Correlates intelligence with social anxiety

Is there a connection between anxiety disorders and intelligence?

Last update: 03 March, 2019

Luck is with the stupidis a well-known proverb that recently seems to have been scientifically substantiated repeatedly. For example, a study carried out at Lakehead University in Canada showed that above-average intelligence correlates with a tendency towards anxiety disorders. There seems to be a direct link between a brilliant mind with strong analytical skills and excessive concern for society and the environment.

Some time ago we wrote on our blog about a possible connection between intelligence and depression. Then as now, the studies cited indicate that that those with a high IQ show an increased tendency to develop certain mental disorders.This is not a set law, but a fact that must be taken seriously.

There is a direct connection between above-average intelligence and anxiety disorders, the organic basis of which can be found in the white matter of the brain.

Very different scientific institutions, including the medical faculties with their psychological institutes, try again and again to make interesting study results accessible not only to the specialist audience, but also to the general population. This is especially true if the results are relevant both in the clinic and in prevention, if they enable those affected to better understand their own situation. One such publication recently stated that a significant proportion of people with high IQs have states of mind and behaviors that do not harmonize with their privileged brain. They are not happy; they are often frustrated and find it difficult to make decisions.

If we could interview neuropsychologists and psychiatrists around the world, many of them would tell us about the same problem, namely Patients with high intelligence and chronic generalized anxiety disorder. But what is this connection?

Relationship between anxiety disorders and intelligence

This may not be a completely unknown problem for anyone who works in education. There are brilliant students who are characterized by an extraordinarily stable balance and an admirable calm. Others, on the other hand, are quickly frustrated when confronted with change, anticipate the negative and thus lapse into an exhausting, stressful state. This can go so far that their academic performance deteriorates.

Tscahi Ein-Dor and Orgad Tal, both psychologists at Lakehead University, have conducted experiments on this at several secondary schools. Their aim was to analyze and understand the behavior patterns described, as they represent for the students concerned not only a burden, but often also an obstacle on the way to personal success Some of the students who exhibited the traits they were looking for were examined by magnetic resonance imaging, and it was that imaging technique that brought amazing details to light.

Above average intelligence and white matter

It has been hypothesized that Both high IQ and tendency to anxiety disorder can be explained by a white matter abnormality. Let us recall that this substance consists primarily of myelinated axons, i.e. nerve fibers, not gray cells, and that it is used to transmit information. So it becomes Basis of all cognitive processes and our intelligence.

Some authors believe that the development of our intelligence in the course of human evolution was accompanied by the development of fear. The reason for this? Both were vital. Only those who felt fear could anticipate dangers and risks and thus avoid them. This required analytical skills and, in the majority of cases, rapid processing of information. You were the one Basic requirements for our survival and thus for the transmission of our genes. Nevertheless, we must state that intelligence loses its function at the point where fear crosses the threshold of pathology. Then it no longer motivates to fight or flight, but paralyzes.

Characteristics of intelligent people with anxiety disorders

The aforementioned white matter abnormality is not a reliable indicator of whether a person has above-average intelligence or will develop an anxiety disorder at any point in their life. Rather, it is to be understood as a risk factor. These people are more sensitive to loss of control over their emotions in moments of stress. However, if they develop the corresponding phenotype, then this shows up in the following characteristics:

  • Guardian intelligence. By this we are referring to the ability to anticipate threats and dangers that other people are not aware of. This may prove to be an advantage in certain circumstances.
  • Hypersensitivity. The common occurrence of high intelligence and anxiety disorders causes low tolerance in moments of social interaction. The presence of many other people means an overstimulation that can overwhelm those affected and mentally exhaust them.
  • Emotional contagion. Another characteristic of intelligent people with a tendency to fear is their underdeveloped ability for ecpathy, that is, to consciously differentiate their own emotional world from the emotions of others. They are very sensitive to their feelings, can only inadequately filter them and are therefore hardly able not to let them get to them. That is why they suffer when others suffer, literally become infected with their problems, which saps their own energy reserves.
  • Lavish subconscious. This term may sound a little strange, but it refers to a phenomenon that we are all familiar with: People with high IQs tend to be overly concerned - and not just about global problems that can have really far-reaching consequences. No, they invest their mental energy in insignificant details which, regardless of their configuration, have less of an impact on their life than the mental exhaustion that results from their tendency to worry.
  • The world is full of possibilities and you cannot ignore any of them. This is also a sign of above-average intelligence in combination with an anxiety disorder. It is not possible for those affected to draw boundaries, choose one option (or at least a few) and leave others aside. Their world is full of opportunity, but also full of variables and conditions that make it impossible for them to make the best possible decision without taking a risk. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for them to commit themselves.

At this point a certain question comes to mind: How can we deal with it if this affects us? What can we do with this hyperactive mind that is unable to apply filters so as not to be flooded with stimuli, information and emotions in this complex reality? The key seems to be to reduce our anxiety as much as we can so that it no longer prevents us from reaching our full potential. But this assumption is wrong.

If we make our fear a partner, let us use it to our advantage. Let's work with our fear and let it increase our potential. We mentioned that the evolutionary development of intelligence and fear went hand in hand to give us the advantage that allowed our growth as a species. Let us therefore orientate ourselves towards nature, let us try to understand what has advanced human development. Let's learn to use our hyperactive mind to see what others don't see: opportunities and risks, but above all probabilities. The latter put the former into a more realistic perspective, giving us the necessary balance to develop effective filters through which our mental energy only flows when we want it to.

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