A lot of people ask me, are introversion and depression the same thing? They are not.
As annoying as it is that people keep drudging up this outdated association between introversion and depression, I can see where the confusion lies.
There is a reason why so many people – introverts and extroverts – are asking, are introverts more likely to be depressed?
Why extroverts think we’re depressed
I can see why extroverts, in particular, interpret an introvert’s behaviour as depression. For one, extroverts view our actions through the lens of their own experience. For them, being alone for extended periods of time would feel depressing.
They see our quietness as a sign that something is wrong, because that is what it would mean if they went silent. And our wandering off on our own – that is just strange. To them, only someone who is sad or angry would choose solitude over ‘fun’ times with the group.
But fun is a relative word. What extroverts describe as fun is merely an empty shell of activity for introverts. It’s all smiles and excitement on the outside, but inside it is devoid of any real connection or substance.
Barriers to an introvert’s happiness
“A good rule of thumb is that any environment that consistently leaves you feeling bad about who you are is the wrong environment.” ~ Laurie Helgoe
We don’t want the hype. Or the entourage. Most of the time, that is just extra packaging that gets in the way of what we’re really after:
Conversations that go beyond party chit chat and spark our curiosity .
Authentic connections with like-minded people.
A sense of meaning and purpose.
These are the things we truly want. When all we get is hollow activity, THAT is when we can become depressed. We get caught up in an endless cycle of exhaustion, guilt and overstimulation.
Society keeps telling us that we need to “get out of our comfort zone”, “seize the day”, “meet new people”. That is the key to happiness.
But these little catch phrases are vastly misinterpreted. “Seizing the day” does not always mean getting out there and hopping on the treadmill of constant doing. Sometimes, the most effective way to spend a day is to find a patch of quiet and just be.
Unfortunately, no one told us introverts that was an option.
Tired, sore, sad introvert
We introverts get caught up in the race where no one wins. We are running and running with no destination – just the promise of a pat on the back and the assurance that we are normal in the end.
We’re tired. We’re sore. We’re all bent out of shape from this constant activity with no substance. For some sensitive introverts, this exhausted state is the stepping stone for depression. For others, it causes a dull sense of melancholy that swells with every superficial conversation and forced smile.
I’ve been there.
The sadness I couldn’t shake
There was a time in my life when happiness was fleeting.
I would never say that I had depression, because to me that is a medical term for a serious illness. What I felt was more a dull kind of melancholy.
The sadness was sneaky though. It crept up on me in all the places sadness is not supposed to dwell. At parties. In large groups. With weekend ‘friends’ who were unfailingly polite and pleasant, and interesting as wood.
I knew that something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I tried and tried to satiate my hunger for what I couldn’t name. I filled up on social fluff, and so-called fun. I felt bloated and tired, but never full.
My hungry sadness gobbled up any sense of peace and contentment I once had. What was left was confusion, self-doubt, and hopelessness.
It took me a long time to realize the reason for my melancholy. It wasn’t until I learned more about introversion that I began to understand.
The surprising source of my sadness
The cause and the supposed cure for my sadness were one in the same. I thought that going out and having ‘fun’ with ‘friends’ would make me feel better. It didn’t. There is a very good reason why.
You see, the people I was hanging out with weren’t my friends. From the outside I could be perceived as popular. In truth, I was surrounded by people and felt utterly alone.
My social life was all white bread and empty calories. It lacked the true connection introverts crave.
Less activity. More meaning.
Fewer friends. More real friendships.
Less doing. More feeling.
It all sounds so simple when I put it this way. But most introverts have been told their whole life to do the exact opposite.
More than once I’ve heard from introverts who said that their therapists prescribed lots of social activity and “getting out there” as the cure for their depression. This only caused further anxiety.
It wasn’t until they truly understood their introverted needs that the clouds began to part. This was the case for Brian, a 59-year-old introvert who recently had a breakthrough coaching session with me:
“Your insight now explains the “why, when and how” to this hellishly confusing and daunting time in my life. I hope you realize that your conclusions were beyond the grasp of no less than two counselors, both of which held a Ph.D in psychology and a few random social workers. You cracked the code I had been working on for decades.”
Does any of this sound familiar to you, innie friend?
If so, there is no reason to feel shame. The first step to any transformation in life is awareness. Now that you know you are an introvert, and you are beginning to understand your needs, the way out of the fog is more clear.
So, are introverts more likely to be depressed?
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS. 😉