However, there is evidence to suggest that you might rather be – well – just too smart. There are two kinds of evidence to suggest this might be true: Scientific research and social corroboration.
First, the scientific evidence:
There is a proven correlation between high intelligence and anxiety.
Did you know that there is a correlation between high intelligence and high levels of worry associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Psychologist Alexander Penney surveyed more than 100 students at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada. Students were asked to report their levels of worry.
Students who strongly agreed with statements such as, “I am always worrying about something,” scored higher on a verbal intelligence test.
Another study surveyed 26 patients with anxiety disorder and 18 non-anxious people. They all completed an IQ test, along with a questionnaire to assess their level of worry. Among participants with anxiety issues, higher worry levels correlated with high IQ.
Interestingly, the opposite was seen in non-anxious patients: those with high IQ scores tended to have low levels of worry, and those with low IQ scores tended to have high levels of worry. This may suggest that if you are prone to anxiety, your high IQ is not necessarily an asset.
Social Anxiety, Too
Yet another study links social anxiety to enhanced empathetic ability, which may be a higher form of human intelligence. Those who suffered with social anxiety showed higher psycho-social awareness “sensitivity and attentiveness to other people’s states of mind.”
Socially anxious people – due to their high sensitivity to the emotional states of others – may simply find social engagement too overwhelming.
Now, on to the social corroboration…
A new community of Smart, Anxious Misfits seems to corroborate the link between anxiety and high intelligence.
This private group consists of some of the smartest people I’ve seen gathered in one place online. Anxiety is a chief complaint. This is, of course, is nothing even close to scientific evidence. However, the conversations within the community indicate a common complaint in many intelligent, perceptive people’s lives.
The complaint? They do not fit in with mainstream society. They don’t feel like they belong to any defined social group. When they say what’s on their mind, the average person does not know how to respond in kind.
So, these Smart, Anxious Misfits often feel the burden, isolation and self-doubt that comes with not fitting in. Additionally, their highly active minds tend to read so much more into situations than most people do. If you think about it, this leaves one open to imagining endless variations on how things can go wrong. Worry. Anxiety. Feeling alone in the world. All this because of high intelligence and perceptual abilities? Maybe. Just maybe.
When this group came together, I was personally shocked at how engaged they were. It seemed as if these folks – myself included – had finally found their tribe. Statements like the following are common:
Just reading and being read here had done more for me than any psych med in years
it’s like the support group I never knew I needed.
Well I have only been in this group for going on 1 hour now and I feel like I’ve found people who actually get me.
I feel calmer just being in this group. I know I can say what I like, and I’ll get a response from someone who can relate.
I felt much more confident since finding similars.
It’s all there: the intelligence, worry, and social anxiety among self-confessed misfits. I’m thrilled to be among them – and we might be onto something significant. Such as, when intelligent misfits come together and form a tribe, are we still misfits?