Does High IQ Increase the Risk of Depression and Mental Disorders?

Posted on December 23, 2014

Photo: flickr

The positive association between high IQ and depression and other mental disorders

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 time of Hippocrates in the 4th century B.C. Sigmund Freud explored the idea and modern-day 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.

Several studies attempt to correlate the occurrence of depression in gifted individuals with the peculiar mental makeup that stems from their high levels of intelligence. People with high IQ tend to have fertile inner lives where they recreate the world to fit their dreams and preferences. They also have more intensified and enduring reactions to stimuli than their less-gifted counterparts. This means that when reality clashes with their perception of what is “real,” they feel at a loss and are unable to cope.

Highly intelligent people are also very sensitive and tend to be socially withdrawn.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 plane. Whatever may be their reason for feeling alienated from the world at large, people with high IQ lack support systems or creative outlets to help them cope with their blues.

The unique mental and behavioral characteristics of highly gifted and creative individuals may also explain the origin of the popular perception that geniuses are “mad”. A study in Sweden has found that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to work in creative jobs that require high levels of cognitive and artistic intelligence than individuals who do not suffer from these mental disorders.

And would you believe that researchers link scoring straight A grades in school to a fourfold increase in the chances of developing bipolar disorder in adulthood? According to the authors of another study, students who excel in linguistics, music, and arithmetic reasoning have a greater likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. Excellence in these disciplines requires a person to reach a state of high alertness where they can spot underlying patterns and connect dots in innovative ways. These mental characteristics also make people more prone to experiencing strong emotions, a classic symptom of bipolar disorder, than those who are not similarly attuned.

The jury is still out regarding a positive relationship between high IQ and a greater risk of developing depression and mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Whether there is a positive link or not, all the research in this area should serve to sensitize people to the reality that geniuses are not freaks of nature – they just cannot help being the way they are.


Category(s):Depression, Emotional Intelligence

Source material from Brain Blogger


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