Psychologist C. G Jung introduced the terms Introversion and Extraversion in the early 1900’s.
Today these personality traits play key parts in some of the main personality theories such as the Big Five, 16 personality factors, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Extroverts are thought of as outgoing, chatty and energetic who love being with people. In contrast, introverts are considered to be reserved, introspective, quiet, and enjoy time alone.
That clear-cut definition can be a little confusing, though.
You can be social, love people and also be an introvert.
A good way to differentiate between the two is to think of your energy.
Introverts expend energy in social situations and need down time afterwards to recharge their batteries.
Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from social gatherings. Their batteries are rejuvenated (not depleted) when they are with people.
Can you have ADHD and be an introvert?
The image of an adult with ADHD is talkative, outgoing, energetic, and the life of the party, which is similar to the description of an extrovert.
It’s also why people wonder if you can have ADHD and be an introvert.
ADHD is much broader than that energetic stereotypical image.
For example, people with the predominantly inattentive subtype are quieter, introspective, and enjoy thinking about ideas and thoughts that interest them.
This description is similar to an introvert.
While there are lots of people with attentive ADHD who are introverts, this doesn’t mean everyone with inattentive ADHD is an introvert and everyone with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is an extrovert.
The lines aren’t so clear cut, and looks can be deceptive.
You might love being a social butterfly at a party, talking and laughing with one group of friends (or strangers) before hopping to the next group.
Based on external behavior, this looks like you are an extrovert.
However, if you need to spend the next day in bed watching movies to recover (and restore your energy), then that’s more in line with an introvert.
It’s also possible to be an extrovert and be socially awkward or a self-described ‘nerd.’
Lockdown and ADHD introverts
In March 2020, many countries went into lockdown. The world felt strange and scary.
While some people with ADHD found this time stressful and their symptoms got worse, some ADHDers thrived. These introverts found being at home heaven.
They didn’t have…
- Mad morning dashes to get out of the door or the commute and the social niceties that are required at work.
- Internal guilt they felt between doing what they wanted to do (stay home) and what they thought they ‘should’ be doing had vanished.
- To turn down invitations to social gatherings because there weren’t any.
- Nor did they feel like they should be ‘out there’ doing fun things because being out and about was off-limits for everyone.
- Instead they felt cantered, grounded and happy.
- They had more time to do the things that were meaningful for them, including spending time with their pets, their hobbies and and creating healthy habits,
Can you be both introverted and extroverted?
Jung says that everyone has both an extroverted and introverted side, and one is more dominant.
Lots of ADHDers are Ambiverts. Ambiverts have introverted and extroverted qualities. You enjoy the company of others and alone time.
If you feel that you are both introverted and extroverted you could be an ambivert!
Here’s a quick quiz to take that helps you know! Introvert, Extrovert, or Ambivert.
ADHD and external stimulation.
ADHDers tend to be more sensitive to stimulation in their environment than people who don’t have ADHD. This is because of how they filter out (or don’t filter) information.
A neurotypical person automatically triages pieces of incoming information. They ignore unimportant data and absorb what’s relevant.
Here’s a completely non-scientific, made-up example to illustrate the point.
In 1 minute, you receive 1000 pieces of information, whereas someone who doesn’t have ADHD receives 8.
This is why you can get overwhelmed more quickly, avoid certain settings, and enjoy down time to recalibrate.
While it can look like you are an introvert, the core reason might be due to ADHD.
This sensitivity is heightened in people with inattentive ADHD.
What exactly is stimulation?
Imagine you are in a soundproof room with white walls and no window. That room has no external stimulation.
Now imagine you step out into a shopping mall before Christmas. Holiday music is playing through the speakers and there are crowds of shoppers to navigate around. Everywhere looks bright and colorful, including storefronts and holiday decorations.
You are with a friend who is excited and talks to you loudly over the crowd’s noise and music.
This environment has a lot of external stimulation.
ADHD, shyness, and introversion
Shyness isn’t related to being introverted.
Both introverts and extroverts can be shy.
Shy people and introverts might both avoid social gatherings. The reasons behind that choice are made for different reasons.
Shy people are avoiding a potentially painful experience, while introverts are staying home to renew their energy.
Researchers are still learning about shyness. What they know so far is that it can have genetic roots, be influenced by both the environment the child was raised in, and by their individual experiences.
You can read more about ADHD and shyness here.
ADHD, Social Anxiety and introversion.
Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with ADHD. Social anxiety is a common type of anxiety.
Social anxiety is something both introverts and extroverts can have but for different reasons.
An extrovert might experience social anxiety because they are concerned about what people are thinking about them. They want to please others while chatting and engaging with them.
An introvert can experience anxiety from thinking about the logistics of socializing. For example, if they have dinner reservations with friends in the evening, they might dread it all day,even though they know they’ll have a good time once they get there.
Why is it helpful to know if you are an introvert?
One of the keys to managing your ADHD is to create a life with just the right amount of stimulation.
Too little and you get bored, blah, depressed, everything feels like too much effect. You want to take a nap even though you don’t have a sleep debt.
Too much, you feel scattered. You are jumping around but not achieving much.
With just the right amount of stimulation, you feel inspired, motivated, energized, and tasks you have been putting off don’t feel like a big deal.
Knowing you are an introvert or extrovert helps you plan your life in a way that works for you.
If you are an introvert and accept an invitation to a party on Friday, you might also block out Saturday in your calendar to have a quiet post-party day.
You can relax on the sofa without feeling guilty because you know it’s part of creating a balanced life with your sweet-spot of stimulation.
In the past you might have pushed yourself to ‘do things’.
When you know you are an introvert, it’s easier to give yourself permission to say no.
How do you find the right balance?
Start to notice how you feel when you have more or less social interaction.
Every day might not be the perfect balance, but strive for a balanced week.