I’ve written quite a lot about my anxiety on my own blog, but it’s always sort of a weird experience. Like turning myself inside out, slapping it on paper, and saying, “Here you go; what do you think?” But I’ve found that the more I share about my anxiety, the more I hear from other people who struggle with something similar. If talking about my experiences as an INFJ living with anxiety can help someone else feel less alone, then I’m going to keep talking about it.
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My anxiety story
My first panic attack happened when I was high-school-aged, about 15 years ago. My heart was racing, hands shaking, breathing shallow. I felt hot all over and my skin seemed too small. I didn’t know what was going on, and neither did the people around me. My mom and sister just thought I was overreacting about something and seemed angry.
Things didn’t get much better over the next few years. While I was in college struggling to handle the social side of everything, I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking and Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. Both helped me manage my feelings of being overwhelmed, and I found ways of accommodating or working around my sensitives. That also helped with my anxiety to a certain extent since I was less stressed overall and I was avoiding a lot of the things that triggered my anxiety.
It didn’t fix everything, though. I started feeling guilty for thinking of myself as anxious, especially when I compared my experiences with anxiety with those I read about on other people’s blogs. Mine didn’t seem as bad as theirs. Maybe I was just a wimp who didn’t know how to handle normal life and was overeating to every day worries.
I thought about seeking counseling off-and-on throughout college but never convinced myself my struggles were serious enough for that. It wasn’t until 2018, when my first serious romantic relationship was falling apart after only 9 months, that I hit a point where I couldn’t function. Depression isn’t the subject of this blog post, but it often occurs alongside anxiety and I had symptoms of both at this time. I needed help, and I found it in a Christian counselor who specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I counseled with her for about a year before she moved on to a different practice, and that year did wonders for helping me understand and manage my anxiety.
Anxiety and the INFJ
So what does this have to do with being an INFJ? Everyone, regardless of personality type, experiences occasional anxiety. And dealing with an anxiety disorder isn’t exclusive to any one type either. I have noticed, though, that quite a high number of INFJs I talk with struggle with anxiety to a certain extent.
If you’re an INFJ struggling with anxiety, that anxiety will interact with your INFJ personality traits in some unique ways. Anxiety is different for everyone, whether or not you share a personality type, but I do think there are certain ways anxiety is more likely to show up for INFJs. Keep in mind, though, that what I’m sharing here is mostly based on my personal experiences. By focusing specifically on my experiences with anxiety as an INFJ, I have no intention of down-playing any other type’s struggles. My hope is simply to offer support, understanding, and possibly some help to other INFJs who are struggling with similar issues.
I’m not a counselor or therapist and this article can’t be used to diagnose anxiety or as a treatment guide. If you’re struggling with anxiety, I highly recommend seeing a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. I can assure you from experience that trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is not a good idea. Please go get proper help.
Experiences with INFJ anxiety
Here are four things that I’ve noticed about anxiety that I think is connected with how we experience the world as INFJs. Keep in mind that anxiety looks a little different for everyone. If you don’t identify with all the experiences listed here, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anxiety or that you’re not an INFJ.
1) It can make you defensive
INFJs are typically an easy-going type that values harmony too highly to trigger conflicts with other people. Stress, however, can make us see the outer world as a hostile, dangerous place. When you layer that with anxiety, an INFJ can end up feeling very defensive. They might lash out with uncharacteristic anger or say things that hurt others in an effort to get them to back off and give the INFJ space. It took me a long time to figure out that my uncharacteristic expressions of anger were rooted in fear and anxiety, and to find ways to deal with that in a healthier fashion.
2) You might isolate yourself more
Even though we’re introverts, INFJs do need other people. All introverts do to a certain extent, but FJ types are particularly people-oriented. If you’re struggling with anxiety, though, you’re probably going to avoid other people more than an INFJ would under normal circumstances. Even if you do get into a social situation, anxiety can make you hang back from others and then be misinterpreted as aloof, bored, or unsocial. There’s no easy cure for this. I’ve found, though, that it only gets worse if you stay isolated and that it’s important to push yourself to keep interacting with others. It can get easier to build connections with people, especially with support from a counselor and/or friends who understand what you’re going through.
3) It affects how you see the world
I already mentioned that stressed INFJs tend to see the world as a hostile place. This doesn’t always make us lash out. Instead, or in addition to that, we can become more careful about trying to control the world around us. Many INFJs already have perfectionistic tendencies and we like to maintain order in the outer world. Anxiety can just exacerbate that, and we may feel we need to be prepared for anything that might happen. Also, never ask an anxious INFJ, “What’s the worst that could happen?” We have too good an imagination not to instantly come up with multiple scenarios for imminent doom.
4) It can block how you read other people and yourself
Like other FJ types, one of an INFJ’s favorite functions is Extroverted Feeling. Because their feeling function is turned outward, INFJs often have a much easier time picking up on other people’s emotions than their own. Anxiety tends to make it harder for us to do either of those things. It’s not easy to read people when your brain is imagining worst-case scenarios related to how they perceive you. It’s also harder to process your emotions in a healthy way because you’re in fight-flight-or-freeze mode.
Are you an INFJ who struggles with anxiety? What are some of the issues you’ve struggled with, and how do you think anxiety has affected your personality?
About the Author:
Marissa Baker is the author of The INFJ Handbook (available in the Amazon Kindle Store). You can find her online at LikeAnAnchor.com where she blogs about personal growth and development from a Christian perspective.