What causes stress for the INTJ personality type? How do INTJs react under stress? What are some ways that INTJs can control or reduce stress in their lives?
Some INTJs are resistant to stress, but many are quite susceptible to it. One additional characteristic added by some personality profiles (such as 16personalities.com) is the “Turbulent vs Assertive” dichotomy. Turbulent types are easily stressed, but assertive types are resistant to it. (I’m a turbulent INTJ). Nevertheless, any INTJ could become stressed, as it is a natural human response.
INTJ Stress Causes
Here are some things that can cause stress for the INTJ personality type (or INFJ, as they share the same dominant and inferior functions):
- Thinking too much about future possibilities of what can go wrong. I think any dominant intuitive (N) type could struggle with this. INTJs are especially known for long-range planning. Thinking of the future and the possibilities can become taxing. INTJs can also begin to worry about everything that can go wrong in a given situation.
- Over-using lesser functions can lead to stress for INTJs. Activities that require too much use of Extroverted Sensing (living in the now, focusing intensely on details), Introverted Feeling (discussing your values, considering or expressing emotions), or Extroverted Thinking (assessing things logically, organizing things, working toward goals too much without recharging) can lead to stress and exhaustion for INTJs.
- Too much social interaction can cause stress for INTJs. We’re one of the most introverted of the sixteen types. We require copious amounts of alone time to process our thoughts, plans, and so on. It can cause stress when we engage too often with other people. In fact, even the thought of social interaction or attending a social function can drain me or stress me out.
- Surprises or interruptions stress the INTJ. INTJs plan everything, which gives us a sense of control. Surprises make us feel as if we are losing that control. For example, a refrigerator breaking down can cause a lot of stress because the INTJ will not only have to alter his or her plans, but there is the added aggravation of shopping/price comparing a new refrigerator, dealing with a sales or delivery person, and making up lost time.
- Financial setbacks can cause stress (as with most people). When I encounter an unexpected expense, it always annoys me and stresses me about a bit—much like my refrigerator breaking down. Doing taxes is also stressful for me due to the ridiculously complicated tax scheme.
- Not having a life plan will stress out an INTJ. Some of the most depressing and stressed periods in my life were times in which I had no clue about what to do with my life. I had no strategy of how to move forward, and I felt hopeless and paralyzed. It’s often very important for INTJs to have a future vision of their life.
- Having plans that fail can be stressful. While INTJs are great at making contingencies, those contingencies often support one grand plan or goal. When an INTJ realizes that the grand plan or goal has failed, it can be very stressful and depressing. It makes us feel like failures, and we hate it. We can question everything.
- Life-changing events can cause stress. Any type can become stressed over big life events, such as having a baby, getting married, dealing with loss, etc. My wife once had a swollen lymph node due to a bad reaction from bug spray, and I was stressed that she might have cancer or something.
- Dealing with stupid, immature, or disrespectful people can cause stress for INTJs. INTJs become really bogged down when people argue from feeling and not from logic. Being around people who don’t “get” INTJs can be really exhausting and stressful as well. People who don’t listen to an INTJ’s needs or desires can cause stress. People with over-the-top emotions or energy can be very draining and stressful.
- Public speaking, talking on the phone, or meeting new people can be stressful for INTJs. I’d always stress about having to get up in class and give a speech. It was horrible. I often become stressed if I know I have to make multiple phone calls to solve some issue. I hate having to meet new people when I’m not in the mood to do so.
- Not having closure in something can cause stress. Having to deal with a toxic person, for example, can cause stress because I’d like to have closure from them. Having too many things remain open-ended can be stressful. I want to have a plan. I want to have things decided and completed. I don’t like loose ends.
- INTJs need autonomy on the job. I hate having to follow random orders from an incompetent person, especially if they are inefficient or pointless. I hate being unable to express creativity. I like autonomy and solving problems in a creative way. INTJs can become stressed in their jobs if they don’t feel like they are ever going to earn enough money, advance in some way, etc. I’ve dealt with all of those issues in the past.
How INTJs React Under Stress
Here are some ways an INTJ (or INFJ) might act when under minor stress:
- INTJs or INFJs might begin withdrawing from people, avoiding social events, or not returning calls, texts, or emails. They will refuse to socialize. I have even been somewhat dry with cashiers at stores when I was stressed. My social anxiety can return or amplify, making me feel as if I have Asperger’s (I don’t).
- INTJs will have even less tolerance for nonsense than usual (non-stressed INTJs have virtually zero tolerance in the first place, so you can imagine…). We will not put up with disrespect, trolling, or any other nonsense, period. If you are rude to an INTJ who is stressed, they’ll probably let you know how they feel about it.
- INTJs will become irritable, abrasive, and argumentative—perhaps resembling an ENTP, our “fraternal twins” when looking at the cognitive functions (we have the same functions but with a different attitude). JetBlast Joe, a viewer on my YouTube channel, pointed out how ENTPs and INTJs can resemble one another when under stress.
- INTJs can have difficulty concentrating on things as their Introverted Intuition (Ni) is going haywire. They will become distracted, especially when interacting with others. Small irritations or distractions will become a great annoyance. INTJs can snap over things that normally don’t bother them.
- INTJs become extremely stubborn and refuse to partake in the social “games,” or they can create impossible demands for others to follow. For example, an INTJ may warn people never to come over unannounced or to only call on certain days of the week (I’ve done this before). Bobby Fischer, under extreme pressure, was very stubborn during one of his chess matches, and he began to make crazy demands, which the Russians actually met so that he would play.
- INTJs can go on rants about how inefficient things are, how ignorant a certain person is, etc.
- INTJs or INFJs may go into total nihilism mode and feel as if life is worthless, nothing will ever work out, the human race is doomed, etc. I know that when I am stressed, I often feel like giving up on life. I lose motivation to go on, and I feel like it is too much of a struggle to continue to “fight” to make it in this world.
- INTJs or INFJs can begin to obsess over their appearance, fight off fears of failure, struggle with self-esteem issues, and more.
Under extreme stress, INTJs or INFJs will get “in the grip” of their inferior function as a way of coping and escaping the overuse of the dominant function. Reverting to the inferior function is a way for your body to provide relief from the overuse of your Ni. For INTJs and INFJs, our inferior function is Extroverted Sensing (Se).
While in the grip of Extroverted Sensing (Se), INTJs or INFJs may do the following:
- INTJs can become fixated on some small problem. INTJs are normally “big picture” thinkers, but we will obsess over the smallest stuff while “in the grip” of our Extroverted Sensing. We will live in the moment and act more like an ESFP, our shadow type. There have been times when I have completely shut down and have been terribly unproductive for up to a week because I couldn’t figure a small detail out about some business or tax issue. I’d obsess about it and research it for days in an attempt to solve the problem myself. Then, I’d whine about how stupid our political/economic system is, and how I’d like to abolish it and replace it with a better system. Then, I’d try to figure out my issue again. After a week or so, I’d finally figure out my issue and move on. Ugh.
- INTJs can indulge in excessive sensory stimuli (Se). INTJs can turn to binge activities such as overeating, listening to music for hours or days, playing video games, binge watching movies or TV shows (it’s okay if it’s my YouTube channel!), engaging in sexual activity, etc. I once shut down after an extremely stressful event and watched an every season of a popular TV series (24, with Kiefer Sutherland) in a matter of days! I have also consumed foods that I normally don’t eat, and so forth.
- INTJs or INFJs can engage in impulsive or risky behavior. INTJs might buy an expensive item without comparing prices or weighing their options. After one stressful event, I decided to buy a new computer system. In fact, most of my big purchases came after or during a stressful event. INTJs can also engage in risky behaviors like speeding, drugs, or other things, having no regard for future consequences. We can live so in the moment while under stress that we might have no concept of the future.
Ways to Minimize Stress
- Make sure that you’re taking care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating a proper diet, exercising regularly, etc. I’m much more prone to stress (and very irritable) when I haven’t had enough sleep, so I keep a close watch on that. Exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. I work out about three times per week.
- Keep watch over your social interaction and don’t overextend yourself. I try not to engage socially more than once per week (often much less) with people outside of my family. I need time alone to rest and recharge. INTJs are introverts, and we recharge in solitude and become drained when socializing.
- Talk to someone. It’s easy to consider the 50 possibilities of what’s going to happen, but someone else can help you regain focus and perspective. Ni can have the tendency of exaggerating problems and possibilities when under stress.
- Stay balanced by incorporating “safe” sensory activities into your daily life. Don’t ever get the idea that you “must” engage in risky behavior just because you’re stressed. Don’t blame your crazy behavior on your Extroverted Sensing, because you can find healthy ways to engage it. Some things that help me escape my mind include listening to music, getting a massage, watching movies or funny “fail” YouTube videos, putting together puzzles, going outside, working out, playing board games with my family, etc. Again, you don’t want to overdo it, because overindulging in weaker functions can actually cause stress or exhaustion. However, using your other functions in moderation (especially Se) will help you maintain a healthy balance.
- Spontaneous, short vacations can work wonders. A few months after my wife gave birth to our son, we had many stressful events happen at once. It was horrible, and we were so exhausted and stressed. We took a quick weekend vacation, and that change of scenery reset us. We swam; we shopped; we ate tasty food; and we watched TV—all without interruption from family or work. It was amazing how much it helped us to break away from our negative thoughts and worries. Our stress evaporated.
- If you catch yourself thinking too much about some future event, try to push the thoughts out of your mind and busy yourself with some task. Most of the stuff we stress about never happens anyway, and some things are unavoidable. Therefore, it is irrational to stress too much. Also, I have found that if I shift my focus off of whatever I’m stressing about and focus on something else, after a good night’s sleep, I will often wake up with a solution to my problem. Your Introverted Intuition (Ni) can actually work things out in the background if you stop trying to “force” it.
- Last but not least, I pray. I turn my problems or concerns over to God, and ask for His help. I often itemize a list of things bothering me, and I’ll pray about those specific things. I ask God to help me solve my problems and give me strength. Interestingly, the MBTI Manual stated that INTJ’s “highest rank on coping resource used was spiritual/philosophical” (76). So, it seems like it’s quite common for INTJs to turn to some spiritual or philosophical outlet to alleviate stress.
INTJs and Stress: Conclusion
Stress is an unfortunate part of life that’s virtually unavoidable. However, if you can learn what stresses you out, watch out for the warning signs of extreme stress (the Se grip), and proactively use strategies to prevent or manage stress, you can minimize its damaging effects.
What stresses you out most as an INTJ, INFJ, or other type? How do you cope with stress? Feel free to leave a comment on the YouTube channel!
- Isabel Briggs Myers, et al. MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 3rd ed. Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. 1998.