In the past few years people have thrown out the terms introvert, extrovert, and the less common term ambivert to describe themselves. But what do each of the terms means and how can they impact us?
Swiss Psychiatrist Carl G Jung was one of the first to define the terms introvert and extrovert in a psychological context in 1910. He claimed that introversion and extroversion were present in all of us, but one is more dominant than the other. However. it is a sliding scale and no one is truly purely and introvert or extrovert. A famous quote of Jung's is the following :
"There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum"
While Jung defined the terms his definitions are quite different than what we consider them today. For Jung introverts were more focused on the internal world of reflection and are thoughtful and insightful whereas extroverts preferred to engage with the outside world of objects, sensory perception, and action. Currently though we use the terms introvert and extrovert to describe peoples’ behaviours.
Introverts recharge by spending time along and they don’t always cope with social situations. Introverts prefer to listen rather than speak and would rather not spend time in the spotlight. They also don’t like making small talk and because of this find it hard to make friends.
Extroverts recharge by spending time with people. Extroverts are often known at the ones who talk the most, as people and social situations energise them. They usually initiate and engage in conversations and can talk to anyone. They also don’t mind being the center of attention and meeting new people isn’t a big deal.
Many people identify with being an introvert or an extrovert but there is a third option: ambivert. This is one who sits in the middle of the spectrum and various factors can influence whether they lean more towards introvert or extrovert at any time. Because of the term ambivert not being well known you would think only a small percentage of the population could be considered being an ambivert that couldn’t be further from the truth with it being estimated that around 68% of the population are ambiverts.
Ambiverts recharge by doing a mix of spending time with people and also spending time alone. They can be quiet the whole conversation, but they enjoy sharing with people what they are passionate about. While they don’t mind attention in the right context, it can sometimes make them feel insecure and they are also happy with standing on the sidelines. They are fine talking to new people, but they would rather do it with friends. It can also take them awhile to warm up in new situations and build up their confidence levels.
If we look at the table below, we can see key identifiers of being an introvert, extrovert and ambivert. Something to remember is that these aren’t set identifiers and it really depends on the person and there is a spectrum which naturally fluctuates depending on a variety of circumstances.
· You consider things carefully.
· You prefer to avoid conflict.
· You’re good at visualising and creating.
· You’re a natural listener.
· You need plenty of time for yourself.
· You do your best work alone.
· You enjoy quiet activities.
· You prefer a few close friendships over a big group of friends.
· You seek out meaning in your life choices.
· You often feel best in the comfort of your home.
·You think deeply about your life and world.
· You do well in social settings and alone.
· Active listening comes easily to you.
· You’re flexible when it comes to problem solving.
· You’re more decisive than impulsive.
· Drawing others out is a natural talent.
· You adapt easily to new situations.
· Some people think you are quiet, but others think you are outgoing.
· You can perform tasks alone or in a group.
· When it comes to trusting people sometimes you are skeptical but other times you dive right in.
· You enjoy working in a group.
· You’re always ready to try something new.
· Talking through a problem helps solve it.
· You find it easy to express yourself.
· Spending time alone can drain you.
· You find good in everything.
· You make friends easily.
· You prefer a full schedule.
· You tend to be outgoing and high energy.
· You feel bored or sad when you spend too much time alone.
· You are adaptable and flexible to new situations.
So how does being an introvert, extrovert or ambivert impact our mental health? The most obvious one is that is impacts how we do self-care and recharge ourselves. For introverts they are going to need alone time after a stressful situation compared to extroverts who are going to want to be social and for ambiverts it depends on how they are feeling at the time.
Research has suggested that if you are an introvert you have a higher risk of experiencing depression and also more likely to experience social anxiety disorder compared to those who are extroverts or ambiverts. Saying this there is a lot more factors that come into play when looking at the causes of mental illnesses including environment factors and genetics. So being an introvert shouldn’t have too big an impact on your chances of getting depression. There is also research that indicates that depression and anxiety can cause someone who is extroverted to be more introverted and their personally can change due to having a mental illness. More research needs to be done in these areas and on a bigger scale before anything definitive can be said about linking mental illness to personality types.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert each one has its own pros and cons. It’s about doing what works for you and using your personality type to your advantage. For some people they are clearly an introvert or extrovert for others they are an ambivert and it changes depending on a variety of factors. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day they are just labels and we shouldn’t let them dictate our lives or decisions.
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