When I saw the title “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert“ in a Huffington Post sidebar, I clicked on it immediately. Just out of curiosity. After all, I’ve known forever that I’m an introvert. A very shy introvert. (And no, shy and introverted are not the same thing.) I certainly don’t need another quickie pop psychology article to tell me about it. Still, I’ve spent a lot of time over the years reading about introversion and personality types, trying to better understand myself. Precisely the sort of thing an introvert would do. What we introverts really need is for more extroverts to read such articles. All too often we are misunderstood by the extroverts in our lives.
The article’s title is a classic journalistic hook — a simple, easy-to-read list. In this case, the list is a quick guide to tell you whether or not you’re an introvert, as if you didn’t already know. I started reading and, not surprisingly, found that many of the 23 signs are the sort of generalities that fortune tellers and mind readers toss out, the sort of generalities that might describe anyone at one time or another. ”You’re easily distracted,” for example. The explanations try to clarify, but a lot of casual readers will just skim the bullet points and not read the explanations.
I did get a chuckle out of Number 14. “You screen all your calls — even from friends.” I’d thought my approach to phone calls was just a personal eccentricity, but if the author is to be believed, it’s typical of introverts.
However, I was more than a little concerned by this:
As recently as 2010, the American Psychiatric Association even considered classifying “introverted personality” as a disorder by listing it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), a manual used to diagnose mental illness.
Talk about being misunderstood! I’ve known and accepted all my life that I’m introverted, that it apparently puts me in a minority, that it can make life difficult, and that often it is not appreciated or understood by others. But I’d certainly not heard that the APA ever considered classifying it as a “disorder” as though it were an abnormality requiring special attention, diagnosis, and treatment. And certainly not as recently as three years ago. The chilling effect of such an action, as noted in the linked Psychology Today article, would be to stigmatize introverts. Yet depending on your source, introverts make up anywhere from 17% to 50% of the population, with most now trending toward 50%. It would be ridiculous to label that many people “disordered.”
Apparently the author agreed because she closed with this:
With respect for the profession of psychiatry—the very field that brought us giants like Carl Jung who advanced our understanding of personality—we recommend that the WHO and the APA take a giant leap and stop casting suspicion on behaviors that are natural and normal. Wouldn’t it be fitting at this historic time for these organizations to join the healthy introversion camp by recognizing the more than 150 million Americans who, like Neil Armstrong, simply prefer to exercise their minds rather than their jaws?