Does this sound familiar? You’ve spent all day with your family. Maybe you ate a big meal. You caught up with your cousin about her latest vacation. You listened as your uncle told that story, again, about the year the turkey was accidentally served frozen.
And now you’re so exhausted you can barely see straight.
It’s not that you don’t love your family. In fact, you may have even enjoyed spending time with them. But after all that socializing, you feel like you’ve run a marathon. You’re both mentally drained and physically exhausted. Some members of your family, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing down — specifically, the more extroverted ones.
You start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Other people seem to be having fun, but you’re fighting a massive energy slump.
If this has happened to you, you’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re probably an introvert, and you’re suffering from something that’s been dubbed the “introvert hangover”.
Of course, everyone gets worn out by socializing eventually (even extroverts, according to one study). That’s because talking, emoting, and listening expend energy. The introvert hangover is social burnout at its very worst.
Introverts are particularly susceptible to social burnout because socializing can overstimulate them. It has to do with the way introverts are wired. They tend to be more sensitive than extroverts to noise, activity, and other forms of stimulation. And, because of the way their brains respond to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine, they just don’t get “high” off socializing like extroverts do.
Yes, the introvert hangover is real.
Here are 17 signs you’re suffering from one. You may not experience all these symptoms, or you may have somewhat different ones. What you experience will depend on your level of introversion, as well as how long you socialized, how much energy you had going into the event, and other factors.
Are you fighting an introvert hangover?
Signs You’re Suffering From an Introvert Hangover
1. Every little thing is getting on your nerves, from the way your spouse asked where the car keys are to your mom insisting that you take home leftovers.
2. Your brain feels like a pile of mush. You can’t think straight.
3. Similarly, you can’t make a decision about even the simplest thing. Do you want pumpkin pie or cherry? WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!
4. You say words that are close to what you mean, but not exactly. You just can’t seem to pull the right words from your brain anymore. “Brownie” becomes “candy” and “Where’s my coat?” becomes just a vague gesture.
5. If you’re really exhausted, your words may even come out slightly slurred — even if you’ve had little to no alcohol.
6. You’re tired. Like, really tired. You would fall asleep right now if someone gave you a comfy place to lie down.
7. You may feel physically unwell. Some introverts describe getting headaches, muscle aches, dizziness, or upset stomachs.
8. You feel discombobulated, as if things are happening in a blur. Your mind seems to be processing things in slow motion.
9. You feel trapped and anxious. You start calculating how to slip away from the event, party, or get-together, even though it’s not technically over yet.
10. You may have depressive or negative thoughts. As you turn inward, your mind spirals downward. You question decisions you’ve made or wonder about the meaning of it all.
11. You’re not acting like your normal self.
12. You go quiet. People start asking, “Are you okay?” Or, “Why are you being so quiet?”
13. You just can’t do polite chitchat anymore. You’re craving something of deeper sustenance.
14. You’re zoning out, unable to concentrate well. Someone annoyingly waves a hand in front of your face and says, “Helloooooo! Anybody home?”
15. You’re struggling to explain your mental state and lack of energy. People are interpreting your quietness as rudeness, standoffishness, or disinterest.
16. Noises seem louder. Lights seem brighter.
17. All you want to do is get away from it all and go be alone, preferably somewhere calm and quiet, like your bedroom.
The Only Cure for an Introvert Hangover
If you’re suffering from an introvert hangover, there’s only one way to get relief: Spend time alone, preferably in a calm, quiet place. Do something that boosts your energy and mood, like reading a good book, watching a favorite show, or indulging in a favorite hobby. For introverts, solitude is as nourishing as food and water.
If you’re stuck at an event and can’t get away, you can still start to recover some of your energy. Leave the party and go for a short walk by yourself. Help clear the table or do another chore; having a task to focus on can help, and it’s an excuse to not chat for a while. Most important, leave the event before you’ve hit rock bottom on your energy levels.
Above all, remember that your needs as an introvert are valid. In a society that values the extrovert’s way, introverts may feel like their way of being is “wrong.” Or introverts may worry that their needs will inconvenience someone or hurt someone’s feelings. So they hide their needs or pretend that they don’t have them. As a result, they often end up suffering in silence.
It’s okay to need to leave the party early. It’s okay to need to spend time alone in a quiet place. Your needs are perfectly valid, too.
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Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman
Image credit: @Hayley_Alexander via Twenty20