It hurts my heart to think about it, but there are many depressed introverts out there. You could chalk this up to a lot of things:
- negative feedback from a young age from people who don’t understand our quiet ways
- a tendency toward isolation, which leads to a lack of connection, social support, and intimacy
- a tendency toward overthinking, rumination, and worry
- social and environmental overstimulation, leading to a sense of overwhelm and emptiness
The bottom line is that our world is not set up for quiet, gentle souls to shine. Our culture’s busybody, bigger-is-better, and louder-is-prouder mentality can quickly crush the spirit of sensitive introverts. But an introvert’s sadness, emptiness, confusion, and overwhelm is not the same thing as clinical depression. Allow me to explain …
But first, a wee disclaimer.
I’m not a therapist, so what you are reading now is my opinion as an introvert author, coach, and entrepreneur who has received feedback from tens of thousands of introverted readers and hundreds of students since starting this website in 2013.
Introvert or INFJ Misdiagnosed as depressed or bipolar
What has stood out to me over the years is the amount of introverts (and INFJs, in particular), who confide that they were misdiagnosed as depressed or bipolar by therapists, who mistook their introversion and/or sensitivity as a sign of mental illness. Again, my heart is hurting to think of this.
Imagine spending years — decades even — of your life believing that there is something deeply, inherently wrong with you, something that is woven into your mental processes and imprinted on every fibre of your being. And now the therapist has confirmed it …
You are broken.
I know that for many of you there is no need for imagination. This has been your reality. Perhaps, you didn’t have it confirmed by a therapist, but you’ve always known deep down that there was something wrong with you. And then, miraculously, you found your way here, or to Susan Cain’s book Quiet, or to Introvert Dear, or any number of other introvert meccas. This is when you realized that you were never depressed after all. At least, not in the clinical sense.
You are simply introverted, sensitive, empathic, introspective. And you are in pain because no one understands this about you. No one will let you be the person you were made to be.
You are the depths of the sea trying to pass as an ocean wave, and you are tired. Tweet this
But there is hope.
I know this because everyday I receive messages from introverts who have swam down deep and awakened to their true power. “I thought there was something wrong with me. They told me I was depressed,” they say. Of course, I can’t see their faces, but I imagine that they have the expression of a child seeing snow for the first time. “I’m an introvert, there is nothing wrong with me,” they say, eyes alight.
Sometimes, they tell me more specific stories about how my work has helped to heal what therapy could not. This was the case for Michael Gilly, one of my confidence students, who recently sent me this message, which made my heart dance:
I recently finished this course, and I just have to say how much it has changed my life! I was down in the depths of despair, where prescriptions and therapy couldn’t reach me, let alone help me. But I made myself go through your course, and did all of the exercises in it, including repeatedly doing the affirmation exercise until it was drilled into my subconscious. And the results have been nothing short of stunning! I feel so much better, sleep better, and think so much more positively now! I finally ended a toxic relationship (marriage), and am now dating more than I ever have before. Most importantly, I’m not going into it thinking that I’ll take anyone who even looks in my direction, as that is what led to my toxic marriage. I now believe that I am worthy of happiness and love, and nothing is going to hold me back anymore! You (and Marko) are awesome! Keep up the phenomenal work!
Thank you for helping me get my life back,
And there is Brian, who I did a breakthrough coaching session with a while back:
“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.”
And yes, I know that therapy does work in many cases, and plenty of therapists do understand introversion. But.
I’m writing this article for people like Michael, and Brian, and all the other countless introverts and INFJs, who say that even their therapists didn’t understand them.
Interestingly, I have also heard from several therapists, who have told me that discovering my work has changed the way they approach their practice. Gabriel (name changed for anonymity), a practicing psychotherapist explains:
“I think coaching has always been a part of my treatment and I bring a wealth of mental health psychology to deepen the understanding. In no small part, INTROVERT SPRING has opened my awareness and self-identication of my own Introvert tendencies, which is now shared in treatment to greatly help others.”
So, are you depressed, INFJ, or introverted?
First and foremost — whether you are depressed, INFJ, or introverted — you are human. And there is no shame in your struggle. It’s okay to not have it all figured out. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to have messy emotions, and a messy life.
I’m not here to diagnose you and tell you all the right things to fix what is broken inside you. That’s not what this article or this website is about. I’m simply here to shine a light and help you see that there is hope.
So, please do read more about introversion and depression, if you think that will help. Or see a therapist if you think that will help. Or read something funny, or something sad if you think that will help.
Again, I’m not here to fix you. I just want you to know that there is oxygen even at the bottom of the ocean. You can breathe now.
Lots of love,
Thank you so much Michaela. Thanks to Introvert Spring (you and Marko) and other websites helping me understand introversion, I have been wondering the same thing. While introverts can certainly be depressed or bipolar, it’s very possible that some introverts are simply misunderstood and possibly misdiagnosed with mental health problems.
We are wired differently but that’s what makes us tick! <3
It was about 20 years ago that I found a book that described the differences & needs between Introverts & Extroverts as I was parenting in a blended family (his, mine & ours) I had also taken the Myers Briggs survey, but there was no detail to my INFJ personality. It took decades for me to overcome my people pleasing, feeling less than belief system to embrace and advocate for my self. It was hard won and not without devastating losses. But I would gladly do it all again to know the peace and empowerment that I enjoy today
I wish I can give you a huge hug!
When I was a child, I always wondered why I was so different from others around me. Maybe I was depressed, or something was seriously wrong with my head? It took years for me to finally convince myself that there is nothing wrong with me. I’m an introvert and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes, I still need to tell myself that I’m alright.
Your article is great. Thank you for writing it. It’ll help me continue to convince myself there’s nothing wrong with me.
Of course, it works both ways. I am a therapist, and an INFJ, and had the opposite problem. I have had a case of chronic depression since childhood, but the fact that I was an introvert (a major introvert!) disguised the fact from myself and those around me. They just chalked it up to my introversion, and it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood (my 40s) that I figured this out. Thank you for the blog.
I have a bit of a similar story. Just opposite poles. I’m 47yr old. Just a year ago I found out about personality profiles. I’m an INFJ. I’ve been stuck in this system (mental health) since I was very young. Drugged and labeled. Now my life has opened up where I understand myself. But I have no support. What can I do? I’m so lost at this point. Feel like I’m chasing my tail.
I was thinking the same while reading this article. Being an INFJ, I find myself excusing my tendencies to be overwhelmed by the realities of life. I also find that my comfort within my introversion limits me. I don’t push my boundaries enough and quite possibly over indulge in introverted behavior … recently I’ve wondered whether it’s actually depression that’s sulking over me. Of course, there are healthy introverted bahviors and unhealthy introverted behaviors and generally mine are healthy … but I’m not succeeding in this society by indulging in my introversion. Therefor, I wonder whether I may just be using my introversion as an excuse. Where is my motivation? I’d rather be reading at home than doing anything else. I have zero drive to “make something of myself” in this society. Is this depression or is this innately INFJ. I’m just not sure. (And don’t expect you to know 😉 )
Are you me? Hahaha this is what I think that I exactly am, also an INFJ, and currently have no idea what to do with my life. Sighs.
Over 30 years ago I was in therapy. I realized that was a mistake.Being an introvert can lead to feelings of isolation and anger.Everything is not a social situation.It is about balance.
Growing up I was a very quiet child, known as being ‘shy’. I was bullied, I was bullied alot. I found school to be difficult with teachers regularly reporting that I was easily distracted. This led to me being put into small group of students for extra support. In my teens I rebelled of being ‘different’ and became part of the norm – vocal and articulate by joining the popular group within the school. Sure enough I was more vocal, the centre of attention, but it also made me feel sad. This personality continued till last year when I had a break down. During my breakdown I felt I couldn’t be alone, I couldn’t bare my own thoughts and yet I would feel grumpy and tired when in large groups of people after a short period of time. So I decided during my breakdown to take action – I began to withdraw from large groups and force myself to start enjoying my own company. In the time alone I started to draw and read, both activities i thoroughly enjoyed as a child. Anyway, I stumbled across a book about introverts. I wasn’t familiar of the word introvert before then and found myself drawn towards the book. When I started reading the book I cried realising just how much I could relate and because of the realisation that I was ignoring my own needs. Today I feel like an entirely different man. I embrace my time alone, I no longer feel the need to fit in.
I guess the moral of the story im sharing is that the depression some can feel like me is because they’re not being attentive to their needs. I guess just like the articale states.
Another thought-provoking article, Michaela! I’m an INFJ and I also deal with bouts of depression, usually when a major blow to my self-esteem comes around (like it did this week).
My personal (non-clinical) opinion is that introverts deal with bouts of depression, dull melancholy and malaise because there’s a disconnect or distance between three things.
1) What we want to be doing.
2) What we are doing.
3) What we think we SHOULD be doing.
I feel most content and happy when all three are the same thing, and it may change from day to day or even hour to hour. But when I’m at my most discontent is when there is friction between these spheres. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But knowing this, I can say “This is my choice right now, but it’s not permanent.”
I’m curious about the “depressed” OR “INFJ” OR introvert choice. Esp since I’ve been typed as INFJ.
Thank you, Michaela, for offering an outlet for many of us introverts to express our feelings. For many years, I have felt like an outsider, constantly thinking negative things about myself. When a doctor diagnosed me as depressed years ago, I didn’t quite believe him. We all have a version of depression and it’s usually a definition that’s clinical. I just have to make sure I don’t watch the news or have a home page that is political. Otherwise, I tend to get extremely riled up. My blood pressure soars and my mind turns extremely negative. If I get outside occasionally I tend to do so much better, but most days I prefer my time in isolation. I am a writer, which is a fairly lonely profession, but occasionally you need some human contact. Reading your articles Michaela, that’s me see that I am not truly alone. 🙂
Thank you, Michaela, for an amazing article!
I found out about a year ago that I’m and an INFJ and it changed the way I view myself. Like most people with my personality type, this was an eye-opener and now I cannot get enough information on what makes me tick. I don’t really have bouts of depression, but I do sometimes get lonely and, as I know, this stems more from others not understanding me.
Also, I find myself trying to type my friends or others I know so I can get to understand them better.
It also saddens me that so many are misdiagnosed and treated as if broken when they are only just like so many other introverts out there. Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’ was a life-changer for me and is a great book for any introvert and, quite frankly, some extraverts, to read. It really opened my eyes to the power of introversion. And that, that it’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
Also, this website is a great place to go for feeling accepted as an intorvert. Thanks again, Michaela and Marko, for such an oasis in this extraverted world!
Thumbs up! ?
Thank you so much for your blog. I to felt as a child and up to my adulthood that I don’t fit in with the group. People have always mad it a point to remind me of it at times. I was targeted as a child and bullied. Even as an adult, I had grown people to try and bully me. One thing I have learned as other who are introverts, we are misunderstood, but we are strong, intelligent, kind hearted and often have a strong spiritual connection. What we do is get out of which this happens off and on is get out of balance with spiritual. We have to first learn to live and accept ourselves. I am daily learning to Accept the powerful creation God has made me. We may never get accolades or notice, but what I notice that have quietly made a positive impact on so many people lives. As long as I continue to balance my calling to serve with caring for myself. I will be fine.
I was 50 before I found out I was an introvert . I thought something was wrong with me . I also grew up with learning disabilities . At 50 I went on a catholic dating site and took a temperament test and it fit me . I didn’t know there was people like me out there and became interested in learning about introverts I’m 61 now I lost a lot of time on prescription drugs and therapy.
Hello there Michaela. This article is not only penetrating in its clinical accuracy (as you will recall I messaged you some time ago talking about Psychiatry and my suggestion to subscribe as I do to Psychiatric Times, it is FREE) but resonates with me as a person who has had a very hard life in so many ways and part of that has also been the fact that my introversion was misunderstood as well by so-called professionals and others. I can only say again that your work is possibly the FINEST work in the field of introversion that I have ever come across. I make this statement wearing my Professor’s cap so as to add credibility to my comment. Needless to say, you have made an incredible impact on this field