Are you an INFP like me? If so, you know what it’s like to embody a galaxy of confusing contradictions. INFPs feel emotions deeply, yet we may seem stoic and unemotional on the outside. We are dreamers, always seeing an endless sky of possibilities. We also have the unique ability to fill those around us with magic and wonder. But an unhealthy INFP is a different story.
The Unhealthy INFP often feels isolated, misunderstood, and lost. You may cope with these feelings in a number of ways, which we’ll talk about later in this article. First, let’s talk about the factors that lead to an unhealthy INFP.
What causes an Unhealthy INFP?
Here are some potential causes:
* Feeling unseen by a parent
* Being abandoned by a parent
* Having a narcissistic parent
* Feeling ostracized for being different and helping the underdog
* Reliance on one subset of your dominant functions: Introverted Feeling (Fi) with Extraverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Sensing (Si) and Extraverted Thinking (Te)
When you have such an idealistic, emotional, intensely creative personality as INFPs do, it can be hard to find a healthy balance in life.
You may feel that you’re constantly teetering the fine line between being responsible, and following your heart. As you’ll see with the below examples, leaning too far toward either side can lead to problems.
8 Signs of an Unhealthy INFP
Here are 8 signs of an unhealthy INFP. Keep in mind that identifying with any or all of the below examples does not mean you’re broken. It just means that it’s time to pause and reconnect with your most authentic, highest self.
1. You’re overly focused on structure and control
The INFP personality is often depicted as the flower child of the Myers-Briggs types. We’re seen as daydreamy free spirits who see rules as suggestions. The INFP is notorious for missing important instructions, as we get lost in our fantasies. But it’s not always this way.
An INFP who feels anxious and stressed may compensate for their inner chaos by becoming overly rigid. You focus on all the things you can control in your life, like the cleanliness of your environment, the food you eat, your routines.
Staying in control becomes your number one priority. Most INFPs can benefit from a little more organization and structure, but the unhealthy INFP takes things too far. An overly rigid and unhealthy INFP will lose touch with their finest qualities: individuality, intuition, creativity.
If you are obsessed with order and control, take some time to get reacquainted with your inner child, who loves to make art, play in nature, and dream of possibilities. Make a goal to do activities just for fun, even if they have no logical purpose.
2. You suppress emotions
One of the most challenging aspects of having an INFP personality is our dominant Introverted Feeling (Fi) function. To put it simply, we feel a lot, but we tend to internalize it all. Many INFPs resort to suppressing emotions as a way to cope. We might also hide and stuff down our feelings because we believe they make us weak. This is a recipe for misery for INFPs. Allow me to explain.
It’s critical that INFPs stay well attuned to our emotions because this is how we develop our intuition and creativity. We need to be able to feel our way through life’s ups and downs.
Logic gets you lost when your navigation system is set to the stars. #INFP Tweet This
If you’ve been suppressing your emotions for so long you don’t know how you feel, try this: At the end of each day, write down three emotions you experienced throughout the day, such as happy, sad, angry, overwhelmed, embarrassed, awkward, inspired.
3. You rely on escapism
Our imagination is an INFP’s most shining quality. The problem is, when we choose to live in fantasy worlds our reality suffers. We miss opportunities for real life connection. An unhealthy INFP has elaborate fantasies of their ideal life, but never takes concrete action to make those dreams a reality.
You might also develop ‘Peter Pan syndrome’. You resist anything that interferes with your desire to feel young and free. Avoiding the dull responsibilities of adulthood is an underlying factor in all your decisions. This can lead to an exciting life of adventure. But in the case of an unhealthy INFP, the escapist mentality prevents you from reaching your full potential.
If you feel like you spend too much time escaping to fantasy worlds, try practicing mindfulness to stay grounded in the present moment.
4. You’re painfully indecisive
The problem with seeing endless possibilities is that it makes committing to a decision difficult. As an INFP, you might also be multi-passionate. You have many creative gifts that can take you in countless directions.
The unhealthy INFP remains stuck in a self-imposed purgatory, too indecisive to move forward. I used to struggle a lot with this, but then I discovered the secret to making decisions I never regret. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Always keep your values and goals close to you. Write them down weekly.
Step 2: Whenever you have an important decision to make, choose that which most closely aligns with your values and goals.
Step 3: If you see too many possibilities, set the decision aside for a little while and focus on reconnecting with your intuition. INFPs are wired to make decisions based on our feelings, and that’s a good thing! Your heart knows what your logical mind can’t fathom.
The trick is to keep your intuition razor sharp so that you know you can trust it. Spend time in nature, journal, meditate, make art, dance, and go for long walks. For more practical advice and inspiration like this join my introvert tribe and get free ebooks and confidence lessons to your inbox.
5. Your ideals lead to isolation
One of the most beautiful qualities of an INFP is our strong ideals. Like a guard dog protecting a mansion of treasures, you growl at anyone who attacks your core values and beliefs.
Your dedication to your ideals is a good thing, but an unhealthy INFP can take things too far. Your views on spirituality, diet, the environment, and politics can define who you are, but also create division. It gets lonely living behind a wall of isolating ideals.
To avoid isolation, focus on listening to other people’s perspectives. Trust that a difference in opinion is not necessarily an attack on your beliefs.
6. You take things too personally
INFPs are highly perceptive, easily reading people’s emotions and motives like a picture book. This is great if what you pick up on is positive. An unhealthy INFP will zero in on negative reactions and take things too personally.
Because INFPs are inwardly focused, you are also likely to believe a person’s behaviour is directly related to you. For example, you interpret your partner’s crankiness as a sign that you’ve done something wrong. In reality, they just had a bad day at work.
As if that weren’t enough, you also go over the interaction again and again in your head. Which brings me to my next point…
7. You dwell on the past
As an INFP, you feel most at home inside your own mind. The present moment is a great place to visit on occasion. But a lot of the time you’d rather revisit past memories.
An unhealthy INFP obsesses over the past so much that rumination and sadness creep in. You lose sight of what you have in the here and now.
Again, mindfulness practices will help with this. If I’m having a hard time letting go of someone or something from my past, I will do a ritual to let go, such as releasing a balloon or message in a bottle. You can also write a letter to the person and then burn it.
8. You take things to the extreme
Your strong ideals can lead you down a path of extremes. Since you’re already an all or nothing kind of person—driven by passion, or lazy as heck—it’s easy to take things too far.
My friend and I once joked about what our evil villain selves would look like. “You’d be a cult leader”, he said without hesitation. I laughed because it’s true. When I’m passionate about something I hurl myself full force into its blue flame.
I did it with religion, dance, travel, writing. But over the years I’ve learned to lighten up a little so that the flame of my current passion doesn’t burn and consume me.
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Over to you
Are you an INFP like me? What resonated with you in this article? Feel free to share your thoughts below. ?
I’m an ENTP and an Enneagram “Seven,” with a strong “Five” (INTP) wing. I’m a writer, artist, engineer (grad of Princeton) and have an MBA. Have written 4 books and over 100 articles for national magazines. With a good friend and business partner, started a national magazine in 1984, which did well editorially but got lost in the recession of 1987. I started 2 years ago (at 82) to undertake a study of the subconscious (my own and my ailing wife’s) which has led me into a deep look into the books of Baron & Wagele, Kroger & Thuesen, Myers and Meyers, Nettle, Palmer, and Keirsey, plus others. I have devised a system — now only partly completed — that looks at both MBTI and Enneagram systems simultaneously for each individual. Will you reveal to me your Enneagram type? Preliminarily you seem to be a “Four” (my first love, when I was 13, was a Four but I didn’t know it then, and was greatly puzzled by some of her antics). But as an INFP you could also be a 9, a 2 (like my wife), or even a 5). I enthusiastically await your reply, which I hope I get soon, as I am half way through reading your book “The Irresistable Introvert.”
Hi, I’m an INFP, 4w5 and this article resonated deeply with me. I felt like these words were coming myself and it was pretty cool.
I am an INFP and this is the most accurate thing I have read! I have had trouble navigating my very unique personality type and the advice you give is great, I am going to be using it!
This is probably very late, but I am an INFP 4w5.
Hi, thank you for this article. I lost touch to my intuition today and it scared the hell out of me. Well, I didn’t loose it today, it was a process. I silenced it. You article resonates with me and makes me want to tak action.
I’m also an INFP, 4W3. This mostly resonated.
I was wronged at my place of employment over 6 years ago. It was my career till death. I’m unable to let go what they did to me. I just told the truth about my supervisor and the illegal things I had observed her do. Things went crazy and so have I, the different departments put me through hell to get me to go away. I haven’t
But all of this has made me stay in because I really don’t trust people now, I realize I can’t keep living this way even though I have just expected I’m where im supposed to be raising my teenage granddaughter. I believe that finding your site is a sign for the next step. I’ve enjoyed your writing and I’ve taken some of it in will keep reading to see what I can make stick…. thank you
It’s amazing how relatable this is…I can see myself in almost every sentence.
How can we help an INFP loved one, if we recognize these symptoms in them? (I am an ENFP, dunno if that’s relevant or not) My sister and my very recent ex-boyfriend are both INFP.
This is so me.. Thank you for a great post.
I will just add, that the goals and values are the core for us.. And it is true that writing them down and keep reminding them to yourself will help.. Being stuck in totally opposite world for me for few lasy wears was a nail to the coffin- I became unrecognisable to myself.. I became an i tj-cold, in control with ocean of hurt feelings inside.. The only solution that helped was to compare my values with my life decisions that I had made for the last few years, and to decide to change the environment that is more in tune with my values and goals..
The change came right away..
So I so agree with your post, this is super important to cherish and care for who we are.. ♥️♥️❤️❤️
I’m so inspired by you, for speaking the truth, given the cost… I’m sorry if you’ve been betrayed by the world for doing what’s right. Keep fighting the good fight. Even if no one sees your good deeds in the end, This stranger is thankful you did. It sure gives some hope for humanity. 🙂
All the best for the future. May life be kind to you..
I had a narcissistic colleague who would abuse and bully timid people around the work place, she knew she could bully them and they wouldn’t say a thing. Calling them names, shooting down their thoughts as unimportant, ridiculous and stupid.
I couldn’t stand it so I used to go out of my way to defend them because I saw myself in them and after a few years at that work place, those guys she bullied (at the time it was still happening) started seeing psychiatrists and started taking meds because of the damage she had done to them over time.
When I found that out I was furious, she had no right to ruin people’s lives like that. I exploded and talked to her about it.
And what do you know, a week after the talk, she goes to tell our workplace that I raped her. Our colleagues knew it didn’t happen, and I had a beautiful partner who I’m still with.
But the company had name to save so they didn’t investigate anything, they let me go and I was buried from social media. (She was also pretty successful in her career so she went to tell people this made up story, and they came to my social media to tell me to kill myself as well as to my partner 🙂
I deleted everything, got fired from my job, mental health went out the window and still haven’t recovered, it’s been three years. I’m struggling in every part of my life.
I’m so so angry deep inside but I can’t do anything about it.
Things like that happen.
Time for me to re-read this article to maybe find something I can pick up.
I am SO sorry. I had something like this happen to me, where I told the truth about a narc who bullied innocent people and caused major brain damage. This person ended up accusing me of raging at them/sexually harassing them (obviously, it was her who was doing these things to me/others). I am proud to say I stuck to my morals the entire time I was viscously baited. It was the most harrowing experience of my life and I have lost lots of brain matter, over 50,000$ in moving fees/therapy, my hard-won reputation, my intelligence, my talents, my skills, and nearly every connection I had in my life due to her negligent actions. I am in awe that people *believed* her, despite it being so obvious to me that she was lying. Just so in awe.
It broke my heart so much, and it breaks my heart to hear your story. It’s not fair, absolutely not. But now I know that there are other ways to approach the problem- ie educating the victims about what’s going on so that everyone can make their quiet exit.
This article was such a gift to me. Thanks for your beautiful and articulate writing. I’m an INFP and Enneagram 4w3. The 4 matches the INFP almost to a T, and the 3 wing makes the inner critic even stronger. The past memories of shame just have no mercy. I’ve been through a few periods of depression in my life, and they can all be traced back to this list of characteristic behaviors. I love that MBTI info makes me feel understood, but I love it even more because it helps me understand myself. Reading this was painful because it made me face my demons, but it’s freeing because it teaches me how to zero in and fix things the next time I feel like I’m falling apart. You’re spreading the best healing vibes and I just really want you to know how powerful it is. Thank you. <3
Thanks for the kind words Kelly! I’m happy to help a fellow INFP. <3
I’m an INFP, and apparently a very unhealthy one. I have all of this. If someone truly wants to know what’s wrong with me—in a nutshell—I can now simply show them this article.
Wow. I’ve got some work to do.
I’m an unhealthy INFP. Seem to be stuck like this, some good days but sick of humanity and sick of this greedy race and sick of living in the uk. Sick of my marriage, sick of my health. Only 2 things in my life that is pure, one is my lovely little dog that means the world to me and cannabis.
Thank You for article. I feel its very important to be reminded of Personality Type in this old crazy world .lm INFP ,Enegram 4 wing5.I can get overwhelmed with people/world and loose sight of core self feeling dull and uninspired. I am the beautiful hippy/dippy flower child.Love it!!
I am an unhealthy INFP. Escapism and procrastination are eating me up. I have been stuck for almost 3 years now with my undergraduate thesis. I hate myself for escaping and procrastinating but most of the time, I’m not doing anything about it. I hate it :'<
This has made me cry…This has touched me in so many ways, thank you.
Just loved this article. So very true. I do most of these things. Although I don’t necessarily think of myself as unhealthy, but rather, I think of myself as someone with ‘room for improvement’ haha!
Hey hey, I’ll leave it here because I’m extremely confused whether I’m a mistyped and unhealthy INTJ or an unhealthy INFP seeking too much structure because of my past experiences that broke my inner balance and peace. The whole list of signs seems too accurate for me to be ignored. A list for unhealthy INTJs also matches in many ways. Does anyone know where I can get a clear answer what type I am to heal myself eventually and well? I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder ten years ago, so I understand if I got mistyped like 5 times on several websites (all INTJ – but it feels like I chose strategies close to an INTJ so save me from what all happened to me when I was younger (I’m 30 now)). I wouldn’t be this logical and strategically planning if it wasn’t out of fear of the unknown and the future tbh.
Holy guacamoly that confirms a lot about me 😱 now i wanna cry cuz i ffeeli sucks.. 🤦🏻♀️