Isolation Vs. Introversion: What's The Difference?

Many people think introverts just like being alone and avoiding others, but that's not always true. They also want connections with people, and feeling lonely can be tough for them. Psychology sees introversion as a personality trait where someone isn't interested in many activities and attention from others.

Introverts might not actively seek out social situations and need time alone to feel refreshed. However, being isolated, where you're completely cut off from others, is stressful for introverts. If you're struggling with feelings of isolation or other mental health issues, consider talking to a therapist for help, either online or in person.

What does introversion mean?

In psychology and social science, introversion is seen through the "Big Five" personality model, which looks at how people differ in how they approach life:

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Agreeableness
  • Extraversion

Introversion is the opposite of extraversion. Extraversion is a complex trait where people are outgoing, social, and assertive. They enjoy being around others, get excited easily, and make friends quickly.

On the other hand, introverts are often quieter. They may not actively seek out social situations and prefer spending time alone or with a few close friends. They tend to focus on their thoughts and may not feel as motivated by social rewards.

Do introverts enjoy being alone?

Many people have gotten the wrong idea about introverts from movies and old ideas in psychology. One common belief is that introverts prefer being alone instead of hanging out with others.

Introverts can find social interactions tiring, especially in noisy or busy places. Some scientists think this happens because extroverts often get a lot of mental energy from socializing and feeling good. This doesn’t mean introverts don’t like people, though. They might need time alone to rest after being around other people. But they still care a lot about their friendships and family.

The difference between isolation and introversion

Introversion is a type of personality where someone prefers quieter and less busy environments. They might need time alone to recharge after being around people. On the other hand, isolation means being separated or distant from others, which can happen for various reasons.

Isolation isn’t always easy to see. For example, someone who stays mostly at home but talks to friends online might still feel connected socially. In contrast, someone who talks to neighbors often might feel isolated if they don’t have close relationships.

Isolation can happen by choice or not, no matter if someone is introverted or extroverted. For instance, an introverted person might feel isolated after moving to a new place where they don’t know many people. Meanwhile, an extroverted person with PTSD might withdraw from social life because of their symptoms.

Isolation doesn’t always mean someone is introverted. It’s normal for introverts to take alone time after being with others, but isolating oneself from loved ones for a long time could signal mental health issues like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Isolation can be risky for introverts

Studies show that being cut off from people is a big factor in issues like depression, anxiety, memory problems, and even thoughts of suicide.

Contrary to what some think, introverts might not handle loneliness better than others. Research suggests they could be more vulnerable. For example, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, introverts often felt a stronger emotional impact compared to extroverts.

This could be because extroverted people handle stress and sadness better. They tend to have more confidence and find it easier to make social connections, even during tough times.

Overcoming isolation as an introvert

Introverts often feel more lonely because they tend to be cautious and reserved in social situations, which can make it harder for them to build and maintain connections with others. They may also struggle with low self-esteem, which can make the impact of loneliness even stronger.

If you’re an introvert dealing with loneliness, here are some strategies that might help:

Prioritize time with loved ones

While introverts may feel more lonely, they often find fulfillment in a few close relationships. To overcome the loneliness, they can:

  • Schedule regular activities with close friends
  • plan special evenings with your partner
  • Make time for calls with family members

Reach out despite discomfort

As an introvert, you might find it challenging to express negative emotions or reach out for help. People around you may also assume you’re okay. It’s okay to let a friend know you’re feeling down. A simple message like, “Hey, I’ve been feeling a bit low lately. Can we catch up sometime this week?” can make a big difference.

Value small interactions

Many introverts dislike small talk and prefer deeper conversations. However, even brief interactions like chatting with a neighbor or saying hello to someone at the store can boost your mood and gradually build stronger connections with people around you.

Spend time with others

Planning social activities can feel daunting for introverts, but simply being in the same space as a friend—whether you’re reading together, sitting quietly, or enjoying a hobby—can alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Final words

Introversion is a natural and healthy part of a person’s personality, influencing how they engage in social interactions. On the other hand, isolation refers to feeling disconnected from others. While introverts may occasionally experience isolation, they typically prefer not to be isolated because it can seriously impact their mental well-being.

To balance these feelings, introverts can benefit from prioritizing meaningful time with loved ones, appreciating the positive impact of small social exchanges, and seeking support from a qualified therapist when needed. These steps can help introverts maintain their mental health and foster fulfilling social connections.