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Introverted or just depressed?
Welcome back to another installment of Life Intelligence. Someone recently used the ASK VAL online form to ask these questions:
1)How to make better decisions
2)How to improve our thinking
3)How to think clearly
4)How to be a better decisions maker?
5)How can we acquire specific knowledge
6)How can we acquire wisdom
7)What are the most valuable skills that one should acquire throughout one's life, and how can one acquire them?
Guess what you will be reading about soon??? LOL. I'll attempt to answer these questions in the next few installments, but probably not in the same order. Stay tuned. If this is your first time here, subscribe so you won't miss all the fun.
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People get confused about a lot of things related to mental health. Lately, I've been correcting a few who claim to be introverted but actually appear depressed. So, here we go. Hopefully, this helps you know the difference and take good care of yourself.
To start with, know what an introvert is. Those are folks who like alone time. They don't hate the world or other people. They just get easily tired when socially interacting with others. So, they go home to recharge. They may call it "hiding out," but they are just recharging their batteries doing alone activities they enjoy and look forward to. They don't lose their motivation and don't slack on their projects. They love their few trusted friends and family members. They are not bitter, angry, and tired of living. They love living in their own thoughts and feelings, so they seek out and enjoy opportunities for reflection and solitude. You'll find them in libraries, meditation retreats, hiking alone in the wilderness, curled up on the couch reading a book they can learn from. Introverts prefer spending time with one or two people at a time and will stay away from big, loud gatherings as much as possible.
This 2011 study finds that there are four types of introverts: social introverts, thinking introverts, anxious introverts, and restrained introverts. They somewhat differ from each other.
The social introverts:
Prefer tiny intimate gatherings
Will happily go on alone on vacation
Require alone time to recharge, even in a relationship or at work
Prefers subdued places and skipping the small talk
Will accept social invitations with no intention of showing up
The thinking introverts:
Very intellectual and analytical by nature
More introspective than the average introvert
Leans toward activities that provide opportunities for thinking: studying, reading, researching, musical pursuits, or other creative solitary activities
Generally, not reactive and will often pause to think before offering a response to a question
Often quiet and at least mildly nervous in most situations
May appear highly avoidant and rude
Will avoid social interactions at all costs
Conflict-avoidant and avoids all situations with the potential to trigger anxiety
Likely to catastrophize events before they happen
Inhibited and reserved, keeping their guard up until they know someone
They come across as thoughtful and grounded
Reflective and even plodding in nature, deliberate
Move at a slower, more methodical pace in all things
Tend to enjoy predictable activities
Often the quiet, dutiful, reliable person
The main thing to remember is that introversion is a personality trait. It means the behaviors associated with this trait are preferences. People who are high on introversion "prefer" things this way. Also, depending on the degree of introversion, these tendencies can be more or less pronounced.
With depression, it's another story. People do not love to be depressed the way introverts love to be alone. Everyone can be depressed, even extroverts, the outgoing opposites of introverts. Depression is a mental health challenge.
Depression can be temporary and associated with specific events and life situations. It can be mild or debilitating. It can also last a long time or appear, regardless of circumstances, as the product of the brain's chemical imbalance. Depression diminishes life quality, and some suffering from depression could become suicidal.
We can't give people a pill for their introversion, and they will never take it. Again, they love their ways. But we can medically treat depression when necessary. Depressed people hate being depressed and often hate themselves for being depressed.
Depressed people lack energy and motivation. They procrastinate, avoid, hide, miss deadlines, and complain. Even things they would normally enjoy doing or used to enjoy doing are too hard and require too much energy, and never get done. It can be as bad as abandoning hygiene habits, missing work, crying a lot, and neglecting responsibilities. Sometimes depressed people forget to eat. Other times, they eat too much, looking for comfort. Sometimes they can't sleep ruminating. Other times they can't get up, missing work, appointments, and life in general.
Depression makes people feel worthless and their lives hopeless. As a result, they hide from the world and from themselves. Introverts, in contrast, are often very optimistic and have a strong sense of self. They enjoy alone time and use it to recharge. They have goals and motivation. They like their lives.
Other signs of depression include:
Inability to focus, concentrate, and make decisions
Drastic changes in sleeping and eating habits
Prolong feelings of guilt and helplessness
Thoughts of self-harm, and self-harming behavior, including suicidal tendencies/attempts.
If someone's symptoms are this pronounced, they know they are depressed. However, sometimes people have a low-grade, long-lasting depression known as dysthymia which keeps them functional but miserable, nonetheless.
Symptoms of dysthymia include:
Lasting sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
Less ability to concentrate, think, and/or make decisions
Weight and/or appetite changes due to over- or under-eating
Changes in sleep patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much
Undirected restlessness, anxiousness
Heightened interpersonal rejection sensitivity
An estimated 75% of people with dysthymia meet the criteria for at least one major depressive episode, referred to as a double depression.
Yes, you can be an introvert AND be depressed. But if you find yourself hiding from the world, grumbling, complaining in challenging life circumstances, difficult transitions, and unhappy, you are likely depressed. If life's bringing you down, by resolving your situation, you should resolve the heavy feeling of discontent, too.
It's OK to face your challenges resentful that you have them. But if your attitude, mood, and behavior are causing your challenges, and you find no motivation to re-calibrate yourself, no energy to do so, and engage in pacifying behaviors resulting in substance abuse and other dysfunctional strategies, you may be depressed. Because if you were actually introverted, your self-reflecting capacity, coupled with your usual optimism, will never take you down to the bottomless pit of despair.
If you have depression, for whatever reason, seek help.
If you are an introvert, learn about depression because introverts are statistically more likely to have depression than the general population. Take good care of yourself. You know how!
Here’s a test you can take to see if you are introverted. There are others online, too. So poke around if you are curious.
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