If you consider yourself an introvert or have close relationships with a few, you are undoubtedly familiar with the common saying that introverted people love to be alone. Is it true, and if so, what happens when introverts don’t get alone time? Does interacting too long with people affect them badly? Let’s dive into this complex topic and explain the challenges an introvert can face in friendships and relationships because of their introversion.
What Are Introverts – Characteristics of Introversion Compared to Extraversion
Introversion and extroversion are two concepts developed by Carl Gustav Jung in the early 20th century. They represent personality traits that show how we respond to outside stimuli in life – introversion means that a person prefers a less stimulating environment and can easily feel overwhelmed with the outside world. On the other hand, extroversion refers to individuals who are just more comfortable when overstimulated and flourish in social situations.
These two terms are only the opposite sides of the spectrum – rare are those who feel entirely introverted or extroverted. So, your preferences and self-care differ depending on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Most of us have more or less of both, and those who consider themselves to be in the middle of the spectrum are called ambiverts.
How Do Introverts Like to Spend Their Time?
Do introverts hate being alone? Quite the opposite – one of the main aspects of introversion is the strong need to be alone in order to recharge and continue with everyday life. They get the energy from calm, solitary activities because they are often drained from too many social gatherings – they are flooded with too much stimulation and need to reset.
So, they like to do calming things that extroverts would find too slow and understimulating – reading, watching a movie, or simply relaxing in their home. This doesn’t mean that every introvert hates hanging out or forming relationships with people – after all, they are still human. They have the urge to socialize, but in a slightly different amount than extroverts – in their case, small groups of people and shorter gatherings are quite enough.
One of the traits of an introvert is that they need to be on their own regain the energy
Why Is Alone Time Important for All Introverted People? The Answer Lies in Dopamine
There is a simple scientific explanation for why some have the traits of an introvert and some of an extrovert. The key is in slightly different brain function, the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, and ways you’re reacting to it. So, let’s just quickly explain one of many dopamine roles responsible for this phenomenon – its function in the reward network and pleasure center in the brain. How does it affect what we think and feel?
The Reward Network and Dopamine – How Our Brains Work
There are things people consider rewards, like sex, money, food, social status, or relationships. When you achieve one of those things, your pleasure center is flooded with dopamine, regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. However, the difference is how you perceive that overflow.
Extroverts are less sensitive to the high dopamine levels, which means that they need more stimulation to feel “rewarded” – and on the contrary, an introverted person doesn’t need as much, so the same level of dopamine (that is, the same situation) is perceived differently. This is why social situations feel like just the right amount of stimulation for extroverts, and it’s overwhelming for those who are introverted.
If You’re Introverted, What Should You Do When Overwhelmed?
If it wasn’t apparent by now, the answer lies in being alone. Not the “give up on friends and relationships” type of alone, but rather just relaxing for a bit. Allow yourself to take care of your mind – just like exercise is vital for physical health, relaxing and letting go of worries and the outside world is essential for introverted individuals.
Try to explore new self-care ideas and find things that help you reach nirvana after an intense day of socializing or too many work meetings (yes, work stress can be challenging for those with introversion – it’s draining their energy). We all have different ideas on what self-care is, but you’ll know you have found things suitable for you when you start feeling like you have more energy. Even if it sounds simple, don’t underestimate this advice. It’s essential to do this for your mental health – think of it as an act of self-love.
If you think that you are lacking energy, it's time to work to restore it
What Happens When Introverts Don’t Get Alone Time to Recharge Properly?
Think of what happens when you take on more work than you can handle – this is the same situation. Although extroverts might not understand it, too many social activities can really tire an introverted person. This is a sure way to exhaustion and burnout, and it can reflect poorly on their mental health – anxiety symptoms are common. As it gets worse, physical symptoms can surface, so it’s important to deal with stress appropriately.
Symptoms You Might Experience in This Situation
So, what can happen if you don’t recharge? There is a range of different symptoms that can be more or less severe. Some you might not even notice, and some might have you calling to book the first therapy appointment. Naturally, a good therapist can help you with this issue, but you shouldn’t start panicking if you notice the changes – you just need to rest, and life will go back to normal. Here are the most common symptoms that can occur:
Mental and emotional exhaustion,
Feeling tired, depressed, or unmotivated,
Irritability or numbness,
Being overly sensitive to sensory stimuli,
Canceling plans and coming up with excuses to avoid gatherings,
What happens when life gets just too overwhelming for an introverted person?
How Much Time Alone Does an Introvert Need?
There aren’t exactly rules to follow – it depends on the person. However, at least a few hours each day are beneficial for the mental health of introverted individuals. It may not always be possible to achieve that, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll start experiencing burnout immediately.
Introversion Doesn’t Mean You Are Unsusceptible to Loneliness
Yes, one of the essential traits of introversion is the desire to rest and recharge alone – or as it is called, turn inward. Still, that doesn’t mean an introverted person can’t experience loneliness. They can, and of course, they require friendships and emotional support. The key is in balance – knowing when it is enough socializing and when to step up your game and hang out with those you love.
If you are introverted, you should have a balance between socializing and being alone
What Do Introverts Do When They Are Alone?
Contrary to popular opinion, hanging out alone can mean all sorts of fun activities. It may not be the most favorite thing for an extrovert to do, but an introverted person will enjoy every single minute of a chill, at-home activity such as reading a book or watching a movie alone.
Yoga or meditation are also common, great ways to restore your inner balance and get back to feeling normal after being overwhelmed. Sometimes, writing a diary can help a lot – it allows you to perceive your feelings fully and get more clarity.
No, It Doesn’t Have to Be At-Home Activity
Who says you can’t go for a walk alone? It is purely relaxing, plus it will be good for your physical health. If you are a fan of good exercise, hitting the gym or jogging can be the perfect alone activities. Having brunch on your own might seem strange at first, but you will quickly realize this is an excellent idea. It is only important that you do what works best for you.
Many activities can help an introverted person recharge - all you have to do is think of some that are for you
If You Are Struggling to Relax and Recharge, Booking a Therapist Might Be a Good Idea
Contacting a therapist can’t hurt whenever you’re struggling with mental health. Even if it isn’t that serious, there’s no reason to struggle alone (ironic, isn’t it?) – sure, you might be able to calm yourself down, but why do that when you can get professional help? There’s no doubt that you will quickly notice the benefits of therapy and overall life improvement.
WOC Reflections features weekly interviews and wellness tips delivered to your inbox.