I’ve long known that I’m an introvert: it’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I can’t manage too much time around others without needing to recharge. I do best when I know in advance that human interaction is on the horizon, so I can plan for it and mentally prepare myself. A scheduled playdate for the kids or a routine meeting at work is fine; an unexpected trip to the mall or the arrival of a substitute in my classroom with a summon to an unexpected meeting might throw me for a loop.
I don’t think I’m unique in this regard. An article I just read that reviewed a recent study on introverts said that anywhere from 30% to 50% of people are introverted, so my needs for Alone Time, advance warning before interactions, and a chance to quietly recharge after People Time are all pretty normal. What’s different about my own brand of introversion, though, is that it’s accompanied by ADHD. This means that, while most introverts are content and even happy to skirt the periphery of a crowd and observe others’ interactions, it’s easy for the swirling movement of the crowd and the noise and lights that all go along with social gatherings (or trips to the mall) to become overwhelming, causing me to become agitated, irritable, or withdrawn.
An article about introversion that I just read caught my attention because many of the characteristics as described in this particular case are dead-on for my own experience, right down to the need to avoid caffeine before important events and a dread of talking on the phone. The article’s author, Alena Hall, summed it up nicely:
Little cites the theory of extraversion by Hans Eysenck and research by William Revelle of Northwestern University, explaining that introverts and extraverts naturally differ when it comes to their alertness and responsiveness to a given environment. A substance or scene that overstimulates the central nervous system of an introvert (which doesn’t take much) might cause him or her to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, rather than excited and engaged.
Interesting, huh? (If you didn’t already click the link above, click here to read the article.)