According to Christine Hammond, a Florida mental health counselor, three types of exhaustion exist: physical, mental and emotional. All three types are feelings people experience throughout their lives, however, there is another type of exhaustion that people experience— social exhaustion.
Social exhaustion, a burnout feeling from spending too much time around people and not having enough alone time, is known as a problem among those who define themselves as introverts. It is important to note that not all introverts experience social exhaustion and that extroverts are not excluded from the equation. People believe that extroverts get their energy from constantly socializing, however, studies show that both personality types can experience social exhaustion. In fact, a 2017 study in India concluded that extroverts have a higher likelihood to experience social exhaustion whereas introverts are somewhat less likely to face social exhaustion.
Socializing requires energy, actively listening, thinking thoroughly and engaging in conversation. After socializing for a couple of hours, one may feel drained mentally, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, a person may not feel like listening or talking or feel they can’t collect any more thoughts to engage in the conversation. Their energy is drained after hours of constant talking, thinking and listening. Of course, the amount of time varies as some people may be more on one side than the other of the introvert/extrovert spectrum. How many people someone engages with, how well they know those people, and where they are in their personal lives are factors that can determine how much time can pass before someone experiences social exhaustion.
A person may shut down or go silent when they become socially exhausted. They may look as if they are no longer interested in the conversation or appear upset. This doesn’t mean that the person has become upset with anyone in particular or is no longer interested in socializing. All these things mean is that the person is socially tired and needs some time to recuperate.
It is important for those who do not experience social exhaustion to know that this is something that people experience. First, don’t force a socially exhausted person to continue engaging in a conversation when they have seemed to shut down. Next, empathize with the person and be understanding by trying to put yourselves in their shoes and finally give the person some alone time to recover their energy. Social exhaustion is a fairly new, but its consequences remain as real and as important as other types of exhaustion.