On this website, we, the many wonderful authors who specialized in writing introvert related topics, have established that introversion is a personality type.
We have proved countless of times through science that introversion is not a choice but a way of life and that an introvert has no power over their introversion. However, some people believe that introversion sounds like a personality disorder. Not long ago, in 2010, the introverts of this world received a devastating news from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-9 CM), and with the support of APA (American Psychological Association), that the latter two were considering including introversion as a contributing factor in diagnosing certain personality disorders in the next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).
To be frank, that incident was an improvement of the one that occurred thirty years ago, when the APA proposing to add a more blatant diagnosis to the ‘introversion diseases’ called: “introvert personality disorder,” to its manual. It took many campaigns and angry letters among health and personality type professionals to dissuade APA from their decision. (Ancowitz, 2010.)
The manual included a list of symptoms in regards to the introvert disorder. It included the following:
“Introverted disorder of childhood
- Childhood or adolescent disorder of social functioning
- Social function disorder, childhood or adolescent
- Social functioning disorder, childhood or adolescent
- social withdrawal
- childhood or adolescence
- withdrawal reaction of childhood or adolescence.”
(Introverted disorder of childhood.)
But now that this was done and had been proved to be silly to consider introversion as a disorder, there remain many people who believe that when celebrating a victory or a certain achievement one needs to have a party and have many friends around, otherwise, you are not right in the head. Quietude and aloneness are seen as two demons, poking their pitchforks at social circles and, equivalently, at happiness.
And while there are a lot of people who have the right, healthy idea of what an introvert really is, some tend to mistake it for a personality disorder. There is difference between suffering from a personality disorder that at first destroys your life to the point where you can’t function correctly in society and life, and simply staying at home because the coziness of your bed is more tempting than your friend’s party. But there are many proofs that distinguish introverts from actual personality disorders.
Unhealthy social avoidance
Many forms of social avoidance can be observed in most personality disorders, such as Schizoid Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Split Personality Disorder, and it can also be observed in most introverts. But there are two types of social avoidance: healthy social avoidance and an unhealthy one.
With personality disorders, a patient would exhibit some of the many unhealthy behaviors associated with their illness. Some patients will practice self-destructive behaviors. One of most known and prominent form of self-destruction is: social avoidance. It is a dangerous act to completely isolate one’s self from society since humans are, ultimately, social creatures. We thrive out of being social, we prosper. Our personalities are shaped mostly by our culture, traditions, environment, and the people we surround ourselves with. Socializing is part of the human experience. I know what you are thinking: Isn’t social avoidance something practiced by the introvertsTM ?
That is why there is two type of social avoidance, healthy one, and the unhealthy one, as mentioned before.
The unhealthy social avoidance is derived from the reasons the observed person states. If a person explains their avoidance is due to fear, such as agoraphobia, anxiety disorder – or other forms of disorders – severe shyness, distorted thinking patterns as observed in Paranoid Personality Disorder that enables a patient to distrust those around him, thus isolating themselves..etc, then it is apparent that that specific person is suffering from a certain disorder.
If you were to ask an honest introvert as to why they haven’t shown up to your party last night, they’d probably state they were simply tired or have had enough of social interaction to last them a whole weekend.
The difference between a person with a disorder and an introvert when it comes to social avoidance, is that introverts avoid social interactions but always come around and end up socializing while a person with a disorder (most disorders at least) the reasons to their social isolation sound more serious than a mere, “I was tired,” and their avoidance is quite stubborn, keeping them away from the world for many days, even months.
The difference between a personality disorder and a personality trait
There has always been a misunderstanding when it came to a personality disorder and a personality trait. A commonly googled question is: Am I simply obsessed with cleaning or is it OCD?
Samantha Rader, who has a PhD in psychology that was interview by Buzzfeed answered the question by stating that a disorder is something that stops you from functioning in your life, such as stop going to work or school, avoiding your loved ones, inability to keep track of time, and inability to take care of yourself and your basic needs…
There are, as well, many signs of a personality disorder that don’t sound as innocent as a personality trait. For example, a person with a disorder can be classified into three types of behaviors: anxious or fearful behavior, eccentric, dramatic or erratic. In short, displaying atypical behaviors can be a sign of a disorder.
As for the symptoms, there are two major symptoms a person with a personality disorder experiences: Emotional and physical.
According to the Mayo Clinic, emotional symptoms may vary from one person to another and from the people the patients interact with and how they express themselves. For example, people with avoidant personality disorder have an extreme aversion to conflict, allowing others to take advantage of them. Other symptoms can include poor impulse control and a propensity for substance abuse.
The physical symptoms affect the mind, causing a patient to neglect their physical health. For example, a person affected by schizophrenia may neglect their personal hygiene or suffer from insomnia due to fearful thoughts. People with OCD, for example, may have raw skin due to excessive washing and scrubbing. (Personality Disorder Symptoms, Causes, and Effects, 2018.)
So next time, during lunch break in school, when you see your introvert skipping on a group chat and observing in silence instead, consider that they are just tired or have nothing to add to the conversation. While a person with a disorder will exhibit concerning behaviors such as not coming to school at all for an entire year.
When to seek help
As mentioned before, there is a major difference between being an introvert and having an actual personality disorder. You may think that your destructive behavior is due to your introversion, or that your normal behavior is abnormal. And it can be confusing to ask yourself whether you are well and you’re just a bit odd, or you have an actual condition.
So when to seek help?
When your odd behavior encompasses your entire life and when simple tasks such as: answering the phone, going to your job, conversing with your friends, attending an event, getting up from bed and taking care of both your health and hygiene, and all those mental straining simple activities cause you to isolate yourself for a long periods of time – such as months or even years – then you need to seek help immediately.
If you’re not experiencing these difficulties and yet still consider your behavior is odd and isolating yourself from the world for a few days and then getting back out there normally, then you might be an introvert and it’s just part of your personality.