12 Signs You Have an ‘Introvert Hangover’ (Yes, It’s Real)

A woman experiences an introvert hangover.

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 tired. Other people show no signs of slowing down, but you’re fighting a massive energy slump. What’s wrong with you?

It’s not that you don’t love your family. Some parts of the day were actually fun. But after so much socializing, you feel like you’ve run a marathon.

If this has happened to you, there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone. You’re probably an introvert, and you’re experiencing something that’s been dubbed the “introvert hangover”.

Yes, the introvert hangover is real. Although not an official diagnosis, it’s something all introverts have experienced at some point in their lives — social burnout at its very worst. As I explain in my book, The Secret Lives of Introverts, it’s a form of fatigue, with very real mental and physical effects.

Here are 12 signs that you might be suffering from an introvert hangover. You don’t need to experience all these symptoms to have an one, or you might experience somewhat different ones.

Signs of an Introvert Hangover

1. Every little thing is getting on your nerves.

When you have an introvert hangover, minor annoyances have the power to completely frazzle you. Under normal circumstances, you’d react with only mild irritation to misplacing your keys or your significant other’s snarky comment — but not now. An introvert hangover might throw you into a full-blown meltdown, complete with tears, biting sarcasm, insults, and raising your voice. It’s not unusual for even very loving couples or friends to get into vicious fights when one of them is socially exhausted.

2. You’re struggling to make decisions.

You’re having trouble making decisions about even simple things. Do you want a slice of pumpkin pie or cherry? The decision shouldn’t be so hard, but it is. When it comes to bigger issues, you might find yourself going over and over the situation in your head to the point of exasperation. You’re looking for the one bit of information that will reveal the correct path, but due to your exhaustion, your mind can’t pin it down.

3. You can’t think clearly.

Similar to #2, your brain is so fatigued that it feels like a pile of mush. It seems to be processing everything in slow motion. You might struggle to recall the details of things that you should easily know.

4. Your speech changes.

You might speak slower, with extra-long pauses between your words. You might say words close to what you mean but aren’t exact. “Dessert” becomes “candy” and “where’s my coat” becomes just a vague gesture. If you’re extremely fatigued, you might even come across as a little drunk, even if you’ve had little to no alcohol. You might run your words together, or mispronounce or slur them. (This has happened to me!)

5. You feel physically unwell.

Again, in extreme cases, some introverts report getting headaches, muscle aches, dizziness, or upset stomachs.

6. You’re tired.

Like, really tired. If someone offered you a quiet spot to nap, you’d take it in a heartbeat. You’re sluggish and just don’t have any energy. When you get home from the social event, you’re too exhausted to do much of anything. You crash on the couch, skipping your normal evening routine, or go to bed right away. You’re so tired that it feels like you’ve done an intense workout at the gym.

7. You’re zoning out.

You just can’t keep your mind on what’s going on around you. Someone is talking, but you’re not really hearing what they’re saying. You have a blank (or sad or angry) look on your face as your mind drifts away, thinking about nothing. Or you daydream, getting lost in your imagination. If you’re like me, you find yourself thinking deep, somewhat trippy thoughts about the origins of the universe, parallel dimensions, the possibility of life on other planets, and what it all means.

8. You feel anxious.

For some “quiet ones,” an introvert hangover exacerbates their social anxiety. They feel extra nervous or panicky in social situations, and they worry quite a bit that they’ll be judged negatively by others or say the wrong thing. The might have an overwhelming desire to escape the social event.

9. You feel depressed.

Some introverts spiral into negative or depressed thoughts when they’re fatigued with an introvert hangover. They find themselves being overly pessimistic and cynical, and they question decisions they’ve made in their life.

10. You’re not acting like your normal self.

Other people can tell that something’s up. You’re not your usual cheerful or kind self.

11. You just can’t do polite chitchat anymore.

You’ve run out of small talk. You’re craving a conversation of deeper sustenance.

12. You have an intense desire to be alone.

When you’re suffering from an introvert hangover, all you want to do is be alone. You want to curl up at home in your pajamas with a good book or your favorite TV series. You put your phone on silent, close your bedroom door, and do some much-needed self-care. Your significant other or roommate might be allowed to hang out with you — as long as they don’t talk or expect too much of you.

What Causes an Introvert Hangover?

So why do we get introvert hangovers? Because introverts are particularly susceptible to social burnout; 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 just don’t get “high” off socializing like extroverts do.

(To read more about the science behind why introverts love being alone and get easily drained from socializing, check out this article.)

To be clear, research shows that everyone gets drained from socializing eventually, even extroverts. That’s because socializing expends energy. However, for introverts, social burnout might strike more quickly and with more intensity.

The Only Cure for an Introvert Hangover

There’s only one way to get relief from an introvert hangover. Spend time alone, preferably in a calm, quiet place. Do your favorite self-care activity or hobby — anything that boosts your mood and energy. For introverts, solitude is as nourishing as food and water.

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 our needs or pretend that we don’t have them — and suffer the consequences.

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