Intelligence’s Dark Side

For many, intelligence is a high-standing aspect of the one who possesses it. That person automatically becomes simultaneously put on a pedestal, and pressured into doing greater things every time. 

While it may seem that intelligent people have it better, there are a few things that they struggle with due to their intelligence, awareness, and the pressure of the outside world. As we will see, the grass isn’t always greener for intelligent people. Even with their high intelligence, they are still people who struggle sometimes just like everyone else. 

This article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice. Please visit your medical or mental professional if you need help or advice. 

Keep reading to find out four difficulties that intelligent people struggle with on a daily basis. 

Mental and Emotional Disorders

Image Credit/ Ragga Muffin

Some studies have shown that there is a correlation between mental illnesses and high IQs. These illnesses include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Studies have also shown that there is a connection between high IQ and the use of drugs. 

One study mentioned in an Origins article showed that out of the group of people they studied, 47 percent suffered from mental illnesses. This study looked into a high IQ society called Mensa that only accepts people with IQs of 132 or higher. 

Origins, a care provider that focuses on addiction, mental illness, and others, dove into what the Mensa study says might be the possible causes and reasons why people with high IQ have a high probability of developing mental illnesses. 

Some possible reasons described are overexcitability, intelligence genes causing mental illness, social isolation, and that intelligent people are more likely to get mental help. 

According to Origins, overexcitability can turn into over analyzation, worry, and rumination that will eventually turn into anxiety or depression. Normally, people with higher IQs are ostracized or pushed to the fringes of society due to society not being able to understand them. This isolation, in turn, can cause depression. 

Finally, due to their high IQ, intelligent people are more self-aware and can know when there’s something wrong with them quicker than normal people. Because of this self-awareness, they are more likely to seek medical and mental health to get diagnosed, more so than others.

They see More, Hence they Worry More

Intelligent people have the ability to understand and think in complex ways. So it is easier for them to see and understand more things regarding a situation than others might be able to. Realizing that others don’t understand or see the same things, might put the intelligent person under pressure to do something themselves because they are the only ones to notice these things. 

Of course, just because you see or understand something doesn’t mean that you are equipped to deal with it. So, this can drive the intelligent person to worry or stress excessively. Even if they do have the tools to make a change they realize that they might have to do it alone and although they prefer that in most cases, that doesn’t mean it is ideal. 

Impossible Expectations

Image Credit/ Ron Lach

Because they are able to do, think, and see things that not many others can, intelligent people not only tend to put pressure on themselves to achieve impossible things but also feel that same pressure from other people. 

They get bogged down with work, which eventually causes a breakdown or burnout. They may also try to do big things quickly, meaning they pay no attention to the small steps they need to take in order to make those big things happen. Which can lead them to fail. 

The more they do correctly, the more people begin to expect greater things from them, forgetting that they are human too and also have the capacity to fail. 

Marty Nemko Ph.D., a personal coach, and educational psychologist wrote in a Psychology Today blog about how intelligent people are perceived in terms of expectations:

“They’re expected to always be intelligent”, said Nemko, “But even smart people aren’t always ‘on’ and then, likely anyone else, they’re more mistake-prone. But they and others are particularly hard on them because of the disparity between their usual functioning and their error”.

Nemko continued, “Intelligent people are expected to make a big difference in the world. Lest they choose a less ambitious career, they’re often denigrated as ‘not living up to their potential”. 

Negative Impressions

Due to their intelligence, and the way they express themselves, intelligent people may come off as “full of themselves”, arrogant, or “know-it-alls”. Most people don’t like it when they feel as if others are trying to flaunt their intelligence because it makes them feel inadequate. Although, not all intelligent people flaunt their high IQs instead they like to talk about what they know and try to help others. 

Having a high IQ doesn’t mean that you’re smart at everything. Many highly intelligent people do not know how to behave socially nor do they have emotional intelligence. This gets them into trouble sometimes as they may say or do things unintentionally that confuse or hurt other people. 

Self-esteem tied to their Intelligence

Image Credit/ Rachel Claire

Another negative side to being intelligent is that, due to the outer and inner pressure, many intelligent people end up tying their self-esteem, self-worth, and identity to their intelligence and ability to always do things “perfectly”. 

In his blog, Nemko explains that due to intelligent people being aware of their own intelligence and how highly regarded it is by others, they tend to get wrapped up in it and only depend on themselves. 

“So they tend to rely too much on their own judgment”, Nemko stated, “No matter how intelligent a person is, obtaining outside input often leads to better decisions. So they may end up making worse decisions than do somewhat less intelligent people who are aware of their limitations”. 

“Most intelligent people’s career and self-esteem are tied to their intelligence”, Nemko said, “Aging’s inevitable cognitive decline tends to especially hurt smart people, practically and psychologically”. 

If you are considered to be one of these highly intelligent people, remember that in the end we are all human, and mistakes are part of our lives. Do not push people away due to pride or arrogance, you might need them later on. 

These are just a few of the difficulties that intelligent people face in their lives. To be clear, not all intelligent people are arrogant or full of themselves, they just seem like they are. More likely than not they are worrying more than trying to show off. 

Do you agree with the difficulties mentioned here? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to check out our Youtube channel for more. 


Nemko, M. (2016, 27 September). The Burdens of Intelligence. Psychology Today.

Origins Behavioral HealthCare. (2022, 10 January). High Intelligence Disorders | Origins Behavioral Healthcare.
Sabater, V. (2022, 21 February). Being Extremely Intelligent: The Dark Side We Don’t Talk About. Exploring Your Mind.

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