In this video, I’m going to cover social anxiety and isolation problems, which is one of the self-destructive behaviors that I mentioned in my last video.
I have plenty of experience when it comes to social anxiety and isolation. In fact, I used to joke with my wife that if I ever went to prison, I’d be the only guy begging for solitary confinement. I once considered making a doormat with Proverbs 25:17 written on it:
“Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.”
So let me begin by sharing some of the social anxiety and avoidance experiences:
Social Anxiety and Isolation
- I’ve felt extreme awkwardness in social situations. I was very uncomfortable and wanted to leave the situation. I felt weird and abnormal.
- I’d go to the store at 6:00 in the morning, use self-checkouts, and avoid stores if I knew someone who worked or shopped there.
- I’d often feel as if everyone was watching me in public.
- When I lived in an apartment, I’d look outside the window to see if anyone was outside before leaving. If there were people outside, I’d wait until they left before exiting my door. If a trip wasn’t urgent, I’d sometimes wait 30-60 minute to leave.
- I’d always sit in the back at school, restaurants, or movie theaters so that I could avoid contact with people and get out as soon as it was over.
- I hated group projects or presentations in school.
- I’d avoid going outside on days when I was expecting a package to be delivered. I’d watch the UPS guy through the blinds, and then I’d sneak out and get it once he left.
- I’d dread having to call a repairman to come to my house to fix something, and I’d do everything possible to avoid it.
- I would get anxious ordering food at a fast food restaurant, so I’d let my wife order for us.
- Aside from my wife, I’ve gone extended periods without social interaction, sometimes months.
- I’ve struggled with having a desire to want to even talk to people. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I got entangled in personality theory in the first place. I wondered why I didn’t really have much of a desire to be social. I really didn’t want to attend any social events or hang out with people at all.
Are “INTJ” Social Problems Unique? Nope.
Are social problems unique to the “INTJ personality type?” No, they aren’t. You can find countless forum threads of ENTPs, ENFPs, ENFJs, ISFJs, and every other occult pseudoscience Jungian type talking about social anxiety and isolation problems. You can’t reduce social anxiety down to only introverts, certain temperaments, or certain cognitive functions. Anyone can experience social problems.
Jungian typology is foolish, and I hope everyone stops taking it seriously. Studies have shown that these 16 personality types don’t actually exist in any meaningful, scientific sense.
“Consistent with earlier research and evaluations, there was no support for the view that the MBTI measures truly dichotomous preferences or qualitatively distinct types; instead, the instrument measures four relatively independent dimensions.”
Why You Want to Fix Social Isolation and Anxiety
Many of us struggle to socialize, but I want to give you some reasons why you want to address social anxiety or isolation issues. I’m not saying that you have to socialize all the time. There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying solitude or being a relatively quiet person. If you work out in public, you’re probably getting a lot of social engagement and enjoy your time off alone, which is great.
However, if you cut yourself off from society too much, it can begin to affect your life in a negative way.
Actor Jim Carrey once said the following:
“Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realize how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy.”
And there is a danger in saying, “I’m an INTJ or INTP, and this is just how I operate,” because sometimes we can hide behind the pseudoscience label and get into unhealthy patterns that can harm our physical or mental health.
For example, in one 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.” 
- Some studies have indicated that isolation can induce depression or suicidal ideation and self-harm.
- You can begin to fall into other self-destructive patterns that I’ve mentioned, without even realizing it. I’m talking about issues such as nihilism, self-hatred, low self-esteem, misanthropy, or addictions. I’ll talk about some of those in the coming weeks.
- You may miss opportunities to meet potential friends, romantic mates, advance in your career, or enjoy a higher quality of life if you isolate yourself too much.
Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety and Isolation
I know that it can be extremely difficult to engage socially. Frankly, I don’t always enjoy the process and often have to force myself to do it. But there’s a passage in the Bible that I often think apply to many situations in life, including socializing or dealing with people:
“Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4).
This passage is basically saying this: Life is a lot easier when you cut out certain hassles, but the net result is a loss. It’s better to tolerate some annoying situations in life, because in the end, you’ll profit from it in some way. And that’s how I view socializing.
God gives you certain gifts that you need to share with others, and other people have gifts to share with you. You can do some of that online, but it’s also important to do some of it in person, too.
Bobby Fischer was one of the greatest chess players in history, but he had a pattern of mental health issues and social isolation. Do you know what his final words were?
He said, “Nothing is as healing as the human touch.”
I don’t always have a desire to socialize, but I’ve learned to overcome many of my social anxiety issues. I’ve taught a Sunday School class at church; I’ve handed out gospel tracts at a local fair, and I try to engage in the occasional social event.
Here are some things that have helped me cope with social anxiety and isolation.
- Realize that Social Anxiety is Normal after a Period of Isolation. If you don’t exercise regularly, what happens? You lose muscle size and endurance, and you get extreme soreness when you finally do workout. But when you workout regularly, your body becomes conditioned. In the same way, if you don’t engage in regular social interaction, feelings of anxiety can be intense, and social interaction will be extremely awkward. However, the anxiety will subside over time, and your social skills will improve with regular practice.
- Start small by socializing with people you know, such as friends or family. Then, try to branch out and go to low-key places that are public so that you can be around people. Consider attending a library, college course, Bible study, seminar, ballgame, museum, or other places where you can be around people.
- Get a Friend or Loved One to Help You Socialize. A few years ago, I had been isolating myself, but I realized that I need to start attending church. My wife went with me, and at first, it was horrible. I had to shake hands, talk with people, and so on. I thought I was going to pass out from the anxiety. But my wife told me that I looked very comfortable and that she had no clue I was feeling so awkward. She also helped carry the conversations with people, too. You may feel awkward, but that awkwardness isn’t always visible to others. Over time, I began to feel comfortable. I learned more about the people, and I could do small talk with them.
- Use humor to diffuse awkward social situations. Joking or laughing will diffuse the tension in social situations and make it melt like butter. I often like to use self-deprecating humor to make people laugh, and this breaks the ice and helps me feel better.
- Make sure you have a healthy self-image. Some people struggle with social anxiety because they have a deep-rooted fear of being judged or rejected. You may have an underlying self-esteem issue that you need to address, such as feeling stupid, ugly, and so forth. I’m going to talk about that in the future, but it’s important to address the underlying problem that’s causing you to fear social interaction.
- Socialize with positive, like-minded people. Many “introverts” will say that socializing is very draining for them. But some research shows that all types of people are energized by socializing. I’ve been pondering this for a while. I’ve noticed that it is the quality of the social interaction that determines whether I’m drained or energized by it. Some social situations can be draining because I have to filter what I say or engage in topics I find boring, which creates mental exhaustion. But when I’m in the company of like-minded people, I don’t have to filter as much, I can discuss topics that I find relevant and fascinating, and I can be energized by it.
- Stop dwelling on the possibilities that could happen. It’s easy to think of all the things that could go wrong during a planned social event, but try to push those thoughts out of your mind. Maybe you can memorize a few talking points or jokes, but don’t obsess over the “what-ifs.” In addition, don’t over-analyze the situation after you leave, either. Force yourself to think about other things.
- Avoid recreational drugs. Drugs like alcohol or marijuana may seem like a great short-term solution to overcome social anxiety, but they often amplify the problem. Bill Wilson, the man who started Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), became a drunk after turning to “social drinking” to combat his social anxiety. Alcohol nearly destroyed his life. In addition, marijuana has been known to trigger severe social anxiety, schizophrenia, and even paranoia in some individuals. It can create a vicious cycle of dependency, which can increase social anxiety and other mental health problems.
- Get an accountability partner. My wife ensures that I’m going to go to church each week and engage in some social events here and there, and that helps me do it when I want to make excuses and avoid it. It’s especially important that I force myself to do it, because I work from home and don’t get a lot of social interaction aside from my wife and son.
I hope those tips help. I’d love to hear your experiences with social anxiety or any tips you have to share with others. Feel free to comment on my YouTube video on INTJ social anxiety. Thanks for watching!
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