Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy

Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy

Is high intelligence a curse? Well, it seems so. Experts have observed that highly intelligent people are more likely to be depressed and live a miserable life.

Although they may have a successful career and a loving family, it has been observed that smart people are usually more stressed & worried and less happy than the average person. It has been common knowledge for a long time that deep thinkers tend to look for happiness the hardest without any success.

A high level of intelligence can be rather crippling for most people on an emotional level as they are the ones who are the most lonely and less satisfied.

Are highly intelligent people unhappy?

Knowledge has its own pros and cons. Intelligence can certainly bring you a lot of success, reputation, recognition, and social admiration. However, it takes more than that to be happy in life.

Happiness refers to a wide array of positive emotions characterized by contentment, joy, gratitude and general well-being, and purposeful life. However, deep thinkers and highly intelligent people have a unique understanding which handicaps them as they overanalyze every situation in life. As they look at life differently, they often realize there is more to life than mere success, recognition, and having a loving family. And this is what leaves them feeling unsatisfied and unhappy.

Read 7 Struggles Of Highly Intelligent People

Raj Raghunathan, professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and author of ‘If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?’ explains that a habit of overthinking is commonly observed in smart and successful people. {1} As they are overthinkers, highly driven, and expect the best from every situation, they subconsciously prevent themselves from being happy.

Moreover, they also commit certain “happiness sins”, such as not making happiness a top priority, which leaves them feeling unhappy. But are they truly committing happiness sins? Or have the highly intelligent realized that life is meaningless and depressing, something most of us average Joes haven’t figured out yet? Raghunathan there might be some truth to that. In an article in The Atlantic, he says, 

Raghunathan thinks there might be some truth to that. He says, when something good happens to us we may experience momentary happiness. For instance, when we get a raise at work, we will become happy for a certain period. But eventually, we will get used to our increased salary and require further hikes at regular intervals to experience the same levels of happiness in the long run. He explains this is not necessarily a practical and sustainable source of happiness for most of us. This is where the first noble truth in Buddhism comes in, which explains that suffering is an inherent part of life and existence.

Intelligence and depression

Research indicates that people with higher IQs are more prone to mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder.{2} Studies reveal that highly intelligent people are more likely to suffer from mood disorders, like depression, and anxiety disorders. {3} In fact, it has been also observed that highly intelligent children are prone to experiencing childhood depression. According to one study by researcher Ruth Karpinski from Pitzer College, which surveyed over 3700 members from Mensa, a high IQ society, highly intelligent people are at high risk of psychological vulnerability.{4}

The survey, which covered various aspects including mental health, revealed that the highly intelligent members of the society were at higher risk of suffering from various psychological and physiological disorders.

Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy
Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy

The survey found that mood disorders & anxiety disorders were very common among the members of Mensa, who have an IQ in the top 2%. The findings revealed that around 10% of people with average intelligence have some mood disorders and anxiety disorders. On the contrary, about 27% of Mensa members suffered from a mood disorder like bipolar disorder or severe depression; and approximately 20% of the members had an anxiety disorder.

Another 2012 study discovered that children, 6-12 years of age, with high intellectual potential were also more likely to develop depression in childhood and adulthood as well. {5}

Read 7 Reasons Why Highly Intelligent People Struggle To Find Happiness In Life

3 thoughts on “Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy”

  1. Avatar of Dennis Lamberton

    I think most of the above is a load of bunkum. There is a reason why people are unhappy and it has nothing to do with intelligence; it has to do with childhood experience. Many parents are clueless and they are to blame for the unhappiness of intelligent people. Check out parenting styles and the inferiority complex for answers. If intelligence was an indicator of unhappiness then the percentage would be more like 99% not 27% of Mensa members as claimed above. I would understand why collective intelligence is so low it hasn’t solved humanity’s many problems, least of which is liking each other.

  2. Avatar of hariprabhu k

    I have already read about inteligent people are not happy , knowledge is not giving happiness.whether they expect more.what pathangli yoga told about happiness.The knowledge is more powerful to solve all problems in life.what Roman philosopher Seneca told “the inteligent people can live happily”

  3. Avatar of hariprabhu k

    I have heard about inteligent people are not happy, whether it’s kind of illusion or the knowledge is not aligned with daily life.

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