Does anxiety lower IQ?(5 viewpoints)

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In this guide, we will discuss does anxiety lower IQ levels in an individual and provide supporting research for it.

After all, unnecessary worry may not be such a bad thing. A recent small study indicates that such anxiety along with intelligence may have developed in individuals. The findings indicate that high IQ scores have been correlated with high levels of worry in people diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. Furthermore, people with anxiety disorder appeared to have higher IQ scores than healthy individuals, as well as higher levels of activation in brain regions that help connect between parts of the brain. The researchers suggest these regions are known to have contributed to the evolutionary success of humans.

Does anxiety lower IQ

In the report, an IQ test was performed by 26 patients with an anxiety disorder and 18 healthy people, along with a questionnaire to determine their level of concern.

The higher their level of concern, the greater their IQ score was among the participants with anxiety disorders. Interestingly, in stable patients, the reverse was seen: those with high IQ scores tended to have low levels of concern, and those with low IQ scores tended to have elevated levels of concern, a result that coincides with previous studies.

While we prefer to see anxiety as not good for us, it is correlated with intelligence, a highly adaptive feature, said Dr. Jeremy Coplan, research researcher and psychiatry professor at the Downstate Medical Center of New York State University. High anxiety levels can be debilitating, and the fears of patients are always unfounded, Coplan said. “every so often there’s a wild-card danger. Then, that excessive worry becomes highly adaptive, “there’s a wild-card risk every so often. Then, Coplan said, that excessive worry becomes highly adaptive.

Research on anxiety and IQ

One of the most recent research is coming out of Canada’s Lakehead University. Through a questionnaire, 100 students were surveyed. Those who showed that they had a lot of anxiety and were concerned about a lot of things had higher verbal IQs than those who didn’t.

Another research performed by Israeli psychologists was perhaps a little more distinctive and included behavioral observations of student reactions to an occurrence that causes anxiety.

  • For the study, students with both high and lower IQs were chosen and were told that their task was to determine artwork that would be presented via a software program. This, in reality, was not valid.
  • The students opened up the “software program” one by one and triggered a dreadful virus immediately. The monitor in the room told the current student to go immediately to find technical help.
  • As the student left the space to find technological help, activities were then observed.
  • The student noticed four more “hurdles” going down the corridor, such as someone stopping him from taking a survey and someone else dropping a whole stack of papers in front of him on the floor.
  • The students with higher IQs were those students who displayed the greatest anxiety about getting to the tech support office and whose anxiety seemed to intensify with each hurdle. Besides, they were more eager to get through those challenges than those with lower IQs.

And the same two psychologists, Tscahi Ein-Dor and Orgad Tal, found in previous research that students with higher IQs were often more alert when detecting possible hazards, such as the scent of smoke.

An analysis of people with general and chronic anxiety disorders was performed by a psychiatrist at SUNY Medical Center. The findings were that there were higher IQs for patients whose symptoms were more extreme than for those who did not.

Some experiments have also been performed by neuropsychologists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but these have included MRI scans to ascertain a correlation between intelligence and anxiety. What they found is that all those people with high IQs and anxiety had a similar brain anomaly, specifically the depletion of a certain factor in a part of the brain’s white matter. Their inference was that as humans progressed, anxiety and intellect undoubtedly grew together.

The drawback of intelligence and anxiety

In interpretation and logical thinking, many intelligent individuals have good skills. However, when it is paired with high anxiety levels, it can be a little paralyzing. The intellect helps the worrier to come to an action she or he is considering all possible negative scenarios. Worry sets in, then. And that concern may lead to inaction.

Often, knowledgeable individuals with anxiety appear to ruminate. This suggests that they appear to obsess about events of the past, running through their minds alternate “what if” scenarios. They also grow fear about the future and perform the same kinds of scenarios in their minds. For a person, it can be very difficult to concentrate on the “now” while rumination runs the display, not to mention shutting down the brain at night to sleep.

The silver lining of intelligence and anxiety

Some of these studies have also shown that individuals prefer to avoid circumstances that put them at risk when intelligence and anxiety are both present. Typically, there are physical threats. So, a potentially risky amusement park ride or an invitation to skydive may be rejected by one of these people.

The other element of this’ tuning in’ to risk often appears to result in alertness that is not displayed by less nervous people. This alertness helps them to also alarm others.

IQ and other mental disorders

In a report, Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues sent a survey email to representatives of Mensa with questions about psychological and physiological disorders. Mensa, a’ high IQ culture,’ demands that its members have an IQ in the top 2 percent. This corresponds to an IQ of around 132 or higher for most intelligence exams. The survey of the highly intelligent members of Mensa showed that they were more likely to suffer from several severe illnesses.

Mood disorders (depression, dysthymia, and bipolar), anxiety disorders (generalized, relational, and obsessive-compulsive), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism were covered in the study. Environmental allergies, asthma, and autoimmune conditions were also protected. Respondents were asked to disclose whether either illness had ever been officially diagnosed or suspected of suffering from it. They compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents who registered each disorder to the national average, with a return rate of almost 75 percent.

For mood disorders and anxiety disorders, the greatest changes were found between the Mensa community and the general population. More than a quarter (26.7 percent) of the sample reported that a mood disorder had been officially diagnosed, while 20 percent reported an anxiety disorder, far higher than the national average of around 10 percent for each. The variations for most of the other disorders were smaller but still statistically important and meaningful. The prevalence of allergies to the atmosphere was three times the national average (33 percent vs. 11 percent).

Hyper brain/hyper body theory

Karpinski and her colleagues suggest the hyper brain / hyper body theory to clarify their results. This hypothesis holds that being highly intelligent is synonymous with psychological and physiological “overexcitability,” or OEs, for all its benefits. An OE is an unusually strong response to an environmental threat or provocation, a term introduced by Kazimierz Dąbrowski. This can involve everything from a shocking tone to another person’s dispute.

Psychological OEs involve an increased propensity to ruminate and worry, while the reaction of the body to stress results in physiological OEs. These two types of OEs are more common in highly intelligent individuals, according to the hyper brain/hyper body theory, and communicate with each other in a ‘ vicious circle’ to induce both psychological and physiological dysfunction. A highly intelligent person, for example, could overanalyze a disapproving remark made by a supervisor, imagining negative consequences that would simply not happen to anyone less intelligent. That may activate the stress response of the body, which can make the individual even more anxious.

It is important to view the findings of this research carefully since they are correlational. Showing that a disorder is more prevalent in a group of people with high IQs than in the general population does not prove that the cause of the disorder is high intelligence. It is also likely that in ways other than just IQ, people who enter Mensa vary from other people. People who are concerned with intellectual pursuits, for instance, can spend less time on physical activity and social interaction than the average individual, both of which have been shown to have broad psychological and physical health benefits.

From a practical point of view, this study can potentially contribute to insights into how to enhance the psychological and physical well-being of people. If the mechanism underlying the IQ-health relationship turns out to be overexcitabilities, then strategies aimed at curbing these often maladaptive reactions may help people lead happier, healthier lives.

Although the study is not complete, it seems to support the idea that high intelligence is available to worried people. At this point, however, the study does not support the opposite: that individuals without anxiety are less intelligent as a group.

In this guide, we discussed does anxiety lower IQ levels in an individual and provide supporting research for it.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

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FAQs: Does anxiety lower IQ

Does anxiety affect IQ?

After all, unnecessary worry may not be such a bad thing. A recent small study indicates that such anxiety along with intelligence may have developed in individuals. The findings indicate that high IQ scores have been correlated with high levels of worry in people diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder.

Can trauma lower your IQ?

The first regression equation explored exposure to group violence and trauma-related distress as predictors of the IQ of an infant. After correcting for confounders, exposure to group violence accounted for a substantial difference in the IQ of a child (P<. 05), with greater exposure to violence correlated with lower IQ scores.

Does depression lower IQ?

In both subsamples, post-treatment testing IQ scores were increased compared to pre-treatment, but with little improvement in the discrepancy of verbal-performance IQ. These and related results indicate that a performance IQ deficiency, regardless of affective condition, is typical of depressed patients.

Is worrying a sign of intelligence?

Nevertheless, fascinating research published in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that those who are susceptible to anxiety, rumination, and generalized anxiety are smarter than others.

What in the brain causes anxiety?

Part of the emotional brain is the amygdala, situated deep within the brain. According to this theory, when impulses from the emotional brain overwhelm the cognitive brain and into our consciousness, we just experience fear.

What is the average IQ by age?

According to Wechsler Intelligence Scales, 90-109 level of IQ is considered to be the average level of IQ and anything above 110 IQ points is above average and below 89 IQ points, it is below average. 

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