Do you have hard time accepting the things given to you? Do you critically question life and think about it constantly? You might be one of the few people who are born gifted.
However, being intelligent and gifted has a downside. These people might be suffering from existential 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 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Highly intelligent people are also very sensitive and tend to be socially withdrawn.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.
Why Intelligent People have Depression or at Risk of Depression?
Gifted people tend to think deeply about life, contrary to ordinary people who choose to go with the flow. These minds are constantly filled with questions and worries that increase the risk of depression.These people are sensitive to what is going on around them. They usually think about all the possibilities and how things could work out differently. Through analyzing things, they gain the ability to see what is going wrong with the current system. They also tend to be more emotional than ordinary people. These emotions cause more disappointment when their expectations are not met.
These people have an ability to criticize the society they live in. For this reason, common knowledge and traditions should be questioned. They think about critical issues like gender, diversity, human relations and increasing intolerance. These problems within society are enough keep a gifted mind busy at all times. They are not afraid of facing the problems of the world they live in.
The gifted one realizes another fact through time: The things that are making them angry are completely out of their control. These are the consequences of a thing called life. Anger is groundless. This way, the anger transforms into depression. This way, the questioning mind starts to look for a solution. It looks for a way out of this vicious cycle. Brutal realization of the absurdity of life leads to nihilistic thoughts. Next step is to question the meaning of life and existence. What does life mean, how are we going to embrace the fact that everything is absurd, etc… These questions can be considered normal during a “mid-life crisis.” However, if you’re constantly questioning your life during your 20’s, it indicates a more serious situation. This type of existential depression should be approached carefully, as it might have unpleasant consequences for the individual.
Well, what can we do to help the ones who are suffering from existential anxieties? There is nothing we can do about our finite existence. However, we can support the ones who are struggling by showing them they are not alone. One of the best ways to do that is to develop strong and meaningful relationships with them. You might not carry the same concerns as them, but just try to understand their worries.
Another way to cope with the feeling of exclusion is physical interaction. Hugging a loved one or making inside jokes around family and friends can provide comfort. Touching is considered to be the most basic and instinctive feature of existence. Not only those gifted ones, but also people going through depression can be saved through love and support. The only way to do that is to share their loneliness.
Ali, A., Ambler, G., Strydom, A., Rai, D., Cooper, C., McManus, S., Weich, S., Meltzer, H., Dein, S., & Hassiotis, A. (2012). The relationship between happiness and intelligent quotient: the contribution of socio-economic and clinical factors Psychological Medicine, 43 (06), 1303-1312 DOI: