Are INFJs more prone to depression?
How does the INFJ’s personality traits contribute to depression?
And how do you help yourself when you are feeling depressed?
Earlier this week, we have the World Mental Health Day on 10th October and I have written a post on depression in general to increase the awareness of this mental illness. For this post, I want to focus on INFJ depression.
Each personality type has different stresses in life. What causes each of us to have depression might be drastically different even though the underlying cause of all our sufferings might be due to non-acceptance.
INFJ is said to be one of the most vulnerable to depression.
Generally, introverts are more likely to be depressed than extroverts because we tend to ruminate on our problems a lot more and not share them with others. Also, NF personality types are more idealistic and have a tougher time living in this practical, sensory-focused world.
For INFJs, our dominant function, introverted intuition (Ni), which is supposed to be our strength, also makes us more susceptible to feeling depressed.
Why Are INFJs More Prone to Depression?
First, I want to clarify that sadness is not the same as depression. Yes, INFJs feel sad easily. But this is because we feel emotions deeply and we empathize with other people, even with fictional characters in the movies or books. This is normal and even healthy for an INFJ. Our auxiliary function is the extraverted feeling (Fe) and we need to express and feel these emotions periodically.
Depression is different. Depression is when we lose hope and want to give up on our lives. We get to this stage when our introverted intuition (Ni) function interprets that there is no hope for us.
INFJs are too good at seeing potential problems.
As INFJs are so intuitive, we are able to spot potential problems before they arise. So we spend more time worrying and ruminating on these problems. If we can’t see a solution to our future problems now, we might get hopeless easily. For other more impulsive types, they might not even be aware that their actions now will bring them problems in the future. So they just go ahead and act on it and only deal with the problem when it comes.
For example, most people will work hard and try to earn a lot of money, only to find themselves in a mid-life crisis in their 50s and 60s. After their career comes to an end and their kids grow up and leave the nest, they feel lost and depressed. Suddenly, they realize they don’t have a purpose in life anymore. They start to question why they have worked so hard in the first place and forced themselves to do something they don’t enjoy for so long.
I had my mid-life career crisis in my 20s! When I was in my first job, I already thinking about the purpose and meaning of my life. I’m already asking myself, “Is accounting something that I want to do for the rest of my life?” Later, I ended up having a mild depression because I felt stuck in my job and couldn’t see a way out.
Our introverted intuition (Ni) function might allow us to see the end faster, but it’s also a curse at the same time when we don’t know how to handle this function well.
3 Causes of INFJ Depression
Same as most people who have depression, non-acceptance is the main cause of our sufferings. For INFJs in particular, it’s our inability to accept reality and the world being different from our ideal vision and imagination.
1. High Expectations for Everything
INFJs are perfectionists. We don’t just have high expectations for ourselves. We have this ideal image of what the world should be. Most of us think we know what’s good for other people and we want to help other people solve their problems.
But the issue is other people might not even see or think they have a problem. This leaves us feeling frustrated and disappointed with others and ourselves because we are not able to get them to see our insights.
The world is never going to be like what we imagine.
INFJs get depressed when we realize that the external reality is never going to be the same as our ideal world. The society pays too much attention to physical beauty, status, possession, money and etc, while we value peace and harmony.
Unhealthy INFJs and other NF types such as INFPs are too attached to their idealistic views. Once INFJs form a conclusion of something, we hold onto it tightly. We keep forcing our beliefs and ideal views on the world and other people, only to break our own hearts in the process when others refuse to change.
2. Lack of Direction and Connection
INFJs need clarity and we are always seeking meanings in everything we do. We often feel lost in life and unfulfilled in our careers.
Furthermore, INFJs want to fit in and feel connected. We want to be normal and like everyone else, so we would try the conventional path that everyone is taking at first. However, we would soon realize that the conventional path just doesn’t suit us.
INFJs want both meaning and a comfortable lifestyle.
Even though INFJs are known to be idealistic, we are pretty pragmatic at the same time and this confuses others. Most INFJs who I’ve chatted with know that they want a more meaningful career, but they also know that if they go all out to pursue their careers, they might lose their financial stability and result in anxiety.
Our introverted intuition (Ni) gives us the insights but also let us know the consequences. Thus, it’s so difficult for us to choose our careers. We are always leaning towards purpose, but yet there is always something holding us back. So most INFJs end up feeling lost, confused, and depressed.
3. INFJ Rumination (The Infamous Ni-Ti Loop)
Rumination can lead to both anxiety and depression. INFJs usually ruminate when we want to solve a problem (Ni). This is fine. The issue comes when our tertiary function (introverted thinking) joins in the problem-solving process and we over-analyze the situation, other people, and their motives.
Usually, when our introverted intuition (Ni) function comes out with a solution, our introverted thinking (Ti) function will try to make sense of it. If it doesn’t make sense or there are some flaws, the Ti function will return the insight to the Ni function to refine and work on it some more.
This process will go on and on until we come out with a perfect solution.
If we can’t figure out a perfect solution, this Ni-Ti loop will go on forever. We will try to solve the problem in our heads over and over again until we are stuck in this endless loop of thoughts.
We can’t get out of this Ni-Ti loop just by ruminating more because even if we analyze the situation to death, there will be no solution. Our INFJ minds might also create an internal war. Ti function blames the Ni function for not coming up with the perfect solution. Ni function blames the Ti function for being too critical. And this downward spiral will lead us to depression.
How to Overcome INFJ Depression
1. Create your own path.
Don’t change yourself into someone that you are not. For example, don’t be more extroverted and more successful in the conventional sense just to seek approval from others. That will make you depressed.
Instead, set your own rules. Play your own game.
Life can be simple if you want it to be.
Recently, I watched a short documentary about a homeless person who is happy just feeding pigeons and reading books in the library. He hasn’t slept in a bed for years, but he is content with his life. A meaningful life doesn’t have to be expensive.
We INFJs have to accept that our minds always favor doing something meaningful. Instead of suppressing this desire, define what’s necessary for you to carry out this meaningful life. Figure out much income you need to have a meaningful yet comfortable lifestyle and adjust your life slowly towards your vision.
2. Don’t expect others to follow your vision.
When I was a young boy, I was angry at the class monitor for cheating in class. Now, I’m more at peace with other people doing things that are not aligned with my expectations. I realize:
The more judgmental I am, the more I suffer.
Growing up, I quickly understand that I can’t change the people around me. My parents will always want me to be more practical, earn a higher income, and be in a stable job. I can’t say they are wrong. They are doing what they think is good for them and I’m doing what I think is good for me.
Even though the world is playing a game that you don’t enjoy playing, you don’t have to change the external environment or people’s perception to suit or support you. Let others play their game; you play yours. It doesn’t help to blame the world for not being the perfect image you have in mind.
We INFJs sometimes overestimated how much we can help others and feel powerless when we fail to help others. We don’t even realize that some people don’t wish to be changed. If we just let go of our expectations and not try to fix them or the world, we can maintain a peaceful relationship with others and be happy with it.
3. Let go of your insights.
Sometimes, we INFJs trust our insights a little bit too much. These insights, as explained in the previous section, can lead us to depression or a feeling of hopelessness. To get out of depression, we have to learn to trust other people too.
Even though INFJs are rather accurate in forecasting what would happen eventually, we aren’t psychic or always right. We are only “right” in terms of the information we have.
Incomplete information can cause us to have the wrong insights.
We need to use our inferior function, extraverted sensing (Se) to help us collect information so that we can form a better insight. The Ni and Se functions work in pairs. However, inexperienced and young INFJs might be too attached to their vision that they become oblivious to the new information and have a narrow perspective.
Furthermore, sometimes INFJs are too quick to conclude. When reality doesn’t coincide with our vision, we think our future is bleak and hopeless. But there might be one more piece of information there hasn’t arrived or been presented to us yet. One additional piece of information can change our whole perspective.
For example, when I was depressed and jobless. I didn’t know that being a freelance tutor is an option for me. I kept looking for a permanent job and I felt stuck. Even when my brother had brainstormed with me the different things I could do, I was hesitant to become a tutor because I had no experience in teaching and didn’t how to find students.
But after I researched more about the tuition industry, my perspective changed. I realized that I can find students through agents online and I don’t need to have any teaching experience. Some parents hire tutors who have less experience because they have a smaller budget.
4. Use extroverted functions to bring us out of rumination (Ni-Ti Loop).
When introverts ruminate, we alternate between the two introverted functions. It’s very easy for us to get trapped in our own head and be depressed. To get us out of rumination, one way is to rely on our extroverted functions.
This is not the same as pretending to be an extrovert. Each of us has natural extroverted gifts, just that they are less preferred than our dominant functions. And hence, we identified ourselves as introverts. However, these extroverted functions help us to keep our minds and lives balanced. We can’t discard them.
Extroverted feeling and extroverted sensing get INFJs out of the thinking mode.
When you are too fixated on your vision or you have concluded that your life is hopeless, listen to other people’s points of view to gain a new perspective. When you are feeling emotional pain, express it through words, music, or even watch a sentimental movie. These extraverted feeling (Fe) activities help you to be more open-minded and understand your emotions better.
INFJs don’t like to be in the present. But being in present and center is really important for an INFJ’s spiritual development. Our extraverted sensing (Se) function keeps us grounded and soothes the overheating Ni function. When you are depressed, try shifting your attention from the problem you are solving in your head to your immediate surrounding. Go for a walk and give the surrounding your fullest attention. This will bring you back to the present moment.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: The despair / Pabak Sarkar