Can being too intelligent lead to existential depression?

This article will discuss if being too intelligent can lead you to develop existential depression. The article will show why this can happen, and how to deal with the situation.

Can being too intelligent lead to existential depression? 

Yes, it seems that gifted people, meaning people that have higher IQs, or that have specific talents, can develop existential depression easier. This doesn’t mean that they are the only ones that will experience it, other people that have gone through traumatic situations, such as the loss of a loved one, can begin to question the meaning of it all.

But research has shown that intelligent people have a higher chance of developing it without even going through a traumatic experience. This seems to happen because gifted people are often highly sensitive people, and they usually are more in tune with other people’s stressful experiences. 

But they also have a harder time adjusting to the idea that people’s suffering has no meaning at all.

That is why it is more common to see artists, creative people, scientists, and intellectuals going through existential depression. It can also happen to extremely empathetic people, because they tend to deeply feel the injustices of the world, and can feel overwhelmed by how helpless they are in it all.

It can also happen to gifted children when they first get in touch with death or any injustice in the world. Along with that, it can happen to children when they are learning about global warming, homelessness, and inequality, and they are faced with the negative aspects of humankind.

But let’s understand a little more about what existential depression is, and what are ways to cope with it.

What is existential depression?

Existential depression is that feeling you may get once you start to ask yourself some of the hardest questions in life. 

You will begin to ask yourself about the meaning of life, or what happens after you die. And even though some people may find a way around those questions, some can’t, and will keep circling them, which will lead them to a state of angst.

It can often happen after you have faced a traumatic situation, while you are trying to find the meaning of it all. And the center points you may start to focus on are: 

  • Death: you become aware of the inevitability of it, and question what happens after
  • Freedom: you start to understand the concept of free will and how your choices affect what will happen in your life
  • Isolation: you start to wonder what is the value of relationships
  • Meaningless of life: you come to terms with life having very little meaning

And as you are faced with all of these questions, and understand that there is no answer and that life may even be meaningless, you can start to feel it is hard to keep living without purpose. And this can lead you to a state of existential depression.

This loss of purpose is often associated with depressive episodes. And when it hits you on life’s bigger picture, it can be haunting. It can make you feel trapped and unable to move forward from this crisis. 

It can lead you to look over everything you have done in life, causing you to feel guilty about some of your life choices, or about how impotent you are at making a positive impact on people’s life.

In some cases, existential depression can go on to a  point that will make you lose complete sense of who you are, and cause you to lose touch with all you desire in life. All of this, the guilt, the lack of perspective, and the isolation, can lead to a worsening of your existential depression.

What are the main signs of existential depression?

When a person is going through existential depression, they will most likely display some of the following signs.

  • Fixed thought on discovering the meaning of life or their purpose
  • Feeling sad or hopeless because they can’t find the answer
  • Feeling hopeless about the fate of humankind
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Feeling everything is futile
  • Realizing the world is unfair
  • Expecting more of life than the everyday life
  • Distancing themselves from their relationships because they believe it will all end anyway
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Feeling like no action will bring any sort of change
  • Lack of motivation

How can I cope with existential depression?

If you feel that existential depression is affecting you, know that there are some ways you can cope with it. Here they are.

Find your meaning 

Know that you are the one that will choose the path your life will take. And of course, it is important to keep in mind that you won’t be able to control everything, but there are ways you can make the best of the life you are living.

If you are afraid of dying or losing the people you love, make sure to tell them how important they are to you. If you feel like you haven’t done anything to make the world a better place, try to find ways to do so. It doesn’t need to be a huge thing, you can do a volunteer job, or be more active in your community.

Share your feelings 

Talking to your loved ones about how you have been feeling can be extremely hopeful. It will not only give you a chance to vent, but it can also be a way to exchange with one of them that may have gone through the same thing.

Aside from that, it can be good, once you are questioning yourself, and all you have done, to see how valuable you are to the people around you. This will allow you to see how you add meaning to other people’s lives and can make you feel supported.

Learn to deal with uncertainty 

There are theories such as the Dabrowski theory of positive disintegration that talk about how negative events, such as being depressed can be a sign of growth. And through that you will be able to learn how to deal better with the uncertainties of life, leading you to a deeper level of self-awareness.

Focus on the present 

Using techniques such as meditation and mindfulness to help you focus on the present is positive when one is dealing with depression. It can help you take your thoughts away from your negative thoughts, but more than that, it can give you a new appreciation for the moment.

Meditation is not an attempt to avoid those thoughts, but rather letting them through you, and choosing to focus more on the present and what you can control than what you can’t.

Look for professional help

In some cases, depression will only improve with professional support. So if your existential depression goes on for more than a few weeks, it may be important to look for a therapist. 

Through talking with them you can better understand the questions you are facing, why they have emerged, and how to care for them so they don’t have such a negative impact on you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Can being too intelligent lead to existential depression? 

Is an existential crisis a mental health issue?

No, an existential crisis is not a mental illness. It can be a positive moment when you are facing some of life’s big questions, and you can take a lot of growth from it, become more self-aware, and learn how to give new meanings to your life. 

But for some people, can negatively feel an existential crisis. They can find it hard to look at the lack of meaning in life, and won’t be able to create a meaning of their own, which can lead them to feel empty, or like they lost their purpose, making them prone to depression.

What are ways to deal with an existential crisis?

If you are going through an existential crisis, there are some things you can do. The first one is to adjust how you see things. Changing your perspective, and seeing this moment as a possibility to change, or learn more about yourself, will surely help you take it all lighter.

Having a gratitude journal, in which you write about your thoughts and feelings, especially what you are thankful for, will help you find some meaning in your life. Writing what you enjoy, and what makes you happier will help you understand what you want to change.

Being around people is also important since it is something that will help you feel more grounded. It will help you with the crisis, and for it to not get worse, which could lead to depression, and suicide. Meditation, especially mindfulness, will be a huge help in focusing more on the present and on the things you can control.

Mindfulness will take your head out of the future, but you should also avoid dwelling on the past. The guilt that can come from it can lead you to a dark path, in which depression can happen. Try to keep in mind that you did the best you could with what you had at the moment, and let go of the past.

How can I help someone going through an existential crisis?

If a loved one is going through an existential crisis, the most important thing you can do is offer them support. Let them know that you have realized that they are going through a hard moment and that you are there to help them. Let them know that, if they want, you can help them find professional help.

What is existential Obsessive-compulsive disorder?

Existential OCD is when a person is having constant, intrusive thoughts about existential matters. They start to ask themselves about the meaning of life, their purpose in it, and even their existence. Those thoughts can happen in a philosophical manner, or even in a frightening way.

Is existential anxiety a normal feeling?

Yes, existential anxiety is normal, and everyone will experience it in some way during their lifetime. To some, it can be just a fleeting thought, that appears in a moment they aren’t doing anything. 

To others, it can happen as they face a situation that leads them to lose their beliefs. But some people may feel it deeply, which can lead them to question everything, even their place in the world, which can lead to more serious conditions.


This article showed how being highly intelligent can lead a person to become depressed. The article explained why this happens, and what are ways people can cope with it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.