11 Tell-Tale Signs of an Unhealthy INFP [+ Healing Tips]
by Lisa Sparrow
Have you noticed that you’re becoming increasingly reclusive and sensitive, getting emotional over remarks that wouldn’t typically affect you?
Or, perhaps, you might have noticed that you no longer accept people for who they are, secretly judging them for having different beliefs than yours.
Observing unpleasant changes in your personality can be difficult, but you aren’t alone. These are just a few signs of an unhealthy INFP, but worry not—we know exactly how to help you get back to your open-minded, emotionally open self!
Stick around and learn all about the unhealthy INFP personality, including:
- What Can Cause INFPs to Become Unhealthy?
- 11 Common Signs of Unhealthy INFPs
- 4 Tips to Help Unhealthy INFP Heal
What Can Cause INFPs to Become Unhealthy?
Unhealthy INFPs aren’t born that way—their unhealthy characteristics are the result of weeks, months, or years of living under stressful conditions.
While it’s perfectly natural to display some unhealthy INFP traits from time to time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your personality is unhealthy.
However, if INFPs fail to effectively deal with severe stress (e.g., bad parenting, emotional trauma, job loss, severe heartbreak, etc.), unhealthiness may become their natural state.
In particular, unmanaged stress can lead INFPs to experience:
- A Fi-Si loop, where they retreat into themselves and rely solely on their introverted cognitive functions
- A “Te grip,” where they resort to their inferior extraverted thinking (Te) instead of using their full cognitive function stack
Initially, INFPs enter these phases believing these can help them cope with stress. However, if they operate in either of these modes for too long, they may eventually develop an unhealthy personality.
11 Common Signs of Unhealthy INFPs
So, now you know why INFPs become unhealthy. But how can you spot an unhealthy INFP?
#1. Taking Everything to Heart
Hypersensitivity is perhaps the most common trait of unhealthy INFPs, as it happens as soon as their dominant cognitive function, introverted feeling (Fi), goes off the rails. Sure, no one can deny that INFPs are generally sensitive, but unhealthy INFPs’ feelings are delicate to the extreme.
Many unhealthy INFPs are guilty of misinterpreting anything but explicit praise as criticism or a personal attack, especially if it concerns their values. They can easily get offended and hurt, which in turn may lead them to become defensive. This can put a great deal of strain on their relationships, as others may feel forced to walk on eggshells around the unhealthy INFP.
#2. Repressing Feelings
People with an INFP personality type are naturally skilled at recognizing, analyzing, and expressing their emotions. Their emotional world is complex, but they are more than capable of ruling it. And, while they feel everything deeply, they don’t usually allow their emotions to control them.
However, unhealthy INFPs often feel that they can’t keep their emotions under control. They might choose to suppress their feelings, becoming emotionally detached to avoid pain or appearing weak. This is especially common among unhealthy INFP males, as they are prone to mistakenly believing that emotional vulnerability is their biggest weakness.
#3. Attempting to Control Others
At their best, INFPs appreciate people’s differences, believing that individuality should be celebrated. Yet, when they become unhealthy, INFPs lose grip on their auxiliary cognitive function, extraverted intuition (Ne), while also losing their gift to find beauty in differences.
Ne enables INFPs to see different points of view, so when they no longer use this function effectively, it causes them to believe that only their opinion matters. Because of this, they may become smothering, forcing people to adopt their values and ideals instead of pursuing their own.
In fact, many unhealthy INFPs will position themselves as morally superior to others, even though their need to control people, their beliefs, and their behavior is anything but ethical.
#4. Resorting to Isolation
As introverted personality types, INFPs enjoy solitude. For this reason, it can be difficult to notice when an unhealthy INFP starts sinking into self-isolation. Before you know it, they might spend days (or even weeks) without leaving their room or talking to someone.
The main reason why unhealthy INFPs isolate themselves is that they feel misunderstood. Yes, INFPs want to be unique and stand out from others, but they don’t want to feel like or be treated like outsiders. And when they see that people don’t understand them or misinterpret them, they might feel hurt and rejected, thus resorting to self-isolation to protect their feelings.
#5. Getting Stuck in the Past
As their tertiary cognitive function, introverted sensing (Si) causes INFPs to have a nostalgic air about them. Many INFPs like old movies and vintage fashion or prefer older music to the latest hits.
They also find comfort in anything that reminds them of their childhood. So, don’t be surprised to see an INFP in their 30s eating cereal in their pajamas and watching Cartoon Network—it’s just their way of self-soothing!
That said, unhealthy INFPs are prone to becoming stuck in the past, focusing on the worst moments they’ve ever experienced—their traumas, regrets, fears, and similar. It goes without saying that this fixation on the past can induce anxiety and prevent INFPs from being happy in the present moment.
#6. Becoming Rigid
It’s not a secret that INFPs tend to struggle with organization, as Te is the inferior INFP cognitive function. Nonetheless, INFPs going through a “Te grip” become too focused on structure and efficiency, sometimes even to the point of obsession. They lose sight of the big picture and become engrossed in small details, which makes them stressed out.
Although INFPs typically prefer going with the flow, this isn’t the case with unhealthy INFPs—they can’t stand feeling out of control, which explains why they become inflexible. If they can’t do things exactly how they want to, they may feel extremely overwhelmed, which can ultimately lead to a nervous breakdown.
#7. Losing the Ability to Make Decisions
Making decisions certainly isn’t the strong suit of the INFP personality type, as they see millions of possibilities and like to keep their options open. Still, most INFPs are more than capable of making decisions that align with their values and beliefs.
Nevertheless, unhealthy INFPs—and especially unhealthy INFP-T personalities—seem to no longer have the ability to make decisions effectively. Afraid of making mistakes, they succumb to overthinking and self-doubt, putting so much pressure on themselves to make the right choice that they often end up making no choice at all.
#8. Being Overly Idealistic
Idealism lies at the very heart of the INFP personality type, but unhealthy INFPs’ lives revolve around their idealized vision of the world.
Unhealthy INFPs are loyal to their ideals and values—to a fault. Instead of having beliefs, they become their beliefs, rooting their identities solely in their philosophical, religious, social, and other views. They imagine the perfect world and discard anything or anyone that doesn’t fit into their vision without a second thought.
Unfortunately, this often leaves them not only disappointed but also alone, as no one can live up to their idealistic expectations—not even unhealthy INFPs themselves.
#9. Lacking Emotional Balance
INFPs are anything but moderate: when they love, they give their heart and soul, and when they hate someone or something, they do it no less passionately.
That said, unhealthy INFPs are prone to extremes, and their emotional imbalance often manifests as:
- Emotional dysregulation. Unhealthy INFPs’ emotional reactions can be rather unpredictable, especially when someone criticizes them. Their mood swings can affect their relationships, careers, and overall quality of life.
- Splitting. Also known as all-or-nothing thinking, splitting causes unhealthy INFPs to perceive people, things, and themselves as either completely good or completely bad.
- Self-destructive behavior. In the worst-case scenario, emotional imbalance can lead unhealthy INFPs to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or excessive sleeping.
#10. Romanticizing Suffering
Although they might not be willing to admit it, some unhealthy INFPs romanticize suffering, believing that it makes them appear complex, intriguing, and, most importantly, different from others. After all, there’s a reason why many INFPs are fascinated by the myth of a tortured artist!
Since INFPs are artistic by nature and often build successful careers as artists, they are especially susceptible to romanticizing pain and suffering. Some of them even believe that art and suffering always go hand in hand, but this isn’t entirely true. In reality, INFPs are more than capable of creating impactful art by channeling different emotions, not just negative ones.
#11. Living in a Dream World
When they aren’t happy with reality, unhealthy INFPs will inevitably take matters into their own hands, but not in the way you’d expect. Instead of improving their lives, they’ll create a dream world that brings them solace. Since unhealthy INFPs use their rich imagination to escape the world, it can further push them into self-isolation.
They are prone to indulge in fantasy at their own expense, abandoning everyday responsibilities (e.g., keeping their environment clean and organized) or inventing lies to spice up their lives. They may think that a little lie here and there won’t do any harm, but once the truth comes out, it can wreak havoc on their relationships.
4 Tips to Help Unhealthy INFP Heal
If you relate to the signs of unhealthy INFP personalities, don’t worry—you can take action to get better!
Here are some tried-and-tested tips to help unhealthy INFPs recover and rekindle their inner light:
#1. Look at the Big Picture
Since unhealthy INFPs tend to focus too much on details, one of the most effective ways to heal is to tap into your Ne and see things from a different perspective.
So, get out of your head and take a look at the big picture. Chances are, whatever is making you anxious, insecure, or overwhelmed isn’t so important in the grand scheme of things!
Moreover, instead of focusing on the negative, try to find positives in every situation. Nothing in life is perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. Your flaws and mistakes don’t define you as a person—they’re meant to help you improve!
#2. Learn to Accept Criticism
Simply put, learning to accept criticism is key to thriving as an INFP. After all, taking everything to heart can be rather exhausting and barely serves any purpose. At the end of the day, it only prevents you from becoming a better version of yourself.
So, next time you think that someone’s criticizing you, try to remain impartial and ask yourself what this person’s intention may be. You might be surprised to realize that most people aren’t outright mean to you—they’re simply trying to give you advice to better yourself!
On the other hand, if a person’s intentions seem malicious, try not to take it to heart. Their negativity reveals the truth about them—not you.
#3. Tackle Problems
When things get rough, nothing entices unhealthy INFPs more than escaping into their fantasyland. Unfortunately, ignoring problems doesn’t solve them—it only causes them to pile up.
So, try to address issues directly. If you aren’t happy in a relationship, for example, talk to your partner instead of hoping that things will magically change.
Without a doubt, taking care of your future self is the ultimate act of self-love, and there’s no better way to do it than by tackling problems. This way, you can ensure that you don't have to deal with the consequences of your inaction in the future!
#4. Practice Mindfulness
Another great way to stay grounded in the present moment is to practice mindfulness. By helping you become more aware of yourself and the world around you, mindfulness can also help you accept your feelings without becoming absorbed by them. Naturally, this can be especially beneficial for unhealthy INFPs who struggle with emotional imbalance.
So, experiment with different ways of practicing mindfulness to find what works for you. Consider trying mindfulness meditation, bringing attention to the sensations in your body, noticing your emotions without judgment, or taking a mindful stroll around your neighborhood.
And that sums up pretty much everything you should know about the unhealthy INFP personality.
At the end of the day, the only way to avoid developing unhealthy personality traits is to learn to deal with problems constructively. While it may seem easier to withdraw and wait until issues resolve themselves, it can induce chronic stress and, in turn, unhealthiness. So, the biggest favor any INFP can do for themselves is to tackle problems as soon as they arise!
Unhealthy INFP FAQ
#1. Are unhealthy INFPs controlling?
Unhealthy INFPs can be controlling, especially when they’re stuck in a Te grip. They may insist on doing things their way or, alternatively, try to change people against their will. Such inflexibility is one of the clearest signs of an unhealthy INFP personality, as these individuals are typically open-minded and easy-going.
#2. What do INFPs struggle with?
Most commonly, INFPs struggle to accept the world for what it is. As idealists and dreamers, INFPs tend to have an idealized perception of the world. This can make it difficult for them to come to terms with things like war, greed, or poverty.
#3. How do I know if INFP is unhealthy?
The most common unhealthy INFP traits include hypersensitivity, inflexibility, indecisiveness, and moodiness. Unhealthy INFPs may also become withdrawn from their friends and family and hide their feelings.
#4. What happens when you hurt an INFP?
If you hurt an INFP, they’ll likely lose trust in you and become cold and detached. Most INFPs won’t pretend that everything is okay when it’s not. While not all INFPs will cry or show their pain, you’ll definitely know you’ve hurt them once they no longer share their feelings with you.