IntroversionIntroversion is part of normal personality trait that is found in a third to half of the population. It is not shyness or social anxiety. Introversion is the opposite to extroversion and every single person will fall somewhere on the introvert - ambivert- extrovert spectrum (ambivert being people who are equally introverted/extroverted).
The introvert/extrovert trait describes an individual's style of interacting with people, the way they come to decisions and act on them and they way they prefer to 'recharge'. Extroverts enjoy interacting with large groups, they are quick to jump in and speak, and they feel energised by spending time socialising. Introverts prefer interacting with one or two individuals, they like to think and plan before making decisions and tend to only speak when they have something relevant to say (they find small talk tedious for this reason) and they energised by time alone. Introverts who prefer evenings home alone instead of going to parties are not being anti-social - this is merely how they recharge.
SensitivityHigh sensitivity has been identified and documented by many scientists and researchers. It is also often referred to as high reactivity or high responsiveness. I discovered the trait after reading The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr Elaine N. Aron, so sensitivity is the term I use, although I do tend to prefer ‘responsive’ – you’ve never had someone say, “Don’t be so responsive!” have you? Yet we get the “Don’t be so sensitive!” complaints all the time!
What is high sensitivity/reactiveness/responsiveness?Firstly, it is a very real trait that is found in around 20 percent of the population. Though some aspects of sensitivity are similar and common to introversion, it is a completely separate trait. Not all introverts are highly sensitive and not all highly sensitive people are introverts (around 30 percent of HSPs are extroverted).
Those people (and animals – it has been found in over 100 species already) have a nervous system that is more sensitive/reactive/responsive to stimuli and processes stimuli more deeply. Studies using fMRI scans show real differences in the way the brains of highly sensitive and non-sensitive individuals process information. Highly sensitive people are more likely to notice subtle differences in their environment and to be easily overwhelmed by stimuli. Because social situations such as nightclubs and parties tend to be overwhelming to their senses they tend to avoid these, preferring quieter social interaction. This does not mean HSPs are shy or anti-social!
If you think you might be an introvert or/and highly sensitive, have a look at my resources page for links to self-tests and other useful information.