Autism and Introversion: What’s the Difference?

It’s easy to confuse autism and introversion since both conditions impact how a person interacts with the world.

So many times, parents and caregivers wonder where the lines blur. Let’s get it straightened out once and for all and provide you with some practical help to ensure everyone gets what they need.

If you’d like to learn how to help your child develop social skills, you can download your free guide here:

Download your FREE guide on 

4 Practical Interventions to Help Develop Social Skills

What is introversion?

Introversion refers to a tendency or a personality type that prefers doing things alone and does not require much social interaction.

Introverts, in general, tend to feel more refreshed and restored after spending their time alone or in quiet places.

They prefer to deeply ponder their thoughts and feelings and may find large social gatherings draining.

Common behaviors of introverted individuals include:

  • Love doing things alone, like reading or writing.
  • Prefer a small, close group of friends over big parties.
  • They need to be alone to recharge after socializing.
  • They may appear shyer or more reserved.

Introverts prefer deep conversations with a few close friends over large social events and need time alone to recharge. For example, they may enjoy their lunch breaks alone and feel overwhelmed by noisy, busy environments.

What’s the difference between autism and introversion?

So, what is the difference between autism and being an introvert?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in communication, behavioral manifestations, and social interaction.

It differs from being an introvert since autism has set criteria in the DSM-5, such as having repetitive behaviors and difficulties with social interaction skills.

Some of the key differences between autism and introversion are:

  • Social interaction: Introverts may avoid social interactions by choice. However, individuals with autism have difficulty understanding or using verbal and non-verbal social cues.
  • Behavior patterns: People with autism often have repetitive behaviors and intense focus on specific interests, which isn’t typical for introverts.
  • Neurological basis: Autism has a neurological basis involving both genetic and environmental factors, while introversion is just a personality trait.

Intersection of introversion and autism

Although they have significant differences, introversion and autism can also overlap in various ways. Here are some of them:

  • Social preference: Both introverts and autistic people may prefer to be alone or in small, familiar groups to avoid draining from social interaction.
  • Need for solitude: Both groups may need alone time to recharge. While introverts are alone mainly to get back their energy, the autistic person may do it to avoid sensory breakdown.
  • Special interests: Autistic individuals who are also introverted might have a deep focus on special interests or hobbies, which gives them comfort and stability.
  • Social interaction challenges: While introverts might naturally shy away from social events, autistic individuals might do so because they find it hard to read social cues and body language. 
  • Repetitive behaviors: Autistic introverts may display repetitive behaviors to handle anxiety or cope with sensory input. 
  • Environmental sensitivity: Both autistic individuals and introverts might be sensitive to things like loud noises and bright lights.
An introverted girl sitting alone in her room

Are all autistic individuals introverts?

It is a misconception that autistic people are all introverts. Autism is a spectrum, and individuals can display a variety of traits, including extroverted traits.

For example, some autistic individuals love to go out. However, they may find social interactions difficult. They could enjoy being with others but struggle with socializing, so they may require support.

Some are more reserved in their nature and prefer to enjoy quiet activities, just like introverts. These people may prefer to be by themselves or in small groups that can favor deep connections.

For example, some autistic adults may prefer quiet workplaces and avoid social gatherings, finding comfort in focused activities like coding and graphic design due to difficulties with social cues and eye contact.

Autistic children might enjoy solitary play with toys like Legos to stay calm and focused, avoid noisy environments, and prefer to play alone.

There are extroverted autistic individuals who love social events and being around people, though they might struggle with reading social cues and may come across as intense in conversations.

Navigating social challenges

Both autistic persons and introverts face problems of a social aspect, although the nature of these problems differs.

Here are some practical tips and strategies for managing the social interactions of people with autism and being an introvert.

Practicing self-care

The autistic and the introverted should be given time to do things by themselves, recharge, and get involved in things that are quite enjoyable for them. This will result in the prevention of social burnout and reduction of stress.

There is a great need to respect personal space. Autistic people, especially, might be overwhelmed by proximity or crowdedness of space. Make quiet space at home or school where they can retreat when needed.

Setting boundaries

Help autistic individuals understand their own limits in dealing with people and the necessity to communicate their needs.

Encourage the clear communication of boundaries. Let the autistic and the introverted feel comfortable saying no to social invitations or leaving early from events when they feel overwhelmed.

Engaging in social skills training

For autistic people, targeted training in social skills can significantly improve their interactions. This may include learning non-verbal communication in a comfortable, supportive setting.

Practice role-playing to train in social scenarios. This can help introverts and autistic people feel more prepared and less anxious about real-life interactions.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage progress in social skills. Acknowledge the tiniest bit of a triumph, such as starting a conversation or acquiring a new friend. It will mean a lot.

Special Offer

Don’t miss out on the Autism Parenting Summit.
Click here to sign up now!

Embracing diversity

Embracing the diversity of personality traits within the autism spectrum is important to ensure that empathy and understanding occur.

The recognition of the differences and similarities between autism and introversion allows us to better support those who go through these unique challenges.

By understanding these subtleties, we can create more inclusive environments that celebrate and accommodate the diverse ways people experience the world.


Q: Is introversion a form of neurodiversity?

A: No, introversion is not a form of neurodiversity. It is a personality trait and not a neurodevelopmental disorder. Neurodiversity usually refers to autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.

Q: Can you be autistic and social?

A: Yes, people with autism can be social, although they might face difficulties during social interactions. The spectrum of autism is very vast and includes a wide range of social behaviors.

Q: Can autism be mistaken for shyness?

A: Yes, some aspects of autism include social withdrawal or poor communication, which people may mistake for shyness. However, autism has more development differences than just shyness.

Q: Do autistic people like being alone?

A: Preferences are quite varied among autistic people. Some like to be alone, and some like socializing but struggle with communicating.


Asada K, Akechi H, Kikuchi Y, Tojo Y, Hakarino K, Saito A, Hasegawa T, Kumagaya S. Longitudinal study of personal space in autism. Child Neuropsychol. 2024 Apr 5:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09297049.2024.2337753. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38578305.

Autism Parenting Magazine (2024, April 29). Children with Autism and Their Special Interests. Autism Parenting Magazine.

Autism Parenting Magazine (2024, February 26). Understanding Repetitive Behavior in Children With Autism. Autism Parenting Magazine.

Differentiation of Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms from Other Personality Traits and Styles; Nolan, Sydney, University of Colorado Colorado Springs ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2020.

Introversion And Autism: A Conceptual Exploration Of The Placement Of Introversion On The Autism Spectrum, Jennifer Grimes, University of Central Florida 

Karimi P, Kamali E, Mousavi SM, Karahmadi M. Environmental factors influencing the risk of autism. J Res Med Sci. 2017 Feb 16;22:27. doi: 10.4103/1735-1995.200272. PMID: 28413424; PMCID: PMC5377970.

Tuovinen S, Tang X, Salmela-Aro K. Introversion and Social Engagement: Scale Validation, Their Interaction, and Positive Association With Self-Esteem. Front Psychol. 2020 Nov 30;11:590748. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.590748. PMID: 33329251; PMCID: PMC7734327.

Vuijk, R., Deen, M., Sizoo, B. et al. Temperament, Character, and Personality Disorders in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Systematic Literature Review and Meta-analysis. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 5, 176–197 (2018).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles