Why Introverts Are So Introverted?

I have been thinking I was an extrovert for 26 years. Partially because I have always been receiving signals from everywhere and everyone telling me “introverts are worse than extroverts”. It took me a while to figure out the difference and start valuing introverts as much as extroverts. In other words, introverts are no better or worse – they are different.

 As we all know (I assume), extroverts are the ones who are always bubbly, surrounded by million of friends and feel guilty if stay at home and do “nothing” for too long. Introverts on other hand are often seen as anti-social, self absorbed and … weird. Extroverts are loved by everyone and noticeable everywhere, they are loud and fun and everyone wants to be with them. Introverts are quite, don’t have many friends and no one really notice them. Extroverts become successful business people (do they?), managers and leaders whereas introverts work in the library or get involved in some boring science activities. Extroverts are always happy and introverts are always depressed. Extroverts are always stressed and introverts are always mellow. Or are they?

WELCOME: Introverts.

In fact it is not entirely true! Although introverts are often seen as shy, reserved and typically self-centered individuals they are simply thinkers. Introverts  have an aptitude for developing ideas, undertaking strategic planning and endeavoring to understand and rationalise concepts which makes great scientists and writers. Great! However WHY introverts appear so “anti-social”, quite and selfish?

Believe it or not but introverts are the way they are because of their brain. They have different to extroverts wiring in their brain.

Let me explain! Positron emission tomography (PET) scan is used to look at how our bodies use substances such as glucose, ammonia, water and oxygen. We need to observe it to see how and where molecules move through your body, and where they are being used. Computer analysis the data and produces a picture of what is happening in the body, anywhere including brain. It is often used to find potential diseases or damages; however can also help us understand different personalities.

Inside The Introverts & Extroverts:

1. BLOOD FLOW

One of the studies used PET to observe the blood flow in the brain of an extrovert and an introvert while both of them were resting. Amazingly, introverts’ blood flow is richer than extroverts even when they are resting. However this stronger blood flow is connected to the part of the brain responsible for problem solving and planning. Why is it important? Well, more blood floor causes more stimulation therefore while an introvert is resting he / she is still very active but inside / intro the brain 🙂

Now, extroverts blood flow is targeting sensory part of the brain traveling on a straight “highway”. Therefore while introverts were drowned in their thinking extroverts were actively analysing what was happening in the environment around them. Don’t get me wrong, their blood flow is not wrong, just different.

2. CHEMICALS

I will try to be as simple as possible to explain the following idea. It involves chemical called dopamine. In plain language it is a signal transmitter in the brain which is also very important for movement, attention, alert states, learning and reward-motivated behavior. Dopamine is crucial for human beings but too  much of it causes hallucinations and paranoia, and too little causes depression, lethargy and misery.

Now, this “right” amount of dopamine is different for an introvert and an extrovert. Introverts are highly sensitive to it and don’t need too much stimulation to get over-excited and anxious whereas extroverts crave more of it to simply feel well. Introverts rely on a different chemical – acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter in both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS) in many organisms including us, human beings. Introverts’ brain does not like dopamine much (because it can easily over-excite) hence prefers to use acetylcholine. It is a different chemical but it is available in everyone’s brain, it is simply one of many other transmitters. Extroverts’ brain simply does not like it as much as introverts’ one does.

3. TRANSMITTING HIGHWAYS

Another reason why introverts and extroverts are so different from one another is relatively hard to understand if you are not an introvert (kidding). According to “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney [as many authors I’ve read recommended to reference], the pathway which is a highway for chemicals or a transmitter for the stimulus is different in extroverts and introverts’ brains.

Amygdala is the emotional center in our brain.Whatever we feel we need to be transmitted to amygdala for further analysis. Brain receives the data and simply makes sense of it. However, we now know that different brain does it differently 🙂

Image Source: “The Rise of the Introvert”

Basically introverts rely on different chemicals in the brain rather than extroverts as well as different sizes pathway. Different chemicals affect different nervous systems. Therefore an introvert and an extrovert are almost different type of humans. 

 This is why introverts need to take breaks from people to re-charge while extroverts are re-charging while (& by) interacting with others. Now, imagine an introvert hanging out with an extrovert!? It will most likely be draining for one and puzzling for the other. This sentence explains it better than I can paraphrase it:

“… after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating” [Source: “The Rise of the Introvert”]

If you are still embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you are an introvert, don’t be. Be proud of being different no matter whether you are inverted or extroverted 🙂 See more: “introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated

Introverts and a writing career. 

Want to discuss or add regarding the topic please feel free to contact me! 🙂 I have also realised that the topic is way to big for just one post and will need further research. Feel free to join in!

Further investigation:

1. Are we only one or another (introverts or extroverts)?

2. Which sex is more introverted: men and women?

3. At what stage our brain decides to go either way (conceiving an extrovert or an introvert)? Is it interchangeable or we are stuck with one forever?

4. Why introverts are less popular? Are they?

5. Living with an introvert / extrovert.

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37 thoughts on “Why Introverts Are So Introverted?

  1. I’m quite the proud introvert, but often mistaken for an extrovert. Currently hiding in my room rather than being with people.

    Bliss!

    • Susan, thank you and welcome 🙂 It is funny your blog is called “the curious introvert” – this is what I was planning to call mine but long time ago 🙂 What are the odds! 😀 Feel free to stick around and / or contribute your own thoughts / articles as I found this topic being VERY big with many curious angles 🙂

    • hahaha I had the same delusion plus was actually told (and still get told) that I AM weird and do not fit 🙂 Don’t worry about it and maybe even embrace it, trying to apply for your benefit. Stick around to learn more! I’ve realised the topic isn’t that small!

  2. I am rather boisterous when around like-minded people. I often told I’m engaging and charming. But I’ve also been described as “hot and cold” because after being so engaging and charming, I really need to hide for a while. I won’t answer my phone, if there are questions, they get one-word answers, and if my “back off” signals aren’t respected, I leave.

    The ones who love me understand, the ones who want to change me—don’t.

    I have no idea if this is an introvert thing or not, but I hate talking on the phone. It drives me nuts if I can’t see the person I am talking to.

    • Thank you JocTheWriter for sharing! To be honest, I am not fully sure if we are full on one of another (introvert or extrovert) this is yet another research for me to conduct! However I must admit I am also very bubbly and madly social when around people and some of my friends were puzzled when I declared I was an introvert (yep, I actually had to inform people of it lol). Some really extroverted friends drained me and I left them without explanation which I am sad about but it became painful to be around. So I figured this all looks like introversia (if I can use such word lol) 🙂 As for the phone thing, this is very interesting. Why do you think it is important for you to actually see the person you are talking to?

  3. I call the re-charging time my “cave time”. I just had company for 5 days. It will take me all week to “recharge”. I remember thinking this morning on my way to work “I hope no one talks to me today.” Now I don’t feel so bad 🙂 Thanks for the article!

    • Tracie, I am really happy for you and thank you so much for sharing! To be honest, I did not even realise how big this issue was (till now) and how many people are actually uncomfortable with being introverted, how many people don’t understand what being introvert means. It took me ages myself to find peace with it and finally start using my introversia to my benefits 🙂 I will definitely be writing more on this topic – there are so many interesting sides to the story and I want to try and help other fellow introverts to feel better about being what they are; and start using their introverted nature as their super hero’s powers! 😀

  4. Some people who I know well refuse to accept that I am an introvert. Why? Because I talk a lot. I get nervous in groups and talk loud and long. Even in small groups, I am a storyteller and love monopolizing the conversation. But I often feel bad about things I have said, or wonder why I talked so much. I have read that introverts are considered rude and other people often think that I am, because I blurt out things and want to get on with a conversation if I find it tedious. I am blessedly retired from outside work and it is wonderful. I go to a friendly water exercise group every morning and sometimes to a class or talk. Then I need to go home and take a nap, and I often do not go out the rest of the day.

    • Susan thank you for sharing! I truly believe it is not all that black and white in our personalities. I knew a girl who, I believe is a good example of a highly extroverted person, who, however, would have similar to what you have just described conversations. Moreover as she would tell me later on, she was so bored listening or found the topic to be such a waste of time that was rude in order to avoid further participation. A day later she was sobbing on my shoulders asking why no one likes it. I believe that knowing who we are is very important but we can’t change our chemical contaminants of our brain. However I am sure we can adjust our behaviour based on the outcomes we want. Everyone’s perception is very subjective and most likely cannot be understood by others; however we can try to appear nicer and co-exist on the same planet peacefully 🙂 I am NOT implying that you are rude or must adjust your behaviour but I think regardless who we are, we still CAN adjust our behaviour and appear in whatever light we want others to see us in 🙂 I am myself is often found as the inappropriate one in almost any social group. Tried to change myself. Realised it was boring so decided to be the way I am and maybe try a little harder only when I REALLY need to be someone else 🙂 I appreciate you sharing your story! What are the activities you are not engaged in? Do you find them better than the ones you wanted to be done with earlier in your story?

  5. For 28 years, I was an introvert in a career that demanded I be an extrovert. It was draining. Luckily I had a 45 minute drive each morning and evening which helped me “recharge.” Most people would assume I am an extrovert, but when I explain it to them, then they see that I am in fact more introverted than extroverted. My closest friends realize that I need “alone” time and don’t assume I am upset with them if they don’t hear from me for a few days. I tend to gravitate toward “low maintenance” people for my friends. The key is knowing who you are and accepting the fact that you are a “self-sorter” and don’t rely on other people to fill your reservoir. It has taken my husband many years to realize that if he allows me the “alone time” I need to decompress, our relationship is much better for it. 😀

    • Thank you for sharing Mo! What job reqiured you to be an extrovert? Just curious. As for friends, im very similar however all i managed to do so far is to.push everyone away to start from scratch 🙂

  6. Interestingly, many of the introvert traits are the same as signs of giftedness / high IQ.
    It never occurred to me previously but prior to becoming a mother I was a workaholic and had no social life however was the “go to” person at work. It never concerned me that I had no social life outside of work and now I suspect it was just recharging time. The work Xmas party would generally see me drinking way too much and then disappearing into the night.
    It is enlightening to realise why I go off the rails now with work, motherhood and being a wife – no recharge time because everyone wants attention from me!

    • Carol, thank you for your honest sharing! What a situation! Well, I have been reading “Influence” (if you are familiar with this book) and one of the “tricks” is consistency. Interestingly, people expect others to be consistent. Therefore if we are bubbly butterflies and unicorns are all over the place this is what people will always want to see when see us 🙂 I also struggled with picturing me to myself and others and I think I am only learning myself now and letting go the party animal I am not or I AM but in smaller doses that I thought I was 🙂 re you still working or you are a full time mummy? How are you going now? Do you need a “recharge” time of your family you think? I assume your full on motherhood is now your full time full on job which often drives off rails as much as any other none rechargeable environments. By the way, does it bother you that people want your attention?

  7. Thanks for this, love the detailed analysis. Very useful. So important to have posts like this, helping everyone understand why we are like we are. Thank you for all you do.

  8. I wonder whether introversion is borderline autism?

    The autistic are frequently extremely intelligent, and frequently have photographic memory, or nearly so. I ask myself whether the autistic are busy collecting all the available information before analyzing and pronouncing on it — really, *all* of it — with the result that they are always in input mode, never in output mode. Because nothing comes out, they appear to be detached from reality, when in fact they are deeply involved with reality
    We are bombarded with vast amounts of sensory input 24×7, and most of us learn to filter out 99…99% of it. I conject that the autist has not constructed a filter, and may not be able to construct a filter.
    Following the lead-in idea, I wonder whether at least some introvert behavior is attributable to the introvert collecting more input than the extrovert, and apparently thinking slower. Do we introverts share the characteristic of thinking of the right thing to say or do, much too late to say or do it? Missing opportunities because we’re too slow on the uptake, kicking ourselves forever after? Do we acquire the reputation of not saying a whole lot, but being well worth listening to when we do have something to say?

    I’m not a professional in these areas, but these conjectures make sense to me, and fit with my self-characterization. I wonder whether this is a new idea, a nonsense idea, not necessarily mutually exclusive, or maybe just a boringly well-known fact? Any wisdom?

    • Dave thank you for sharing your speculations! I am no specialist either but believe that introverts and autism sufferers two different apples from different trees 🙂 I believe we need to look into brain research a little closer to answer all these questions you outlined. I have never really looked into autism so not much I can contribute. However great ideas and worth investigating. Please let me know if you find any answers, share your discoveries 🙂

      • I only object to the use of the word sufferers, especially in the context of introversion. As to autists, it’s clear that they have difficult lives, but I’m not sure we should say they suffer. Or maybe we should.

        I keep my eyes open for more information on this idea.

        Dave

      • No worries. I just thought that autism is a decease which is often paired with the word “sufferer” but any word is good with me. Please keep me posted if anything interesting comes up 🙂 Personally, I believe that being an introvert (or an extrovert) is a personality trace whereas autism is a mental disorder (in a generally accepted meaning of course, I am not trying to define “normal”) but as I say I am no expert so not sure. Thank you again for your sharing, I appreciate it!

  9. Nice article. I enjoyed reading it. I didn’t quite understand the urgency to further investigate which sex is more introverted? in some issues it is vital but I think it gets quite boring to keep asking it in every issue. I think it’s a matter of human kind and personality. I don’t understand why this question should be in the top 3 when there is much more interesting questions about introverts.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Natanella, thank you for sharing. I guess I placed different sexes issue down because this is something I AM interested in and would love to find out about more 🙂 As for top 3, well I did not rate my own ideas, it is just happened to come into my mind in this order, no biggie. I believe that because our world is divided into males and females only (no other options), it is always interesting to see how each of them is performing in this and that, my personal interest of course 🙂

  10. As an introvert raised in an extroverted household, I can say honestly that the two types can easily live together as long as they have an understanding and respect for each other. That being said, it can get under my skin sometimes. I love my mom to death, but as an extrovert she often pushes me to ‘be more outgoing’ and while I know I need to socialize a bit it’s hard to explain how draining such interaction is most of the time.

    • Emily thank you for sharing. I totally agree with you. Moreover introverts often end up with extroverts and vise verse! Check this one out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcvleuvJD0w as well. It was curious to watch! I want to say that one type of personality needs another one and other way round to help each other bring the best in each of them 🙂 However each of them (and who ever cares for them) should try their best to acknowledge that one is intro and another one is extro, understanding how to communicate with one another. So far, every time I start this conversation with people, they yawn or giggle … I assume introverts and extroverts is still a big pile of poo for many people and without understanding it is hard to live in harmony. I am an introvert and finally realised it, although only recently; and I want other self energised people to come to piece with their introversia and use it to fullest because it is a handy and strong characteristic 🙂 How do you think it is helpful to be an introvert (for you Emily)? 🙂

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