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Sharp Health News

Is social isolation easier for introverts?

April 9, 2020

Is social isolation easier for introverts?
In the 1920s, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung asserted that there are two distinct personality types: introverts and extroverts. While you may have been told by others which group you seem to fall into — or may have even assigned a type to yourself — you are more likely to be a mix of the two. However, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, your personality will affect how you are responding to the social distancing orders required to slow the spread of COVID-19.

First, it’s important to understand each of these personality types:

Extroverts are people whose energy comes from and is directed toward the external. They gain energy and pleasure from interacting with others. They are typically seen as outgoing, talkative and enthusiastic.

Introverts are people whose energy is more focused inward and internally. They feel more comfortable alone and in their thoughts. They might feel their energy depleted when they are interacting with others and are typically seen as introspective, reserved and quiet.

Differences in coping with COVID-19 precautions
So, how are these two personality types coping with the need to stay home, avoid gathering with others and work remotely? According to Maricar Jenkins, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, one is likely to be handling it a bit better than the other, but there are healthy ways for both to cope during this challenging time.

“Extroverts typically thrive when working and collaborating with others in teams,” Jenkins says, “while introverts usually thrive working in quiet, independent settings.”

So, stay-at-home orders might cause a few challenges specific to extroverts, such as:
  • Anxiety might be triggered.
  • It might be difficult to fully engage with phone and videoconference platforms as the sole means of connecting with others.
  • Without face-to-face interaction, they might be easily distracted at home with other stimuli.
  • They might feel lonely, isolated and overwhelmed, which can lead to a decline in mood.
“Unfortunately, these challenges might cause some extroverts to minimize the risk of spreading the virus,” Jenkins says. “This could lead them to disregard social distancing and continue socializing in groups, which can affect the health and wellness of them and those around them.”

On the other hand, stay-at-home orders might trigger relief for introverts. It will allow them to have more time for introspection and reflecting on tasks. They are also likely to relish not having spontaneous interruptions and interactions, as they would in the workplace.

“The concern with introverts at this time is that they might take social distancing ‘too far’ and end up having no social contact with anyone, even via social media, phone or videoconferencing, which can lead to a decline in mood,” Jenkins says. “And even though they usually choose social distancing, its enforcement might cause them distress.”

Tips for both personality types
According to Jenkins, regardless of your tendency toward solitude or socialization, we are all social beings that need connection. How much connection might vary depending if you are an extrovert or introvert.

“It is important to recognize that we are not alone — we are all trying to cope with this ‘new normal’ together,” she says. “Whether you are an introvert, extrovert or you fall somewhere in the middle, our lives are forever changed by this experience.”

Jenkins recommends that everyone, introverts and extroverts alike, can follow a few basic tips to help minimize the feelings of loneliness, melancholy, helplessness and fear that social isolation might cause:
  • Stay connected with others via text, phone, email and video chat.
  • Follow a daily routine and stick to it.
  • Take breaks and get outside — while remaining 6 feet apart from others.
  • Limit exposure to news and social media.
  • Keep active.
“It would be easy to think that stay-at-home orders are easy for introverts and difficult for extroverts, but the current situation is extraordinary,” Jenkins says. “Our responses and how we cope might be very different under normal circumstances. The key is to check in with people, reach out to them, share how you are feeling and ask how they are feeling.”

Talk to your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing excessive sadness, anxiety or worry for an extended period. Call 911 if anyone, including yourself, may be at risk for self-harm or suicide. Learn more about mental health services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and read important COVID-19 information from Sharp.

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