Is There a Link Between Introversion and Suicide?

Hannah Baker

Trigger warning: This article discusses suicide and depression, and includes uncensored quotes from real people who have attempted suicide. It also contains minor spoilers from season one of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

By now, you may have seen the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. If you haven’t, let me briefly fill you in: Hannah Baker, a high school junior, commits suicide, leaving behind thirteen tapes explaining why she did it. Her peers are left to deal with the aftermath — and to come to terms with the role they played in her tragic act.

It’s hard to say whether Hannah is an introvert or an extrovert. At the beginning of the series, she’s confident and quick to reach out and make friends (Jessica, Alex, and others) — typical extroverted behavior. It isn’t until she experiences bullying and trauma that she becomes private and withdrawn. She broods and keeps her feelings to herself; she pushes people away (Clay), and we start seeing her alone more and more (for example, the late night walk that leads her to Bryce’s party). These behaviors could stem from introversion, but more likely, given what she’s been through, the root is depression. However, I’d argue that it would take the mind of a deep-focusing introvert to eloquently narrate thirteen tapes, as well as make a fool-proof plan to distribute them (including a back-up copy as a fail safe).

Whether Hannah is an introvert or an extrovert, the series got me wondering: Is there a link between introversion and suicide?

Introversion May Be a Risk Factor for Suicide

To be clear, both introverts and extroverts can be prone to depression and suicide; it’s not exclusive to introverts. Also, just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have depressive or suicidal tendencies; many introverts will never experience these things at all. However, a 1998 study published in Psychological Medicine shows that introversion may be a risk factor for suicidal behavior. Similarly, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that introverts made up 74 percent of the depression population.

If you’re an introvert like me, those revelations are both startling and heartbreaking. But, sadly, I can’t say that this is the first time I’ve encountered a connection between introversion and suicide. Along with 18 others, I manage the Introvert, Dear Facebook group, which is an online community of nearly 100,000 introverts from all over the world. Sadly, we see posts like the  ones below on a fairly regular basis. (These are actual posts from the Introvert, Dear Facebook group, so names and photos have been cropped out to protect the poster.)

 

 

It seems to me that this is an incredibly important issue for the introvert community to be aware of — awareness could save lives!

Why Are Introverts at Risk for Suicide and Depression?

There are several reasons introverts may be more at risk than extroverts for suicide and depression:

1. Isolation

Introverts tend to stay home more and have smaller social circles than extroverts — and that’s okay. In fact, for many introverts, getting plenty of downtime alone is what keeps them feeling sane and happy. However, alone time is only a good thing if it’s something you’re choosing — not something that’s forced on you because you don’t have many friends. Sadly, many introverts find that their distaste for small talk and their solitude-loving nature works against them, leaving them isolated and alone when they don’t want to be. According to Stephen Ilardi, author of The Depression Cure, isolation is a risk factor for depression, and depression, in turn, is a risk factor for suicide.

2. Perfectionism

Not all introverts are perfectionists, but so many of us are. We’re the ones who read an email five times before sending it; in college, we slaved away on our term paper for days and weeks until we got it just right. Although perfectionism in small amounts can be a good thing (working hard in college likely earned you good grades, which made more opportunities available to you), in large doses, it can lead to depression. That’s because people with “Never Enough Syndrome” can never live up to their own unrealistic expectations, and as a result, they may become depressed, according to Ann W. Smith, a therapist and the author of Overcoming Perfectionism.

3. Daydreaming

Daydreaming can make us more creative, but it can also make us depressed. According to a 2010 study by Harvard psychologists, people who were daydreaming reported feeling happy only 56 percent of the time. That’s because we often fantasize about things that are unattainable, and we may even start to prefer our fantasy world to the real world — and this can make us miserable, according to Eli Somer, a psychologist at Israel’s University of Haifa, who spoke with Men’s Health. And who’s great at daydreaming? Introverts.

What to Do If You’re an Introvert Who Feels Suicidal

First of all, remember that whatever you’re going through can and will change. Your feelings will change. In a few hours or days, you may feel differently than you do right now. In a few weeks or months, your life could be completely different — in a good way.

Remember that you matter to someone. Your life has touched many lives, and your absence would leave a vacuum. You are loved, even if depression is telling you that you’re not.

As an introvert, it’s easy for you to keep your emotions to yourself, and your negative feelings are probably no exception. Today, reach out to someone you trust, and tell them as much as you feel comfortable telling them. You don’t have to tell them everything, but try talking about how you feel. Research has found that simply naming your feelings (“I’m feeling really sad right now”) helps us better contain and mange even our most painful emotions.

Most important, seek professional help. You may need help getting depression and suicidal thoughts to go away — and that’s okay. Contacting one of these organizations is a good start:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours, every day

International Association for Suicide Prevention

Click on the map to find crisis centers in your country.

Project Semicolon

An organization that helps prevent suicide around the world.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Learn about treatment options and find a therapist (U.S.).

Special thanks to Brad Perucki and the administrators/moderators of the Introvert, Dear Facebook group, who contributed to this article.

Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert 

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  • Spygliukas

    Thank You

  • Rachel Leigh Smith

    And don’t be afraid to pursue medication. I’ve been on anti-depressants for 11 years now. I call it my magic pill, and I never want to go off of it.

  • M.

    This was a really interesting article. As an introvert who has been fighting depressive behaviour for years, I can relate so much to the risk factors. The worst thing about them is that there are two sides to everything, so these things can be good for you, but they can turn to the worse out of the blue.

    The most important thing is to know exactly what you write in the end: The bad feelings are going to change. You will feel differently next week. Feelings are never constant. They change all the time. And feelings do not have to control your actions. Just because you’re angry and want to hit something, doesn’t mean you’re actually going to hit something. And so it is with depression. If you’re feeling sad and feel like you can’t do anything but lie in your bed, know that your actions can be different. You can get up from your bed and do things. Take a shower. Eat some food. Read a book. Anything. You are that strong and I believe in you. You’ll get there!

  • Steven Zawila

    I’m not gonna lie, there have been times in my life where I’ve felt this way as well. I think that introverts are particularly at risk because we tend to keep smaller networks by definition. Extroverts are often well-connected and have more people to talk to when they feel down, but introverts may more easily feel like they have no one to reach out to for help.