What got me intrigued in this video was actually just the title.
If you are smart, why aren’t you happy?
The positive correlation between high IQ and depression
The fascination with genius and an obsession with finding a positive link between high intellectual potential and depression and other mental disorders dates back to the ancient times, uncle Freud explored the idea and researchers have expanded on it. In a study on children with IQ levels above 130 — regarded as superior to very superior intelligence — researchers found that 65 percent of the subjects had major depressive disorder.
It is said that people with high IQ tend to have fertile inner lives where they recreate the world to fit their dreams and preferences – questionably intelligent, but I am definitely guilty of that! They also have more intense and enduring reactions to stimuli than their less-gifted buddies. This means that when reality clashes with their perception of what they imagined to be “real,” they feel cheated, confused and are unable to cope.
It is also known that highly intelligent people are very sensitive and tend to be socially withdrawn. It may be because they are too busy with their own mental chatter or do not find someone to whom they can relate on an intellectual and emotional level. That may be me just being a judgemental bitch but yes, I know the struggle.
We’re all mad here
The unique mental and behavioural characteristics of highly intelligent and creative individuals may also explain the origin of the popular perception that geniuses are usually “mad”. Inspired and intrigued by the long-standing belief that creativity is coupled with psychopathology researchers in Sweden found that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to work in jobs that require high levels of cognitive and artistic intelligence than individuals who do not suffer from these mental disorders.
Another study by Karolinska Institutet and my lovely alma mater King’s College London suggests that students who are doing exceptionally well in linguistics, music, and arithmetics have much higher likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. A Finnish researcher Tiihonen, who was also exploring this topic, explained that arithmetic tests require not only mathematical skills but also rapid information-processing for the purpose of successfully completing the timed exam. He suggests that individuals with such rapid processing power may be predisposed to experience mania, a state of high focus and psychomotor activity. These mental characteristics also make people more inclined to experiencing strong emotions, a classic symptom of bipolar disorder, than those who are not similarly attuned.
While it is still not 100% sure that being clever will make you sad or crazy, the studies confirm it is definitely possible. Whether there is a positive link between high IQ and developing a bipolar disorder or not we should just agree that highly intelligent people just cannot help being the way they are.
As per the TedTalk above, the most common and biggest mistake that sabotages our happiness is not doing the thing that you know would make you happy. But to do the thing that makes you happy you have to be happy yourself. If you don’t have the mental strength to get out of bed it will be hard to go to archery classes or sign up for a book club. Being an intelligent person and a perfectionist at the same time doesn’t necessarily mean your brain will help you rationalise taking small steps and being average. More often it would stop you from doing the thing because in order for the thing to make you happy you’d have to excel. The merry go round goes round and we are all sad forever.