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Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Scientific Explanation For Why Introverts Need Much More Alone Time Than Extroverts

Picture this: You’re at a party. A few of the people you know fairly well, most are mild acquaintances and the rest you’ve never before. How do you interact?

The way you view and respond to social situations is the primary indicator on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

What is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?

There are several popular misconceptions surrounding introversion and extroversion. And because of this, introverts, in particular, are often misunderstood. They are often branded as shy, aloof, and even antisocial. While extroverts are described as bubbly, friendly, charismatic, and fun.

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But it is important to understand that introversion and extroversion are not personality types in and of themselves — rather, they’re important pieces of the personality puzzle. They also aren’t the only two options — there’s a whole spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and almost no one is purely introverted or pure extroverted. In fact, science has coined a new term to describe those exhibiting an even mix of traits from both intro and extroverts; they are the ambivert.

intro-extrovert spectrum
    By: Joseph Bennington-Castro

    What are the causes of introversion and extroversion?

    Scientist believe that the causes of introversion and extroversion lie in the brain and how it responds to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system. It enables us to recognize rewards and move towards them. It is part of the guidance system for our emotions.

    In social situations, the extroverted brain is stimulated. It views social interaction as rewarding and responds as such. The thought of positive social interaction floods the brain with dopamine and drives the extrovert towards interaction as it is seeking to be rewarded.

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    The pleasure center of an introvert brain functions the same way—but with one very distinct difference. Extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network than introverts—meaning extroverts need more dopamine to feel pleasure. When dopamine floods the introvert brain, introverts do experience the feeling of excitement but it is accompanied by the feeling of being overwhelmed.

    Dr. Marti Olsen Laney explains in her book The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World, “for introverts, too much of a good thing really is too much. They feel overstimulated when dopamine floods their brains.”

    The introvert brain is more responsive to the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to the brain’s pleasure center. The difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward. It powers our abilities to think deeply, reflect, and focus intensely on just one thing for a long period of time.

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    Research tells us that everyone’s nervous system has two modes: parasympathetic and sympathetic. When we use the parasympathetic side (nicknamed the “rest and digest” side), we feel calm and are focused inwardly. Our body conserves energy and withdraws from the environment; muscles relax, energy is stored, and our heart rate and blood pressure slow. The sympathetic side (a.k.a “full throttle”) puts us in a state of fight or flight. Our pressure and heart rate are elevated, we are alert and poised for action.

    Introverts thrive when they are operating in parasympathetic mode. This is the reason for the constant desire introverts have to be alone. Their desire and pension to engage in quiet, thoughtful activities away from others is not antisocial or moody behavior. It is a physiological need they have that is driven by their brain chemistry and function.

    When introverts are deprived of their alone time they can experience:

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    • Fatigue
    • Mental and physical exhaustion
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Irritability
    • Increased anxiety
    • Depression

    The causes of introversion and extroversion are directly linked to how our brains operate and respond to neurotransmitters. So the best thing you can do for the introvert that needs time by themselves is to leave them alone.

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    Denise Hill

    Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2018

    7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

    7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

    Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

    Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

    When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

    Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

    1. You’re depressed about your home life.

    No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

    However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

    If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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    When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

    You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

    2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

    Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

    If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

    You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

    If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

    3. You can’t stop snooping.

    Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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    I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

    Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

    So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

    It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

    If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

    4. You’re afraid of commitment.

    If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

    Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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    No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

    If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

    Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

    5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

    If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

    Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

    Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

    Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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    If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

    6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

    When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

    When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

    If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

    7. You chase past feelings.

    It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

    You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

    When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

    Final thoughts

    If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

    Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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