Introvert and extrovert are terms that some psychologists use to describe certain personality traits. Introverts are overwhelmed by large crowds and need time alone to recharge. They aren’t necessarily shy, but being around a lot of people (or meeting new people) can feel draining.
Compare that to extroverts, who feel energized when they’re around people. They enjoy meeting new people and feel comfortable in large social groups.
Knowing whether you’re an introvert or extrovert is important for anyone to manage their mental health. When you have Crohn’s disease, being aware of how certain environments affect your mental well-being is key to taking control of your condition and managing the ups and downs of having a chronic illness.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you don’t like to be around people. It’s just that you feel more comfortable on your own.
Introverts are more introspective than outgoing. Here are a few signs you might be an introvert:
- You like to spend time alone. You’d much prefer to watch a movie on the couch or take a walk alone in the woods than go to a crowded party.
- When you are out in groups, you tend to be quiet.
- You have only a small group of friends.
- Your friends and family are more likely to reach out and call or text you, not the other way around.
- You’re very introspective and self-aware.
- When you’re around lots of people, you feel worn out.
- You don’t volunteer to lead or answer questions in meetings or other group settings.
- You don’t start small talk when you’re around new people.
While extroverts get a boost from being around other people, having too much company drains introverts of energy. They need time alone to recharge.
Since fatigue is a signature symptom of Crohn’s disease, getting enough alone time each day is essential. Setting aside time to be alone in a quiet place will give you a chance to rest and replenish your energy.
Because introverts are less comfortable around others, being around a lot of people can cause stress. Recent research finds that emotional stress both triggers Crohn’s symptoms and makes them worse.
People who are stressed experience more pain, which can have a negative effect on their quality of life. Having alone time can be a potent stress-buster, too.
How you use the time you spend alone matters, too. Do whatever gives you the most energy. You’ll need it for when you do have to go out and be around other people.
For some people with Crohn’s, meditation and yoga are restorative and anxiety-reducing. Yoga and other forms of exercise also fight fatigue. Another advantage of these techniques is that you can practice them at home on your own.
Sleep is also critical to managing Crohn’s. Too little sleep can make it harder to manage your disease. If you can’t sleep at night, or you get to sleep at night but still feel tired during the day, set aside time for naps.
When you’re an introvert, the last thing you probably want to do is ask someone you don’t know where the nearest toilet is. Yet, you’ll need that information in case of a Crohn’s emergency.
It can also be uncomfortable to make special food requests at parties, like asking that your meals be made without dairy, cruciferous vegetables, or certain sugars.
One way to feel more at ease speaking up is by practicing. Go over what you want to say alone or with a friend you trust until you’ve got your lines down.
You can also avoid some awkward conversations by printing up your food and/or bathroom requests on index cards. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation offers “I can’t wait” cards that describe why you need a bathroom right away, so you don’t have to go into details.
Having friends to support you when you have Crohn’s can be really helpful. Yet you may not have a wide circle of friends if you’re an introvert. And you may have a difficult time being open with the friends you do have.
It can be easier to talk to friends one-on-one than in a group. Start with the people who are closest to you. Set aside a quiet place to talk, which can be your home if that’s where you feel most comfortable.
Write down what you want to say before you have the talk. That way if you’re nervous, you can refer to your notes.
To limit the amount of talking you have to do, only tell your friends what they need to know. And if you’re not comfortable answering questions about your Crohn’s disease, introduce them to an organization like the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to learn more.
If you’re not sure how to talk about your disease, ask the doctor who treats your Crohn’s disease for advice.
Having social support can help you feel better and more in control of your disease. But that support might not be readily available if you have only a small number of friends.
One place to widen your social circle is at a Crohn’s disease support group. Many hospitals host them, or you can find one through an organization like the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.
If you’re too shy to join an in-person support group, you can participate from the comfort and privacy of your own home. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has online support groups, and there are several groups available on Facebook.
You can also get support one-on-one from a trained counselor, therapist, or another mental health provider. Look for someone who has experience working with people who have irritable bowel disease (IBD) or other chronic illnesses.
Being an introvert shouldn’t stop you from managing your Crohn’s disease effectively. In fact, the added time alone at home will give you a chance to rest when you feel especially fatigued.
It’s helpful for people with Crohn’s to get support, but do it in a way that’s comfortable for you. If a support group seems too overwhelming, find a therapist you trust.