Superior IQs Are Associated With Mental And Physical Disorders, Research Suggests

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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While there are many perks to being a brainiac, there is also a downside. Mood and anxiety disorders plague the super-smart at higher rates than the general population, according to a survey that polled members of the “high IQ society,” Mensa.

To be a Mensa member, you have to have an IQ in the top 2 percent — that’s 132 or higher on most intelligence tests, according to Scientific American. The average IQ of the general population is 100. 

Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues asked the smartie pants about psychological and physiological disorders and published the results of the study in the journal Intelligence.

The survey covered:

  • mood disorders (depression, dysthymia and bipolar)
  • anxiety disorders (generalized, social and obsessive-compulsive),
  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • autism
  • environmental allergies
  • asthma
  • autoimmune disorders.

Mood and anxiety disorders were where the biggest disparities showed up between Mensa and the general population, according to the report. More than a quarter (26.7 percent) of the sample reported that they had been formally diagnosed with a mood disorder, while 20 percent reported an anxiety disorder—far higher than the national averages of around 10 percent for each, according to Scientific American. The differences were smaller but still statistically significant for most of the other disorders. Environmental allergies among the super-smart were triple the national average — 33 percent vs. 11 percent.

Superior IQs = superior issues

Researchers in the study suggested that something called the Hyper Brain/Hyper Body Theory is at play here. They associate being brainy with psychological and physiological “overexcitabilities,” or OEs — a concept introduced in the 1960s. An OE is an unusually intense reaction to an environmental threat or insult which can include anything from a loud noise to a confrontation with another person.

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For example, some super-brainy people may worry a lot and/or get sick from the body’s response to stress, getting caught up in a “vicious cycle” that causes both psychological and physiological dysfunction, according to researchers.

None of this proves that high intelligence causes disorders. On the contrary, as a brainy person, you’re less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy.

But. And this is a big one.

People preoccupied with intellectual endeavors may spend less time than average working out or socializing. Both of the latter have proved beneficial for psychological and physical health, researchers said.