Does this sound familiar?
You’ve spent all day with your family, and now you’re so exhausted that you can barely see straight. You’re both mentally drained and physically exhausted. You wonder if there’s something wrong with you, because other people seem to be having fun while you’re fighting a massive energy slump.
It’s not that you don’t love your family. In fact, you may have enjoyed spending time with them. But after all that socializing, you feel like you’ve run a marathon.
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.
We introverts are particularly susceptible to social burnout because socializing can overstimulate us. It has to do with the way we’re wired. Compared to extroverts, we’re more sensitive to noise and other forms of stimulation. Because of the way our brains respond to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine, we 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 different ones. What you experience will depend on various factors, such as how introverted you are, how long you socialized, how meaningful the interactions were, how noisy/busy your environment was, etc.
Signs You Have 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, even decisions about simple things are hard. Do you want pumpkin pie or cherry? This shouldn’t be so difficult.
4. You say words that are close to what you mean, but not exactly. There are longer-than-normal pauses between your words.
5. If you’re really exhausted, your words may come out slightly slurred — even if you’ve had little to no alcohol.
6. You’re tired. Like, really tired.
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, even though it’s not over yet.
10. You may have depressed or negative thoughts. You question decisions you’ve made. You find yourself being overly pessimistic and cynical.
11. You’re not acting like your normal self.
12. You go quiet. People ask, “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. 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 annoyingly louder. Lights seem harsher.
17. All you want to do is get away and be alone, preferably somewhere calm and quiet.
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 recover some of your energy. 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, we introverts may feel like our way of being is wrong. We may worry that our needs will inconvenience someone or hurt someone’s feelings. So we might hide their needs or pretend that we don’t have them — and suffer.
It’s okay to leave the party early. It’s okay to spend time alone. 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