6 Causes of INTP Stress (and How to Beat It!)

an INTP feels stressed

As lax and chill as my fellow INTPs may appear on the surface, we’re not immune to stress. Sometimes our thoughts spiral out of control when there’s no stress-busting game plan in place.

Stress usually begins as a primary-tertiary loop (Introverted Thinking and Introverted Sensing; Ti-Si), where our internal web and framework of reality (Ti) clashes with nostalgic notes from the past (Si), leading to the belief:

It hasn’t worked out before, so why should I bother trying at all if it’s only going to result in disappointment?

This may be accompanied by retreatism into comfort and shutting out the world — back into what’s familiar. Over time, this state of being omni-comfortable can morph into discomfort from a lack of mental stimulation. Regret may leak through unpatched actions from the past, perhaps due to a lack of closure or miscommunication.

Under extreme stress, Extroverted Feeling (Fe) — the inferior or “grip” function — arrives at the scene, all smug from being neglected for so long. It plays dirty, and may drive you nearly delusional with outbursts of piercing irrationality.

Self-medication and self-diagnosis are very common at this stage, and it’s best to reach out to someone you trust or even seek professional help. As an introvert, this may not be the most appealing option at any given time, but it will do wonders in the long run.

Let’s take a look at six common causes of INTP stress, plus how to beat it.

6 Causes of INTP Stress (Plus Tips)

1. Analysis paralysis

Speaking from experience, a multitude of choices can be an incredibly huge blunder to the INTP’s thought process. You may find yourself asking “What if?” to every plan that pops up. You overthink, validate your pre-existing beliefs, and refrain from taking action. Rinse and repeat.

How do you break free from this frozen state? Prioritization. Try going old school and grabbing a pen, paper (or memo pad, envelope, sturdy Subway napkin) — and jot all your ideas down.

Even the most outrageous ones that may or may not have to do with desperate measures. Now cross out the infeasible possibilities, and shift the other options according to your time and energy available.

2. Emotionally charged situations

For many INTPs, emotions seem next to rocket science in their dictionary. Your thesaurus isn’t of much help either — because love’s equivalent to a biochemical cocktail. You may find yourself searching high and low for a root cause or explanation behind what you or others are emoting — and leave it at that.

The illusion of feelings are just dopamine playing (and messing) around in your brain, right? With Extroverted Feeling (Fe) at the end of your cognitive stack, other activities naturally take priority in this scenario. Personal projects, work, and (of course) that next exciting project.

Deal with emotions head-on and alone by giving ample time to think them through. One very effective strategy is to identify root causes. Then, seek a trusted friend or family member to talk it over. Once you’ve cleared the fog, carry on with your day.

3. Dealing with minutiae

Another surefire way to wreak havoc on an INTP’s brain is having to follow a detailed, step-by-step process in which each task must be completed (oh, the administrative horror!).

The panic doubles when small mistakes can result in dire consequences, such as a mere digit in financial positions. If you’re like me, the biggest fib on your resume is claiming to be “detail-oriented.”

A fun backward productivity hack you can use (on a daily basis) is to get the menial stuff done when you “should” be doing something else more important. Sure, you may be putting off one thing in the form of passive rebellion, but at least those little things will finally get done!

4. Rigid structures and deadlines

You may be able to start a decent bullet journal to-do list (all definitely received as gifts), only to lose it or forget about its existence later on. If you’re like me, blocking out specific chunks or stretches of time to complete tasks is next to useless. I either get distracted, procrastinate, become bored — or all three at once.

One thing that’s worked for me is analyzing my work rhythms and when it’s easiest for me to tap into the flow state of heightened concentration. Apps such as Todoist or Momentum help identify which times of day best align with maximum productivity.

Consider creating a rough outline of 1-3 major “must do’s,” “should do’s,” and “could do’s” for each day. Don’t get caught up in the timings and try your best to prioritize activities. It gets easier with practice.

5. Prolonged socializing

With close friends and confidants, many INTPs appear outwardly charismatic and humorous. This may lead others to falsely assume that your social battery has unlimited fuel — with exhausting results.

Your inferior Fe function can sometimes make it very difficult to say no. Establishing boundaries from the get-go can help minimize the crash afterward. Consecutive days “doing the social” is a hard no, unless they’re in short spurts.

Planning a rest day (or week) with lowered stimulation will keep your sanity in check and allow for clear thinking. At work, feel free to leave the group lunch early. You won’t be judged nearly as much as you think.

6. Waves of nostalgia

Your tertiary function, Introverted Sensing (Si) buddies up with your primary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti), under times of stress. This manifests under the dreaded Ti-Si loop.

During these periods, you may find yourself reminiscing about and heedlessly indulging in the past: old song marathons, yearbooks, or even archived projects that have been collecting dust over time. So you take a trip down memory lane, which can further trickle into false (and often inflated) memories of the “better times” — rosy retrospection, anyone?

Great news: You can effectively break free from these waves. Give some love to your auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). The realm of possibilities excites you — so bask in it.

Try out a new restaurant or bury your nose in a book outside your normal tastes. This gradually unhooks your brain from the stuffy Ti-Si thinking pattern and guides your thoughts into an experimental, open-ended state (cue synthwave music).

Whether you’re temporarily caught in the Ti-Si loop or deflated from the mighty grip of Fe, you can beat stress. Focus on what you can change now — even if it’s just finishing up the laundry.

Or cleaning up your files. And maybe finally getting those updates installed. 

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Lily Yuan is a minimalist with a knack for just missing the bus. As an INTP, you can bet her type has been (and still is) questioned profusely. You can visit her website or connect on LinkedIn.