Depression in the INFP personality (A complete guide)

In this brief guide, we will discuss depression and INFP personality, and how depression may manifest in this personality in particular.

INFP personality and Depression

The INFP personality may be rather prone to depression due to their tendency to introspect too much and they have feelings and emotions oriented to their inner life, which may make for some thought patterns that have been linked with depression.

The INFP may experience both normal as well as pathological depression due to their ability to 

think through things in the feelings manner, rather than in a cold, practical, and logical way, and because their thought process is more subconscious, they may be more prone to not realize when they are having depressing thoughts.

Depression in INFP personalities may occur more often because of their propensity to feel 

things very deeply, and their heightened emotions, especially those that are turned inwards, may sometimes make them go into normal or pathological depression, and they may not be able to separate emotion from circumstances when things are too tough.

Due to the tendency of INFP people to isolate themselves and be private, it may add to their problems, because an INFP in Depression, may not be recognized as a mentally unhealthy person to others.

The INFP may also not get recognized as being depressed straight away because they also tend to put on a happy face for people and do not want to bother them with the negative emotions they are feeling inside.

Even when the INFP wants to open up, but it is hard for them to do so, especially about sensitive subjects like Depression, and this can make the depression even harder to deal with for the INFP personality type.

Features of the INFP personality

INFP is a type given by the Myers-Briggs personality test, and it stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Prospecting or Perceiving personality traits.

Also known as Mediators, the INFPs make up only 4% of the population and are therefore a rare personality type, which may often make them feel misunderstood and alone, contributing to problems like depression.

INFP may have a tendency to be quiet, open-minded, imaginative, and altruistic, and these traits make them very caring and creative individuals which may be seen in nearly everything they do from pleasure to work.

INFP personalities also tend to be idealistic, and this may often lead them to situations where they may feel like they are not doing as much as they should be, or that they are not being as perfect as they ought to, which may also lead to feelings of depression and worthlessness.

The INFP may also try to look for the good in even the worst of things, even searching for ways to make everything better.

In general, INFP can also be perceived as calm, reserved, or shy, and they are very hard to get to know, as they tend to be extremely private and not very talkative most of the time, and even people who are close to them may feel like they barely know them at all.

INFPs may also take a long time to trust anyone, which may isolate them further, and added to that the fact that they can sometimes have flighty ideas and beliefs that are a little hard to understand, they can get very walled off from the world.

What is Depression?

According to WHO, “more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression.”, that is how common this problem has become, and it is scary because it can lead to not just reduced quality of life but also some serious outcomes like taking their life.

MayoClinic describes Depression as:

 “A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”

“Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress. Increasingly, research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function, including the altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.”

“The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of taking their life.”

“The mainstay of treatment is usually medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Increasingly, research suggests these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.”

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is one of the most common mental illnesses, so much so that it is known as the “Common cold of mental illness”, because of how common it is and how likely people are to suffer from it, as seen in the WHO figure earlier.

Typical signs and symptoms of depression include the following, according to the ICD 10:

  • “sadness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • change in weight
  • difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • energy loss
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • thoughts of taking their life”

There are many other classifications of Depression and in the two major classification systems of mental health issues, which are the ICD and the DSM, there are multiple disorders that contain depressive features as well as depression as a co-morbid condition.

Symptoms of Depression according to the DSM are:

  • “Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of loss of life, recurrent ideas about taking their life without a specific plan, or an attempt at taking their life or a specific plan for taking their life.”

In addition, further research has also suggested that depression may be characterized in different ways as well, for instance, Beck stresses the importance of focusing on the three main symptoms of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness, which make up Beck’s Triad of depression.

Types of Depression

There are 3 main types of Depression, according to the ICD, which are:

  • Recurrent Depressive Disorder (Mild, Moderate, Severe)
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder

Other than these, a person may also experience Mixed Anxiety and Depression or prolonged grief reaction after a particularly stressful or triggering event like a loved one’s loss.

According to the WHO, Bipolar Disorder may be described as the following:

“This type of depression typically consists of both manic and depressive episodes separated by periods of normal mood. Manic episodes involve elevated or irritable mood, over-activity, the pressure of speech, inflated self-esteem, and a decreased need for sleep.”

The depression that is experienced in Bipolar disorder may be worse than the depression in any other illness, according to most research, likely due to the fact that there are rise and fall in mood states, from mania to depression and vice versa, which can lead to more intense states in both phases.

When talking about INFP and depression, it may be assumed that INFPs are more likely to experience either recurrent depression or Dysthymia, we will explore these below.

Recurrent Depression vs Major Depressive Episode

There’s a really fine diagnostic line between recurrent depression and major depressive episode, which is why these two have not been mentioned separately; when the person has only experienced one major depressive episode independent of anything else, it may get coded under a major depressive episode, while multiple episodes of such sort may get coded as Recurrent depressive disorder.

When coding a recurrent depressive disorder, clinicians usually need to be aware of the main fact that there need to be periods of normal mood states and mental health between the depressive episodes in question, otherwise it becomes a case of dysthymia.

WHO defines Recurrent Depressive disorder as:

“This disorder involves repeated depressive episodes. During these episodes, the person experiences a depressed mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, and reduced energy leading to diminished activity for at least two weeks. Many people with depression also suffer from anxiety symptoms, disturbed sleep, and appetite, and may have feelings of guilt or low self-worth, poor concentration, and even symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical diagnosis.

Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. An individual with a mild depressive episode will have some difficulty in continuing with ordinary work and social activities but will probably not cease to function completely. During a severe depressive episode, it is unlikely that the sufferer will be able to continue with social, work, or domestic activities, except to a limited extent.”

Depression can also be with or without psychosis, but that is not explored here as that is not a condition that may have too much connection with the INFP personality type.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia is defined, simply, as a Pervasive low mood with associated symptoms, and this is likely to be found in a lot of INFP people.

Dysthymia is also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder, and Mayoclinic defines it as:

“Persistent depressive disorder, also called dysthymia (dis-THIE-me-uh), is a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression. You may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, and have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings last for years and may significantly interfere with your relationships, school, work, and daily activities.”

The signs and symptoms of Dysthymia, as given by the Mayoclinic website are as follows:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Sadness, emptiness, or feeling down
  • Hopelessness
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Low self-esteem, self-criticism, or feeling incapable
  • Trouble concentrating and trouble to make decisions
  • Irritability or excessive anger
  • Decreased activity, effectiveness, and productivity
  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Feelings of guilt and worries over the past
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Sleep problems

INFPs are at risk for dysthymia due to their tendency to overthink, their propensity to giving in to feelings of negativity as they may have difficulty separating emotion from thought, and their ideal attitude, which tends to look at things in shades of black and white.

Consider this description of someone who is an INFP and has been diagnosed with dysthymia, from a popular forum:

“About five years ago, I was diagnosed as having it since childhood. I’ve been on an antidepressant/anti-anxiety med since then. Whether dysthymia, major depression, or all in my head, I don’t get out of bed unless I’m on medication.

I don’t really have much advice because I just live with it. I often remind myself of things I’m living for (my cats, family), and I try to find things to get excited about, like new hobbies, skills, collections, etc. I find it helps me to get into a routine because then I’m more likely to do things without thinking about them (and, thus, deciding not to do them), such as making my bed right when I wake up, doing laundry on certain days, going on a bike ride at a certain time every day, etc. It is nice to come home to a clean house.”

How to help an INFP with depression?

To help an INFP with depression you talk and listen and encourage them to talk before anything else and you need to get them to trust you enough to share their issues frankly.

It can be somewhat hard to help the INFP with Depression, because they are so private, but do not lose hope!

Usually, an INFP looks at their own experiences as a person who has fought through other mental challenges, but depression is different as it may significantly alter how one thinks of themselves.

Here are some tips on how you can help an INFP with depression.

  • To help INFP with depression first give them a lot of space.
  • INFPs are like cats, they want your attention and love, but because they are proud, idealistic people they can be put off wanting to talk to you when in depression.
  • After the INFP trusts you, try to help them with the practical things that they ignore so staunchly in depression.
  • If the INFP in depression is having trouble with work or studies due to Depression, offer to help them out.
  • When it seems like the INFP is going through a state of heightened negative emotions, try to get them to talk, but don’t force them.
  • An INFP suffering from depression might appreciate if you ask them if they would come and help you with something.
  • INFP appreciates altruism, they are themselves a very helpful bunch, so they are more likely to take your help if they trust and admire you. 
  • Their altruistic nature will get them to go with you and this can get them moving again.
  • The INFP is sensitive to criticism, so be careful in letting them know that they are not taking care of themselves and they need to.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we discussed depression and INFP personality, and how depression may manifest in this personality in particular. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): INFP Depression

Why are INFPs so unhappy?

INFPs may seem unhappy because they are introspective and like to be by themselves a lot more than being with people.

Personal growth is also very important to INFPs, and when they get unhappy they might feel like their growth has stopped somehow.

In addition, INFP may feel miserable at the moment, but even being unhappy will teach them something or the other.

How do you cheer up an INFP?

To cheer up an INFP, you may try some of the following things:

Let them feel things and listen to them patiently 
Listen and empathize
Comfort them.
Tell them you care and show them with a hug or by helping them with chores.

Are INFPs insecure?

INFPs may be insecure, likely due to their tendency to be prone to emotional states.

INFP also lives in a somewhat ideal world, and they may sometimes have difficulty coming out of it.

Citations

ICD 10

DSM-V

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.