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 happier 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 a purposeful life. However, deep thinkers and highly intelligent people have a unique understanding which handicaps them as they over analyze 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.
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 “Some of the very things that make one smart and successful – a tendency to overthink, to want the best out of any situation, to be driven, etc – come in the way of happiness.” Moreover, they also commit certain “happiness sins”, such as not making happiness a top priority, which leaves them feeling unhappy.
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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,
“If you get a huge raise this month, you might be happy for a month, two months, maybe six months. But after that, you’re going to get used to it and you’re going to want another big bump. And you’ll want to keep getting those in order to sustain your happiness levels. In most people you can see that that’s not a very sustainable source of happiness.” However, he also adds, “The first noble truth in Buddhism – that ‘life is dissatisfying’ – is on to something.”
Intelligence and depression
Research indicates that people with higher IQs are more prone to mental disorders. According to a recent study by researcher Ruth Karpinski from Pitzer College, highly intelligent people are more likely to suffer from mood disorders and anxiety disorders. The research surveyed over 3700 members from Mensa, a high IQ society. 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.
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 disorder. 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.