What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?

Stress is something we all have to deal with. It’s part of being human. But how we each react to stress is, at least partly, determined by our personality types.

Each personality type has four mental processes called “cognitive functions” that they use when living their day-to-day lives. These functions describe how our minds work. For example, an ESTJ type is most comfortable using Extroverted Thinking to make decisions in the outer world. That’s supported by their co-pilot Introverted Sensing, which is their preferred way to learn and process information. Then they have a tertiary process called Extroverted Intuition, which they’re not quite as comfortable with. The fourth function, in this case Introverted Feeling, is called the inferior process and it’s not well developed at all.

For more information on how cognitive functions work, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

When we’re stressed-out our minds typically go to our inferior process. (We can also “loop” between our dominant and tertiary, but that’s a topic for another post). This explains why we start acting out of character when under stress. Stress throws off the familiar, comfortable balance of our mental processes and changes how we deal with things. And because we each use a different combination of these mental functions, a stress-response is going to look a little different for each type.

Why Study Stress-Responses?

Recognizing what a stress-reaction looks like for different types can help us in several ways. If you’re in any kind of relationship with someone, knowing what happens when they’re stressed can give you a different perspective on them when they start to act out a character. Instead of being puzzled by their behavior, you can recognize it as the way they respond to stress.

In terms of our relationship with ourselves, knowing our own stress reactions can help us recognize when we need to practice some self-care. If you’re starting to go into your inferior function, then it’s time to take a look at your life and figure out what’s the cause of your stress and how you can get yourself back into balance.

For this post, we’re not going to talk about how to deal with stress (I’ll probably do another post on that soon). Instead, we’re going focus on what different types look like when they’re stressed so you can understand what’s going on when someone else, or yourself, is having a stress reaction.

ESTJs and ENTJs

Both ESTJs and ENTJs use Extroverted Thinking (nicknamed “Effectiveness” by Personality Hacker) as their dominant process. The opposite, Introverted Feeling (or “Authenticity”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to solve the problem with relentless logic or by working harder. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Feeling side.

A stressed-out ExTJ type is prone to uncharacteristically emotional outbursts, especially if they feel that someone is judging or dismissive of their core self or of a cherished value. Introverted Feeling types place a very high value on internal harmony and authentic living, but ESTJs and ENTJs don’t know how to use this function in a healthy way. They might start to feel like they’ve lost control of their feeling side.

ExTJs under stress might also withdraw from others. They can start to feel like failures, worry that they’re powerless over their lives, and struggle to stay productive. There’s also a good chance they’ll become paranoid about their relationships and misinterpret situations pessimistically. Stressed ESTJs and ENTJs can also become passive-aggressive.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Feeling

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out? | LikeAnAnchor.com
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ISFPs and INFPs

Both ISFPs and INFPs use Introverted Feeling (or “Authenticity“) as their dominant process. The opposite, Extroverted Thinking (or “Effectiveness”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to withdraw from others and try to find internal answers to the problem. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Thinking side.

Stressed-out IxFPs typically become uncharacteristically harsh, judgmental, and cynical. They may lash out at others, even hitting the point where they could be described as aggressive and critical. It might seem like nothing the people around them can do is good enough to avoid the INFP’s or ISFP’s judgement.

Because acting in this way is so out of character and uncomfortable for them, ISFPs and INFPs can become obsessive about trying to fix any problems they perceive. They might imagine problems where none exist, and even create problems when trying to fix something. A stressed IxFP might try to control or organize everything around them.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Thinking

ESFJs and ENFJs

Both ESFJs and ENFJs use Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony“) as their dominant process. The opposite, Introverted  Thinking (or “Accuracy”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to discuss the problem with someone and figure out a way to keep everyone happy. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Thinking side.

Stressed ExFJs may start to withdraw from other people. They loose interest in activities, relationships, the future, etc. This usually makes them feel uneasy and unhappy with themselves. They often become very critical of both themselves and of others. They may lash out at other people with an uncharacteristic disregard for how that will make the other feel.

ESFJs and ENFJs in the grip of stress also start to display convoluted thinking patterns. They’re preoccupied with logic and searching for truth, but to outside observers they often seem rigid, paranoid, and negative. Stressed ExFJ types might get distracted by irrelevant data or get caught-up in trying to solve things by themselves. Depending on the individual, they may seek out someone to talk with or reject outside help.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Thinking

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out? | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Riccardo Mion via Unsplash

ISTPs and INTPs

Both ISTPs and INTPS use Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy“) as their dominant process. The opposite, Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to ignore stressors or think-through them quietly. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Feeling side.

An IxTP might try to deal with their stress by emphasizing logic more extremely than usual. They try to deal with feeling out-of-control by proving they can solve this problem. But this often doesn’t work, and the ISTP or INTP starts to seem paranoid, confused, and obsessive to the people around them.

Stressed-out ISTPs and INTPs are also likely to become insecure about their relationships and express their emotions far more than usual. They might start to feel overwhelmed by strong emotions which don’t make sense. They feel “on edge,” trapped on an emotional roller coaster. IxTPs might also feel like other people are turning against them and believe they’re unlovable/unworthy.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Feeling

ESTPs and ESFPs

Both ESTPS and ESFPs use Extroverted Sensing (or “Sensation”) as their dominant process. The opposite, Introverted Intuition (or “Perspectives”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to find quick-fixes or ways to distract themselves from the stressor. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Intuitive side.

ESxPs typically bounce-back quickly from a stress reaction. But until that happens, stressed-out ESTPs and ESFPs become much more quiet than usual. They might isolate themselves and become preoccupied with worry about the future. They feel inwardly confused, which can result in them seeming flustered and unable to regulate their emotions.

ESTPs and ESFPs can also respond to stress by trying to figure out the meaning of everything. They might start to attribute hidden meanings to every-day things, or become preoccupied trying to develop a grand vision for their lives or the world. People around them might think they’re overreacting or notice they seem depressed.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Intuition

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out? | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: caio-trianavia Pixabay

INTJs and INFJs

Both INTJs and INFJs use Introverted Intuition (or “Perspectives”) as their dominant process. The opposite, Extroverted Sensing (or “Sensation”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to get some alone time to process their way out of whatever’s stressing them. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Sensing side.

When in the grip of stress, INxJs lose their big-picture thinking abilities. They might struggle to focus on their normal activities and make more mistakes than usual. They often try to distract themselves by indulging their Sensory side with things like binge-watching TV shows, buying things they don’t need, or excessive eating and drinking.

INFJs and INTJs can also react to stress by becoming easily distracted by external things, which they might focus on obsessively trying to make sense of what’s going on. They can also develop an adversarial attitude toward the outer world. Stressed INxJ types might be hypersensitive to situations, paranoid, and/or prone to emotional outbursts.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Sensing

ENTPs and ENFPs

Both ENTPs and ENFPs use Extroverted Intuition (or “Exploration”) as their dominant process. The opposite, Introverted Sensing (or “Memory”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to brainstorm possibilities or procrastinate from dealing with things. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Sensing side.

When they’re stressed, ENFPs and ENTPs tend to be come quiet, withdrawn, and spend a lot of time thinking. This isn’t usually clear thinking, though, and stressed ENxPs might convince themselves they’re unloved and alone. It’s not uncommon for them to feel depressed and low-energy when dealing with stress.

Stressed ENxPs can become picky, obsessed, and short-tempered. They may start focusing on all the things they’ve done wrong and loose their typical optimism. They might also start to neglect their physical health, or they can become obsessively focused on their bodies, hypersensitive to how they feel, and worried that they’re becoming ill.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Sensing

ISTJs and ISFJs

Both ISTJs and ISFJs use Introverted Sensing (or “Memory”) as their dominant process. The opposite, Extroverted Intuition (or “Exploration”) is the inferior process that shows up when they’re stressed. If they’re under just a little stress, they may try to get away from others and find a practical solution on their own. But when they’re really stressed-out, they go to their Intuitive side.

Stressed-out ISTJs and ISFJs often become irritable, withdrawn, angry, and pessimistic. They fall into catastrophic thinking and imagine the worst-case scenario for every possible situation. They may start to imagine terrible possibilities and become convinced not only that the worst can happen, but will happen.

ISxJs dealing with stress can also become impulsive. They may make ill-considered and irresponsible decisions based on incomplete or misinterpreted facts and details. Fears and anxieties may take over so the ISFJ or ISTJ feels like they can’t process incoming information, which can be overwhelming and lead to more anxiety.

Further reading: Learning From Our Stress Function: Inferior Intuition


What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out? | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: JESHOOTS.com via Pixabay

Much of the information in this post comes from two excellent books, which you can get for yourself at these links:

Please note these are affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you click on the link and make a purchase.

 

Featured image credit: TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay

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