Introversion is Not a Mental Illness

If, like me, you are an introvert, welcome to the American minority. As such, you probably can relate to being treated as if you are strange or broken. You’re considered antisocial. You are expected to explain yourself. You don’t fit in.

You have probably been accused of being depressed, even when that isn’t necessarily so. Introversion does not always equate to unhappiness. The phrase “social anxiety” gets bandied about by your critics. It’s not an anxiety so much as a preference. You are often misunderstood.

Believe me, I get it. I am so sick of being treated like I’m somehow less than, simply by dint of my position on the Introversion/Extroversion bell curve. I genuinely believe that we all have our place, and every place has value.

Introversion simply means that people suck energy from you, as opposed to energizing you. But why is that description couched in that way? Why does no one say that extroverts need energy from outside themselves, while introverts are much more self-sufficient? Why does no one say that introverts thrive in the quiet beauty of isolation? Why are we not praised for our focus and depth?

And no two people are alike. I wish that were more understood. Just as with gender, it’s about time we figured out that this is not a binary situation. For example, I personally don’t dislike people, even though introverts are often accused of hating mankind in general. I just prefer interacting with small groups that I know well, as opposed to large crowds of strangers. I don’t consider myself to be shy. I have no trouble speaking up or asking questions. I just don’t feel the need to constantly put myself out there. I enjoy observing more than interacting.

And I love time alone, which means my job as a bridgetender is perfect for me. Extroverts don’t last in this job. They just can’t handle it. There really are places for us “quiet types”. They’re just sometimes a bit harder to find.

As a child I was constantly berated because I wasn’t making enough friends. I have friends. But I go for quality, not quantity. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think it’s cruel to make an introverted child feel as though there’s some score card that is not up to snuff, simply because that child has a richer inner life, and that’s hard for you to see. We don’t need to be fixed. We are fine just the way we are.

There is no shame in thinking of alone time as a gift. It’s not rejection. It’s not a mental illness. You are still capable of love, loyalty, and friendship. And so much more.

I think that the only time we introverts feel free and well-adjusted is when we stop caring what other people think. Unfortunately, those other people are still out there, thinking, and loudly shaping society. The world would be a much nicer place if people learned to listen to the quieter voices as well. We, too, have our stories.

30 Hilarious Thoughts Every Introverted Person Goes Through

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6 thoughts on “Introversion is Not a Mental Illness

  1. Angiportus Librarysaver

    Sing it, sister. I had about the same experience growing up, with relatives dissing me because I was/am more into things, places, ideas than people. And feeling guilty about it till I was 16 and found the example of the gay pride movement–another thing you couldn’t tell if someone is by looking–and realized that one can be different AND okay both. There were still a few people who felt that they needed to dump on me, but I made short work of them.
    Then there’s the ones who, in recent years, have decided to try and stuff me into some sort of “autistic spectrum”. Guess again. I have my own spectrum, which almost interects-with-that-one-in-3d-space, and lumping me in with autistic people isn’t fair to them either. There’s a lot of ways to be neurodivergent, and all need to be treated fairly, starting with not mislabeling us. The Venn diagram of autistic and introverted is not one circle, and diagnosing a sane, stable, smart person against their will is at worst deadly, at best damned rude.
    Not that people generally suck out my energy, I just have other interests–scads and scads of them. When I grew up I found that there were people who are smart enough to accept me and, lo and behold, I found I like them too, in fact a few are indispensable. But I will always need lots of alone time–and respect.
    You did a very nice job of writing about another aspect of this mess–the lack of praise for our mental self-suficiency, our being cats that walk proudly by themselves instead of dogs strengthened by being in a pack. Co-existing in peace begins with respect on both sides. Thanks for the truth.

  2. Lyn

    This is why I’m drawn to cats and they to me. I learned to be loud raising children alone to advocate for their needs but every incident stressed and exhausted me. It didn’t become second nature with practice either. Now that I’m disabled and housebound no one expects anything of me except doctors who fear isolation=depression so I’m animated and joke through the whole appointment or they threaten me with antidepressants. Then I go home exhausted where happily, in my solitude, I get to sit quietly in the window observing humanity running noisily around while missing what’s right in front of them. Meow 🙂

  3. Lyn

    Glad your depression is properly diagnosed and treated. No problem taking medication for a condition I have, but to give antidepressants to an introvert, happily engaged in life with no indicators of depression, is bad. The assumption is that the challenges of multiple conditions (not properly treated due to insurance constraints) will break me. I’ve lived most my life broken but love a challenge and my broken crayons still color my world beautifully. Doctors don’t take the time to understand that.Just to clarify… I know what depression looks and feels like. I had postpartum depression in the 70’s when it wasn’t widely accepted or easily medicated. I suffered alone and nearly died but anger took over and fought to keep me alive. If I felt anything like that I’d be begging for medication. Would you take cancer medication now because there’s a chance you might develop it one day?

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