When do you tend to feel the most energized: after a party with lots of friends and strangers, or after a day of solitude and quiet reflection? If you chose the latter, you may consider yourself an introvert—someone who feels easily exhausted by social interaction and feels most content being left alone.
Introverts are often seen as shy, introspective, or antisocial, but the reality is more complicated than that—most people aren’t fully introverted or extraverted, and actually fall somewhere in between. Whether you lean toward introversion or extraversion doesn’t just affect your social preferences, either; here are 15 ways it can also affect your physical and mental health.
Introverts may be more immune to different kinds of social stress—specifically, the pressure to make an appearance at every event they’re invited to, or the “fear of missing out” (also known as FOMO). They don’t feel the need to always be “on” with other people, and may not be as insulted if they’re not included in something.
If you’re an introvert looking for love, you may feel like the deck is stacked against you. “We just don’t put ourselves out there as much as extraverts; and even when we do, we aren’t as quick to make friends of strangers,” writes author Sophia Dumbing in her book Introverts in Love. But she argues that once introverts get past that hurdle, they actually have some advantages over introverts—like the desire to make deep one-on-one connections.
Not all introverts are depressed and not all depressed people are introverts, but there is a connection. “There are certain characteristics of introverts that line up with depression,” says Helgoe. “We’re reflective and we can get caught up in rumination. We also tend to be more realistic: We look at the whole picture, rather than just picking up on happy stimuli.”
Research has shown that when people act extraverted or outgoing, they tend to feel happier overall. In fact, says Helgoe, even introverts can get a mood boost by acting like extraverts for short periods of time. “I don’t think the answer is always that introverts need to get out there and socialize,” she says, “but I do think we should be aware that sometimes we are so protective of our comfort zones, we don’t take advantage of opportunities we might really enjoy.”