Do people that are very highly intelligent get depression?

In this article, we will discuss if high intelligence and depression are related and what could be the reasons for an intelligent individual to be depressed.

Do people that are very highly intelligent get depression?

Research suggests that high IQs are associated with mental and physical disorders. The survey conducted on the members of the Mensa society revealed that they were more likely to suffer from various serious disorders. This doesn’t prove that high intelligence is the cause of the disorder though.

The High IQ Society

A study was conducted by Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues to see a correlation between high IQs and mental or physical disorders.

A survey with psychological and physical disorder related questions was emailed to members of Mensa. Mensa is a “high IQ society” which requires its members to have an IQ in the top 2% i.e. an IQ of 132 or higher. The average IQ of the general population stands at 100.

The survey covered various disorders such as –

·         Mood disorders like depression, dysthymia, and bipolar

·         Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder(GAD), social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder

·         Attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

·         Autism spectrum disorder (AUD)

Some physical diseases that were covered like allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders

The subjects were asked if they had ever been diagnosed with any of the mentioned disorders or if they ever suspected they were suffering from them. According to the results that were found 20% of the people with high IQ are more likely to be diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (AUD), 80% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, 83% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and 182% more likely to be diagnosed with or develop at least one mood disorder.

People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence tend to be more successful in academic and occupational aspects of life. In the case of physiological diseases, people with high cognitive abilities are 213% more likely to have environmental allergies, 108% more likely to have asthma, and 84% more likely to have an autoimmune disease.

The biggest difference that was observed between the general population and the members of the Mensa society was for mood disorders. According to the study, 26.7% of the 3,715 respondents reported that they had in fact been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder. 20% of the respondents agreed they had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The cases of environmental allergies were triple the average i.e. 33% vs. 11%.

Hyper brain/ Hyper body theory

This theory was introduced in the 1960s by a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimier Dabrowski. He is the pioneer of the theory of Positive Disintegration as well in which he studied individuals with high cognitive abilities to understand their higher levels of emotional development.

The theory of hyper brain/ hyper body states that superior intelligence causes psychological and physiological “overexcitabilities” otherwise known as OEs. An OE is an intense reaction to an environmental threat or insult ranging from a startling sound or confrontation with a person. Psychological OE could be excessive worrying and physiological OE is the body’s response to stressful situations. Both these OEs interact with each other to cause both psychological and physiological dysfunction. A stressful situation causing psychological distress may in turn lead to the physiological aspects getting triggered.

Being Smart and Getting Depressed

Being intelligent does not make one depressed, but being smart often comes with some other qualities that can lead one into depression. Intelligent people are more critical of the world and themselves which in turn leads to worrying or overthinking. They also tend to deeply emotional and highly sensitive which gives rise to negative thoughts and cynicism over time more so if one lacks positive experiences. These positive experiences help one in having an affirming outlook of the world and themselves. Emotional support is also essential.

Creative intelligence, social withdrawal, emotional intelligence, and the ability to “connect-the-dots” are all indicators of risk of depression – as well as manic depressive issues and schizophrenia. This is because such people tend to have a whole different world inside their heads and often reside there. Smarter people sometimes get bullied into a depressive state. There are factors that have much larger contributions when discussing depression namely brain chemistry, emotional and social circumstances 


It is difficult for a person who is used to getting all the answers, more like giving the answers and knowing the solutions to let a problem be. So, they think harder and keep thinking till their desired goal is achieved.

they will keep researching, reading, talking, and thinking about something over and over again. Intelligent people expect it from themselves; it’s what they do- find answers.

All this develops into obsessive thinking and obsessive thinking is the root of most issues. Rumination is the key symptom in various disorders.

THE NEED TO BE RIGHT                                                                                                    

Most intelligent people with a high IQ have this curious trait that leads them to acquire a lot of knowledge and this knowledge makes them informed and mostly correct about things. This being case, it turm=ns into a habit. Sometimes when they aren’t correct they try to identify the reasoning error that leads to new thoughts.

A smart person is still smart enough to keep the argument going on forever in this situation rather than letting go by generating new arguments. It’s like a debate club inside the individuals head

This inability of letting go can lead to unnecessary arguments and conflicts with people. Sometimes people who are aware of how these people function will take a step back but this will not be the case with everyone and every time.

A professor once wrote out a logical proof for why it was not his turn to take out the garbage. His wife calmly tore up the paper and told him to get on with the de-trashing of the house.


Due to the OEs being a part of intelligent people they look at the world differently, more closely, with more details, more questions, more connections. It also happens because they understand more; they are more bothered by it all. The world stimulates them more than it does an average person. This factor of overexcitability can be a stimulant to depression and anxiety.

Sometimes individuals are good at identifying patterns in situations and looking at a logical conclusion for everything which can result in negativity at an early age. This habit gets incorporated into one’s thinking pattern and then takes root and application in the future.

It’s also easy for one to develop a sense of self and ego if the high intelligence was rewarded on regular basis.


It is said that smarter people who suffer from depression or any other related illness have a greater ability to understand the suffering of others, they’re more empathetic towards pain and life and have a greater understanding of such aspects.

It’s possible that being smart is not what causes depression but the depression in smart people that gives them an understanding and empathetic edge. This combination of traits gives them an understanding of suffering, life, and the human condition. Many great artists are said to have been suffering from serious disorders, one such case being Vincent van Gogh.

We don’t know if it’s the intelligence that causes depression or the depression that makes them more aware of their surroundings and gives them the ability to empathize and understand better. It’s safe to say that this changes from case to case.

There are very many factors that can lead to depression. It can be circumstantial, experiences, people, upbringing, physical symptoms of the brain, and many more. All of these factors vary in severity.

It is important to not link depression with intelligence or vice versa even though there might be a correlation between the two. Not all smart people are depressed and not all depressed people are intelligent.

Every case of depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia warrants a separate and unique approach based on the individual suffering from said mental illness.


In this article, we discussed if high intelligence and depression are related and what could be the reasons for an intelligent individual to be depressed. 

FAQ: Do people that are very highly intelligent get depression?

Is intelligence linked to depression?

Research suggests that intelligence might be associated with neuroticism and depression but there are no significant results for clinical major depressive disorder. It is possible that some behaviors that come along with intelligence may make a person feel and in some cases depression but intelligence is not a significant factor of depression.

What is a genius IQ?

An IQ score of over 140 is called the genius IQ. The average IQ is 100.

What causes high intelligence?

There are genetic and environmental factors responsible for high intelligence. It is also hereditary and familial.

Is bad handwriting a sign of intelligence?

It is said that people who are highly creative have bad handwriting. High intelligence is also associated with bad handwriting because the thoughts of the individual are so fast that the hand is not able to keep up resulting in bad handwriting.