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Why Intelligence and Anxiety Go Hand-In-Hand by Lauren Christiansen

We’ve all heard the expression, “Ignorance is bliss.” To be ignorant, one must be unaware of or ignore difficult facts that may induce anxiety. There are some perks to ignorance. We can do our business without worrying about what’s happening behind the scenes. Many of us ignore the news or negative media for this very reason. Reading about what’s happening in the world is typically depressing and anxiety-producing.

It makes us feel out of control and small. It’s easier to avoid reading any negative media so we can pretend it isn’t really happening.


There are others who cannot live this way. Those who are analytical, gifted, overly curious, creative, or hungry for facts are unable to live in ignorance. They need to know the whole story. They are hungry to learn more. When they try to ignore something that bothers them, their analytical and curious brains get in the way. While intelligence and curiosity are considered positive qualities, they are also linked to increased levels of anxiety and depression. How can intelligent people remain curious but manage their anxiety levels and avoid obsessive-compulsive tendencies? Here is what the experts say.


Understanding the Link

A 2018 study showed that 3000 members of the organization Mensa (a group of individuals who score highly on standardized IQ tests) experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression, or obsessive compulsiveness. Findings showed that 20% suffered from an anxiety disorder, while 26% suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. But why?


The “hyper brain-hyper body” theory may explain the connection. This theory states that the more the brain works, the more the body reacts to the stress created by this “brain work.” Those with higher intelligence tend to have stronger self-awareness, including knowledge of one’s faults or shortcomings. Disassociation from one’s negative qualities is nearly impossible when one is highly intelligent. Thus, the intelligent person will try to achieve more, overcome more, and do more. Any failure causes an enormous amount of stress.


Other causes of the link include a solid ability to sense surroundings and observe people. As a result, high IQ people notice threats more often or imagine perceived threats. This, of course, creates anxiety. Overthinking creates mental fatigue, which contributes to bodily fatigue. High-IQ people are also overly empathetic, which can be stressful in an often non-empathetic world.


Tips to Handle Intelligence and Anxiety

Learning how to channel intelligence for a good purpose while minimizing anxiety is critical. Here are some top tips:


· Act – Thoughts that do not produce action create anxiety. If you overthink, come up with positive ways to channel your worries. Write a book. Get involved in an organization that promotes a cause you are concerned with. Do a podcast. Take action to take control of your overactive brain.

· Work on Being Mindful – Learn how to stay mindful and live in the present moment. Try to slow down and exist in the here and now to let go of unnecessary anxiety.

· Treat Your Body Properly – The mind-body connection is critical. You must take care of both to decrease anxiety. Find an exercise or activity that you enjoy and stick with it.

· Use Positive Self-Dialogue – Use positive affirmations and remove negative self-chatter to think clearly and eliminate unnecessary stress.

· Ask for Help – Find a support group, therapist, or friend to help you work through some of your intelligence-related anxiety issues. While you may be smart, you are still human. We need others to help us process difficult emotions and overcome our fears.


Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.




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