The Reasons Introverts Struggle so Much with Depression

Dawn Bevier

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If you’re an introvert like me, you’ve probably struggled with either depression or anxiety (or both) for most of your life. One of the reasons for this is that oftentimes we feel like we come from a different planet and that the people in our lives don’t understand us. But the reality is many times this is a self-inflicted gunshot wound, one we give ourselves because we choose to keep our feelings inside instead of dealing with them openly.

This behavior is perhaps one of the greatest reasons for the strong correlation between introversion and mental health issues. For example, information reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research states that of those who suffer from depression, seventy-four percent are introverts. Frontiers in Psychology elaborates on this fact, speculating that the reason for this susceptibility to depression may be due to the fact that introverts have a tendency “to experience more intense emotions and more difficulties regulating these emotions.”

And I’m pretty sure most introverts would agree with the fact that much of our negative mental state is definitely related to our inability to manage our feelings. Here are some of the reasons we may find ourselves in the grip of depression and some factors we may need to consider changing in order to regain a sense of joy and happiness.

Suppression

As introverts, sometimes we feel like there is another world inside us besides the world we interact in every day. There are troubling thoughts of which we refuse to speak openly, anxieties that we never air, and sufferings that we choose to hide from the outside world, that is until the emotional “poison” inside us can no longer be restrained. And by the time our feelings are aired, we are usually already deeply mired in depression.

As a matter of fact, psychology professor Jonathan Cheek and his colleagues did fascinating research on introverts. They concluded that there many different types of introverts, but there is one common thread that links them together. This common trait is “a tendency to turn inward rather than outward.”

You name the negative emotion, and we introverts hold it inside. We need more in our marriage, we hide it. We feel inadequate and unworthy, we hide it. We feel anxious due to work, home, or the chaos of the world that surrounds us, we hide it. And our own refusal to share our feelings is what leads many of us to depression.

So why do we keep these things inside when we know it allows our depression to grow?

Conflict avoidance

Many introverts choose to suppress their feelings because they feel a great desire to “keep the peace.” This means we tend to avoid conflict, especially when we feel that the conflict will not be productive.

An article in Science Direct explains that researchers suspect this avoidance of conflict is due to the fact that introverts are “more sensitive to punishment and to frustrative nonreward.”

The sensitivity means introverts usually don’t want to have their inner thoughts laid bare for someone to criticize and critique. For example, most introverts’ conflicts are internal. We tend to be highly sensitive and self-critical, and for someone to find more fault with us than we already find in ourselves is a form of the “punishment” described above. This is why most of us struggle frequently with depression. We want to avoid inner conflict as much as or more than outer conflicts with others.

The sensitivity to “frustrative nonreward” means introverts often refuse to express negative feelings that they think we will unproductive to air openly. For example, often we think to ourselves that no good can come from saying what’s on our minds. We think to ourselves, “Why should I talk about the fact I feel overwhelmed at my job when it won’t change the fact that the work must be done ?” “Why should I discuss relationship problems with my partner when all it will accomplish is conflict, resentment, and pain?” “Why should I discuss my depression with family or friends when it will only cause them to be anxious or upset?”

And as much as we think these thoughts and behaviors are simply “who we are,” we must make efforts to change these responses or our depression may continue or even get worse.

How introverts can free themselves from the grip of depression

We must change the things we think

An article in Healthline discusses tips given by Dr. David Burns in his bestselling book Feeling Good. The article mentions a cognitive-behavioral therapy technique Burns calls the “triple column technique.” In the first column, you write down your unfiltered thoughts and feelings. In the second column, you look over these thoughts and analyze them for distortions. In the third column, you replace your irrational thinking with logic.

For example, let’s say you’re struggling with negative emotions concerning an important relationship in your life, and you feel having a conversation with that person will be pointless or even detrimental. Find the flaws in that train of thought and look at the situation logically. If you express your thoughts to that person, maybe you and your friend or partner can find ways to make positive changes in the relationship. And even if the talk does bring about conflict or anger in the other person, embrace the logic that simply unburdening yourself of toxic thoughts will bring a sense of emotional release. Consider the fact that releasing these feelings out into the open may help you see truths about your relationship that you may have been trying to avoid.

We must change the ways we act

Knowing the best course of action is distinctly different than taking the action itself. We must act to achieve the benefits that we know we will gain from changing our behavior. Of course, saying this is much easier than doing it, especially for introverts. If you feel apprehension and hesitancy to speak out, practice.

Write down what you intend to say. This will allow you to feel confident that what you say will have the best-intended effect on others. Then practice actually voicing those words in private. Give yourself a “trial run” before you approach the person to which you need to talk.

Also, think ahead in other ways to make your fear of expressing yourself less anxiety-producing or overwhelming. For example, consider the best time to approach a person so that they will be less emotionally reactive and more positively responsive to your words? Consider the best time for you to engage in this conversation. Speaking at certain times of day, in certain environments, or during specific daily situations can significantly impact how well you respond to others and how receptively others respond to you.

In short, planning out these interactions beforehand will make you feel safer and more likely to actually voice your thoughts.

The bottom line:

Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott says, “It is a joy to be hidden, and disaster not to be found.”

And while introverts may find it comforting to keep our feelings inside, we also need to remember that communicating our fears, concerns, and anxieties will go a long way to overcoming feelings of depression. While we do not need to speak all of our thoughts (and as introverts, probably never will), we know deep inside the conversations that must be had to help us move forward in life and to regain a sense of well-being and happiness.

So have these needed conversations and then, my fellow lovers of solitude, go revive yourself with the alone time you so desperately need. And this time, hiding away will bring you the peace it brings all introverts at times, not serve as a poisonous way to continue living in the midst of depression.

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My goal is to provide you with thoughtful, informative, and inspirational content that may increase your productivity, relationships, and well-being.

Sanford, NC
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