Learning the Difference Between My Mental Illness and Myself

As we stumble through life, one of our shared goals as human beings is to figure out who we are. There are many ways to do this, including having alone time, meditation, going to therapy, exploring things that interest you and trying to connect with other people who are on your wavelength. There are also ways to find out more about you that are more concrete. One method of self-exploration is taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), created by Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, is based upon Carl Jung’s theory that there are distinct personality types. According to the test, there are 16 distinct personality types. The foundation of those personalities is introversion and extroversion.


People who are introverts prefer to work alone or be around a few people they feel at ease with. They often have vivid imaginations and rich internal worlds. Someone who identifies as an introvert might think, “I prefer to be around my close friends, rather than sitting in a large room at a party with 50 people I don’t know. That causes my anxiety to heighten, and I immediately want to go home.”


Extroverts love to be around people. They thrive off social interaction, meeting new faces and being the center of attention. Many performers, actors, dancers and performance artists are extroverts. However, don’t be fooled! There are also several actors out there who identify as introverts. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a great artist.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator focuses on specific ways we perceive the world. It looks at information processing, decision-making and internal structure. Here’s an example of one of the 16 personality types: INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). An INFP is a highly sensitive person who feels genuinely and closely analyzes others. They have a mediating type of personality and try to find the good in everything. INFPs are also very true-to-self while being flexible and accommodating to others.

Here’s an interesting question: How does mental illness influence or impact your personality type on the MBTI? For example, let’s say you’re an extrovert and your specific personality type is ENJT- Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging. An ENJT is a dynamic individual who isn’t shy about expressing their opinions about topics or other people. They have big ideas, and they want to share them with the world. Now, imagine this person has a panic disorder. Panic disorder is a mental illness where the person feels they are under direct threat of something dangerous happening to them. However, there is no imminent danger. Their body goes into a state called “fight, flight or freeze.” They want to fight the threat, run away from it or just freeze in fear. Whatever the case may be, panic attacks are uncomfortable and can be downright terrifying.

So here is an outgoing person who loves to be around others, yet they experience panic attacks. The extrovert’s anxiety may directly affect their ability to be social. Imagine this ENJT was an actor. They are about to go on stage, and they begin to feel the symptoms of a panic attack coming. Their heart is racing, their palms begin to sweat, and they’re terrified something awful is going to happen. They start thinking they might die. Their panic occurred because of the mental illness they live with, not because of who they are as a person. Mental illness is something this person lives with, and who they are is someone who loves to be on stage and hear the crowd applaud afterward.

Mental illness doesn’t have to be your personality, but it can be something you manage on a daily basis. If you want to find out more about your character and how you relate to the world, there are many different tests you can take, one of which is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When you find out more about yourself, you can live a better quality of life and deepen your relationships with others by learning more about yourself and how you interact with the world around you. Above all, remember that you are not your illness; you are a beautiful human being who has a variety of qualities to share with the world.

Getty image by lentolo.

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