Autism vs. Introversion: What’s The Difference?

Sharing is caring!

Autism and introversion are hugely misunderstood concepts and there is a common misunderstanding that to be one is to be the other. While both have many overlapping traits, autism is a neurological and developmental disorder while introversion is a personality type.

Understanding the difference between the two is extremely important in order to not misdiagnose yourself or someone else. In this article, we discuss autism and introversion, their similarities, and explore the key differences which set them apart.

What Is Autism?

Photo by Peter Burdon on Unsplash

Autism spectrum disorder or ASD refers to a diverse set of neurological and developmental conditions which affects one’s ability to communicate and interact socially. ASD impacts the nervous system and causes one to face problems with their overall cognitive, emotional, physical, and social functioning.

Autism is a condition found in 1 in 100 children and while symptoms can be detected in early childhood, autism is usually not diagnoes until much later. It is important to bear in mind that autism is a spectrum.

Being on a spectrum means that the abilities, disabilities, and needs of autistic individuals vary and can change over time. While some people with autism can live independently and take care of their needs to an extent, others can have severe disabilities and need life-long care and support.

People on the autism spectrum could face difficulties with education, employment oppurtinities and other fields which are tailored to the abilities of neurotypical individuals. This is why it is important to always have up-to-date information and support methods that can help make the life of your autistic loved one easier. If you are, for instance, worried about your kid’s educationOne way to enhance your understanding of the subject is by leveraging resources like Forbrain’s learning and autism guide, or following the newsletter of Autism Parenting Magazine, which will give insights into how autism affects learning, communication, and many other aspects. Additionally, attending workshops, seminars, and conferences dedicated to autism education can provide valuable knowledge and strategies for addressing the challenges faced by children with autism. People with autism could also have co-occurring conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

There is a harmful misconception that childhood vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella vaccine cause autism. Available epidemiological data shows that there is no causal relationship between these vaccines and autism, and any previous studies which asserted a link between the two were found to have methodological flaws.

Studies suggest that there is no one single cause, but rather, a range of environmental and genetic factors could contribute to increasing the risk of autism in children.

What Is Introversion?

Introversion, sometimes spelled intraversion is one of the two major personality types introduced into human psychology theories by Carl Jung, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

Jung’s definition of introversion goes as follows: “attitude-type characterised by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents”. He defined extraversion as “an attitude-type characterised by concentration of interest on the external object”

Introversion is the state of primarily obtaining gratification from one’s own mental state.

Introverted people are generally more reserved and reflective, meaning that they are more comfortable with their inner self, thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s external factors. For this reason, introverted people are often branded as anti-social or shy, which isn’t always the case.

Introversion is often associated with the qualities of being shy, quiet and preferring to be alone. Even though this might be true for some introverted people, there is so much more to this personality type. Introverts can be just as outspoken, outgoing and bold as extroverted people.

Introverted people process the world around them differently than extraverted people do. While introverted people do enjoy social interaction, it drains them quickly and they often need time to themselves to recharge. According to Jung, introverts turn to their own minds to recharge, while extroverts seek out other people for their energy needs.

Since they need a lot of alone time to function in social situations, introverts may find it challenging to maintain social interaction and relationships. When it comes to employment and professional life, introverted people thrive in jobs that require them to work on tasks individually. They tend to be adept at problem solving with creative, out-of-the-box thinking. However, jobs which require a lot of social interaction might be draining for some individuals.

Are People With Autism Introverted?

No, not every pperson with autism is an introvert. Autistic people could be introverted and extroverted. While social cues and interaction could be a challenge autistic individuals may face, it doesn’t mean that all people with autism are introverts. For some, social interaction could lead to over-stimulation, but they still enjoy being around other people to feel energized and alive.

Extroverted people with autism may have difficulties filtering out stimulations, but they still crave social interaction to fulfill their energy needs. They have a strong need for social interaction and may feel lonely, isolated or drained if those needs aren’t met with.

Autism vs. Introversion

Now that we have a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder or ASD and introversion, we know that both may seem to overlap a lot, but are fundamentally different as autism is a neurological disorder and introversion is a personality type. People with autism can be both intoverted and extroverted and vice versa. 

Here are some key differences between autism and introversion.

1. Social skills

One of the major differences between autism and introversion is with regard to social skills. People with autism often struggle to pick up on social cues and body language. They are more attuned to direct communication and are thereby less likely to pick up on sarcasm or jokes. They also have a hard time keeping up with a back-and-forth conversation, especially when it’s with more than one person.

On the other hand, introversion doesn’t affect people’s ability to follow social cues. Introverts tend to be more aware of social dynamics and protocol and are better able to navigate through a social situation. Introverts may prefer one-on-one interactions or smaller groups to large groups and crowds, but they generally have necessary social skills to handle a variety of settings.

People with autism may face difficulties in understanding and feeling their emotions, while introversion alone does not affect individuals’ ability to be attuned to the inner workings of their mind. As a result, introverted individuals tend to be better equipped to handle their emotions and navigate through social situations.

2. Routines

People with autism have a strong need for a set routine. While routines may provide stability, structure and predictability and also be liberating in that they provide a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic world, they can also be detrimental when disrupted.

For many autistic individuals, routines give a sense of calmness and reassurance through stabilty. However, when something does not go according to plan, it may lead to anxiety and meltdowns. Additionally, the need for routine life could clash with the desire for spontaneity and new experiences.

Introverted people are more flexible and adaptable to change than people with autism. While introverts may value routine and stability as it reduces anxiety, they may not have a strong reaction as autistic individuals when things don’t go as planned. They are less likely to get overwhelmed bu change, more adaptable to new experiences and more able to go with the flow.

3. Sensory Processing

Many people on the autism spectrum have sensory issues which affect their daily life. Strong extrernal stimuli like bright lights and loud noises can trigger a sensory overload in them, resulting in severe anxiety.

While many introverted people can have adverse reactions to loud external stimuli and can get overwhelmed by them, sensory issues are not a defining factor of introversion.

4. Masking

Making or autism masking refers to the behaviours exhibited by people with ASD to supress or hide characteristics or parts of themselves associated with ASD. The efforts to hide their disorder can be concious or subconcious with a goal to be perceived as neurotypical to avoid anxiety or discomfort. People with autism usually mask by mirroring the behaviour patterns of neurotypical people.

The act of masking could be incredibly exhausting, making people with ASD feel drained in social situations. They may feel a sense of relief when they are finally alone and can be themselves.

While introverted people may feel drained in social situations, it may not be because they are hiding a fundamental part of themselves. People on the spectrum may try to hide who they really are, whereas introverted people are more likely to express their genuine selves around others.

5. Stims

People with ASD often engage in self-stimulatory behaviours such as rocking in their chair or finger-flicking and hand-flapping. For many individuals with autism, anxiety and discomfort can be overwhelming and stimming helps regulate their behaviour. Sometimes, stimming also helps maintain focus and concentration.

Introverted people may feel anxious or overwhelmed in certain situations but they don’t feel the need to engage in self-stimulatory behaviour to soothe themselves. Introverts tend to be more assured and rooted in their own thoughts and feelings.

6. Specific Interests

Having special interests is one of the most common characteristics found in people with ASD. Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests, often from a very young age. Since they prefer routine and structure, they are more likely to stick to very few interests and hobbies instead of taking up new ones and exploring other interests.

However, introverted people generally don’t face much difficulty in discovering new interests and stepping out of their comfort zone. So, they are more likely to have a wide range of interests than people on the spectrum.


While ASD and extroversion may have many similarities, they are very different at the same time. Understanding them thoroughly before jumping to conclusions is extremely important. If you suspect you or anyone you know may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is better to avoid self-diagnosis and instead consult with a qualified psychiatrist.

Sharing is caring!

Speak Your Mind