we spend too much time alone in a state of anxiety and depression, we get lost in our thoughts. They can turn very negative and keep us in that state for longer than needed. This is why AA talks about the importance of fellowship, calling others, and going to meetings. Even when we don’t feel like seeing other people or going anywhere, it is good for us. The company of other people takes us out of ourselves and back into reality so we can put matters into perspective.
Here are some best practices to stop isolating.
· Identify Root Cause – Why do you isolate? Are you depressed, lonely, or socially awkward? Be honest in your answers. It may require the help of a therapist.
· Connect with One Friend – Connect with one person you know. Even if you’ve shut off people for a while, call one friend, family member, or even your mom – just to hear someone else’s voice.
· Tell Someone – Tell a non-judgmental confidant how much you are struggling to interact with others. A therapist may be your best bet.
· Venture Out Slowly – Start small. Go get coffee with a friend for an hour. Go to church. Visit your family. Don’t decide to spend an entire day out with friends after isolating for a long time. Starting small gives you the confidence you need to maintain better habits.
· Stop People Pleasing – A lot of people isolate themselves because they are tired of accommodating others. It’s just easier to be alone and not worry about what others think. This is a false choice. Start saying no to people who take advantage of you. Speak your mind when you have an opinion. Don’t over apologize. Learn to be yourself around others so it will be less stressful to be around them. You will also develop more authentic friendships.
Are you an introvert or someone who tends to isolate? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.