In this article and video, I’m going to talk about social isolation for the INTJ. This is a potential area of weakness—a possible self-destructive behavior—for the INTJ. According to a study by Andrew Steptoe, et al., researchers found that “after adjusting statistically for demographic factors and baseline health, social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality.”
Many other studies that I’ve read through the years have indicated that loneliness or isolation can lead to more health problems or an early death. Therefore, you want to be on guard for this tendency to isolate yourself. The last position you want to be in as an INTJ, is one in which you have lost your sense of control or independence.
INTJ Social Isolation
Before I begin, I just want to suggest that there’s nothing wrong with some isolation, so long as it is within reason.
- There is nothing wrong with socially withdrawing to process your emotions or to grieve. I do this. When something tragic happens to me, I want to isolate and process everything.
- There is nothing wrong with being an introvert or desiring regular periods of solitude. In fact, those things can help to recharge you as an INTJ. I have to say that, because the extroverts in the world are always trying to “fix” introverts. Instead of trying to convince us to “get out” more, maybe introverts should start bullying the extroverts and tell them to stay home more and read some books! INTJs need regular periods of solitude to function at 100%.
- There is nothing wrong with focusing on a project or working hard for a short period to achieve some goal. If you want to accomplish something great in life, it’s probably going to take some discipline and focus. Think of it this way: Most birds flock together, but eagles fly alone; and they soar much higher than other birds. As an INTJ, you’re an eagle. You’re not better than other people, just different. Eagles are no better than sparrows, just different.
Therefore, it’s not always wrong to isolate for a brief period. But I have struggled with over-isolating myself in the past. INTJs may fantasize about living on a deserted island (or in some remote cabin in the woods), but that can be detrimental to your long-term mental health.
Think of it this way: Our bodies need food. If you cut off all food sources and fail to eat, your body will be fine for a few days. However, after a few weeks, you will begin to have health problems. Eventually, you’ll die.
In the same way, all personality types (even INTJs) need social interaction to function properly. If you cut out all social interaction and isolate yourself for very long periods (months), your mental health may deteriorate.
My Experience with Isolation
I have noticed a trend that when I get burned by someone, or experience a failure, my first reaction is to withdraw. With the exception of my wife, I’ve actually gone months with no social contact, except for maybe saying hello to a cashier in a grocery store. I went through a period where I was depressed, I was misanthropic, and I was miserable.
I cut myself off from all social contact that I could (aside from my wife, of course). I didn’t go anywhere besides the grocery store for months at a time. However, I eventually snapped out of it.
I’ll probably always struggle with feeling the desire to isolate myself, but I have a my wife, son, extended family, and church to keep me grounded.
Signs You’re Over-Isolating Yourself
While some solitude (or brief isolation) can be healthy, you may have tendencies to over-isolate. Here are some signs you’re not getting enough social interaction.
- You feel lonely and want to connect with others, but you can’t figure out how to do it.
- You start having unhealthy thinking patterns. You may embrace bizarre conspiracies or become paranoid and think everyone’s out to harm you in some way.
- You may neglect your appearance or hygiene.
- You may find it extremely difficult to engage in any kind of social interaction, and you resist doing so. In other words, something as simple as going into a grocery store may be a real challenge for you, because you fear talking to people or interacting socially.
- It has been weeks or months since you’ve had face-to-face contact with another human being.
INTJ Isolation Problems
The biggest reason you want to interact socially is that it will keep you healthy and happy, even if the process can be awkward or uncomfortable. If you don’t get enough social interaction, you can begin to have the following problems.
- You can limit your success or happiness by cutting yourself off too much. You may miss opportunities to make valuable friends, romantic mates, or advance in your career.
- You can begin to fall into other self-destructive patterns, such as cynicism, self-hatred, depression, low self-esteem, misanthropy, drug addiction. I’ll talk about those in the coming weeks.
- You may begin to develop social anxiety and extreme awkwardness when you are in social situations. This can lead to more isolation and intense feelings of loneliness or despair. Granted, INTJs struggle with this anyway, but it can be greatly amplified.
- You may become suicidal and begin harming yourself or others.
Tips for Overcoming Isolation
I’d recommend that every INTJ should have at least 1-2 people with whom they can spend face-to-face time (outside of work or the internet). This can be family, friends, a spouse/date, or whatever. They can pull you out of your shell and ensure that you get enough contact to stay mentally healthy.
If you don’t have those 1-2 people, I’d make that a number one priority. Forget about hobbies until you can develop a face-to-face relationship with at least one other human being. How can you do that?
- Maybe join social media like Facebook and try to reconnect with an old acquaintance.
- Try an online dating site.
- Look for a club or conference related to your own personal interests or hobbies.
- Take some classes with like-minded people that meet every few weeks or month. That may enable you to meet a friend.
- Consider going to college to get a degree (or a more advanced degree).
- Start with low-key social situations. If you’ve been isolated for too long and find situations uncomfortable, start small. Go to the library and be around others without having to interact. Go out to eat once a week and talk to the server. Go to the movies and be around others.
- Be friendly to people. Smile, and ask them how they’re doing.
- Recognize that those intense feelings of awkwardness or anxiety are only temporary. They will often fade once you become used to socializing on a regular basis.
In conclusion, you always want to get some social interaction as an INTJ, and you never want to isolate yourself too much. It can hold you back from being happy and from realizing your full potential.
Bobby Fischer was one of the greatest chess players in history. Many people type him as an INTJ (or INTP). He struggled with many mental health issues. However, I think his final words were interesting. He said, “There is nothing so healing as the human touch.” Whether we like it or not, even INTJs are social creatures. We may need less social interaction than others, but we do need some social interaction to remain mentally healthy.
Andrew Steptoe, Aparna Shankar, Panayotes Demakakos, and Jane Wardle. Social Isolation, Loneliness, and All-cause Mortality in Older Men and Women. PNAS 2013 110 (15) 5797-5801; March 25, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1219686110