Studies Link Social Anxiety To Empathetic Ability, High IQs, & Sentinel Intelligence – Thousand Thoughts
By Steven Bancarz| A few years ago, a series of studies came out in an attempt to sort of ‘debunk’ people who practice spirituality. The study found that people who have a spiritual understanding of life tend to be more susceptible to mental health problems, addictions, and anxiety disorders.
A passive aggressive news report from the Daily Mail titled “Spiritual people are more likely to be mentally ill (but at least they think life has more meaning)” took a jab at spiritual people as if to say “They’re crazy, but at least they think life is more important to them”.
A report by The Telegraph also covered the same story, claiming that spiritual people struggle to cope with things mentally. Now, could it be possible that the reason spiritually-minded people have more mental health issues and anxiety problems is not because they are looney, but because they are more connected to what is happening in the world?
What if they are more aware of the things that are wrong with society and are more connected to the suffering in the world? What if an anxious mind is a searching and connected mind? A very important study came out a few years ago linking social anxiety to increased empathetic abilities. People who report suffering from social anxiety have an increased ability to feel and interpret the emotions and mental states of people around them. As the study concluded:
Results support the hypothesis that high socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.
In other words, people who have social anxiety are able to more tangibly feel the emotions of people around them. Many many people who consider themselves to be “conscious” or “spiritual” also report feeling social anxiety and experience things like depression and other mental disorders. But as it turns out, people who suffer from anxiety may also be more intelligent.
Studies link anxiety to intelligence
A recent research study out of Lakehead University found that people who reported to suffer from social anxiety also happened to test higher on psychological tests which were designed to measure verbal intelligence. People who reported having General Anxiety Disorder and depression actually scored higher on verbal-linguistic testing than people who did no suffer from anxiety.
Another study which was published in the European Journal of Psychology found that high-anxiety participants were quicker to detect threats of danger and responded more quickly to those threats than other participants. As the study concluded:
Social defense theory (Ein-Dor et al., 2010) proposes that in threatening situations, people who score high on attachment anxiety quickly detect the presence of threat and then alert other group members to the danger and the need for protection. Supporting this line of reasoning, we found that participants high in attachment anxiety were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message.
Anxiety as a superpower
One explanation of this is that anxious individuals also tend to be more altruistic. In nature, animals that are able to detect and respond to threats the quickest are more likely to survive. In fact, some species of the animal kingdom rely on having an individual in their herd that is anxiety prone and can detect threats before the others can. Is it possible that anxiety is actually an evolutionary advantage? Could anxiety act as a biological superpower that helps us solve problems, avoid threats, and detect danger?
A study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York demonstrated that participants who suffered from severe cases of anxiety tested higher on intelligence tests (IQ tests) that those who didn’t have as much anxiety. In other words, there was a direct correlation between degree of anxiety and degree of intelligence. This should come as no surprise, since anxious people are constantly analyzing, assessing, formulation ideas, reflecting, and processing information.
As Dr. Jeremy Coplan said about his study, “While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be.” So once again, we have evidence that people with “mental health disorders” are actually more intelligent on average.
And as mentioned previously, a recent study found that people with social anxiety exhibit elevated mentalizing and empathetic abilities. Essentially, they have a much higher psycho-social awareness.
What this means
Yes, people who are spiritually minded tend to suffer from anxiety and depression more. But this is because their eyes are open to a world that is in need of repair. They literally have an increased ability to feel the emotions of people around them.
Not to mention, the same people that are assumed to be crazy for having social anxiety and other mental disorders test higher on certain intelligence tests, IQ tests, and have an evolutionary advantage in being able to detect threats before other people.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t people who can accurately feel, interpret, and mentalize the thoughts and emotions of others and detect threats before other people called ‘intuitives’ and ‘psychics’? Could it be possible that having social anxiety and general anxiety disorder is NOT actually a disorder but is a product of having a stronger intuition, more accurate interpretations on people’s states, a sensitive energy field, and an increased ability to detect danger?
These scientific studies shine a whole new light on spirituality and social anxiety. Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel, and don’t let anyone call you crazy because of it. Perhaps what we are calling a disorder is actually a gift.
Author: Steven Bancarz
Highly intelligent people might seem to have it better through life, but this isn’t always the case. There are several difficulties and challenges only they will experience. Due to how they are raised and develop, they can also feel isolated.
Here are the top five struggles only highly intelligent people suffer from.
They Are Under More Pressure To Succeed
When someone’s intelligent, they tend to feel superior to other people. They can see and understand things that people around them can’t perceive. They become starkly aware of the direction their lives are headed and feel that it should head in a different direction than everyone else. These things include having a better career, more money and better relationships.
If anything they do doesn’t contribute to being more successful, they feel like they are doing themselves a disservice. The pressure they put on themselves grows. If their life doesn’t take the path they think it deserves, they criticize and attack themselves.
They Find It Harder To Make Friends
Intelligent people seek other intelligent people to befriend. When intelligent people meet someone new, they ask clever, seemingly innocent questions that help them identify whether the person is someone worthy of their friendship. Even if a potential friend has much to offer or similar interests, an intelligent person may be quick to blow him or her off if the person doesn’t display a level of insight into the world that matches theirs.
This means intelligent people tend to be lonely. They become used to being alone and find solace in their work. While this means they dedicate more time to making breakthroughs in their field, they are at risk of developing depression.
They Suffer Paralysis By Analysis
Intelligent people like to be aware of all the pros and cons before making a decision. Knowing these can often stop them from making a decision altogether. That’s because they over-analyze and let potential “what if” scenarios get the better of them. This may also be because many intelligent people are perfectionists and just want to make sure they get the best possible result.
If they are leading a team or organization, this combines for potentially disastrous effects. Imagine: you’re responsible for making the final call on the direction your company is going to take, but you can’t decide on what the core values should be.
This can be frustrating and crippling.
They Are Trapped By Their Intelligence
There are several instances of intelligent people feeling helplessly trapped by their intelligence. For example, intelligent people don’t typically have trouble understanding anything. If they attempt to teach someone and the person doesn’t understand, they can’t proceed. They find it difficult to empathize and lack desire to help others understand.
Additionally, others may resent intelligent people. Anything the intelligent person says sounds pretentious, when really, they’re just stating the facts. This make socializing unnecessarily hard.
They Find It Harder To Be Happy
Intelligent people feel cursed by their intelligence. They often think about the saying, “ignorance is bliss” and wonder if it would be better if they simply weren’t so smart. But by pretending to not be so intelligent, they feel like they’re not being true to themselves. All the overthinking they do on a daily basis can lead to anxiety in social situations.
Happiness comes from accepting the universe exactly as it is, but when you can’t help but over-analyze the world around you, it’s almost impossible to simply let yourself be absorbed by the imperfect beauty of what’s around you.
What did you think of these five points? Have you experienced them? Do you have any advice for people looking to overcome these struggles? Share this list with your friends and see what they have to say!
Featured photo credit: Cubmungo via flickr.com
The article first appeared on LifeHack.org
It’s good to be smart. After all, intelligent people earn more money, accumulate more wealth, and even live longer. On the surface, being smart looks like easy living. But there’s another side to the story.
Intelligent people have a reputation for making dumb mistakes, especially in situations that require common sense. The simplicity of these situations and the abundant intelligence of those who tend to muck them up can be downright comical.
“Common sense is not so common.” -Voltaire
After decades of research, scientists are finally beginning to understand why this happens. Shane Frederick at Yale University was among the first to conduct research that explained why rational thinking and intelligence don’t tend to go hand in hand.
In his studies, Frederick gave people simple problems to solve, like this one:
A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
Frederick found that some people have the tendency to confidently blurt out the wrong answer, stating that the ball costs ten cents. You, of course, knew that the correct answer is that the ball costs five cents, and you’re completely justified if you’re wondering if the, well, less-than-smart people were the ones blurting out the wrong answer.
Psychologists from James Madison University and the University of Toronto wondered the same thing. They gave similar tests of logic to hundreds of people and compared the accuracy of their answers to their levels of intelligence. The researchers found that smart people were more likely to blurt out the wrong answer because they actually make more mental mistakes when problem-solving.
Smart people are more prone to silly mistakes because of blind spots in how they use logic. These blind spots exist because smart people tend to be overconfident in their reasoning abilities. That is, they’re so used to being right and having quick answers that they don’t even realize when they’re blowing it by answering without thinking things through.
The dummies getting the bat-and-ball question wrong weren’t so dumb, either. When Frederick gave the question to students from Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T., more than half of them got it wrong. Even students from some of the most prestigious universities in the world make stupid mistakes.
Perhaps the scariest thing about the errors that highly intelligent people make is how unaware they are of them. People of all levels of intelligence succumb to what’s called the “bias blind spot.” That is, we’re great at spotting other people’s mistakes and terrible at recognizing our own. The sillier the mistake, the harder it is for an intelligent person to accept that they’ve made it.
“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” -Socrates
While it might seem like we don’t spend our days solving logic problems like the bat-and-ball question, the brain functions involved in solving these problems are the same ones we use in everyday thinking. Hence, the tendency to do stupid things follows smart people into the workplace. Consider some of the most common ways in which smart people manage to shoot themselves in the foot.
Smart people are overconfident. A lifetime of praise and pats on the back leads smart people to develop an unflappable faith in their intelligence and abilities. When you rack up accomplishments while people stroke your ego, it’s easy to expect that things will always go your way. But this is a dangerous expectation. Smart people often fail to recognize when they need help, and when they do recognize it, they tend to believe that no one else is capable of providing it.
They push people too hard. Smart people develop overachieving personalities because things come so easily to them. They simply don’t understand how hard some people have to work to accomplish the same things, and because of that, they push people too hard. Smart people set the bar too high, and when people take too long or don’t get things quite right, they assume it’s due to a lack of effort. So they push even harder and miss the opportunity to help others achieve the goals they’re so anxious for them to reach.
They always need to be right. It’s hard for anyone to graciously accept the fact that they’re wrong. It’s even harder for smart people because they grow so used to being right all the time that it becomes a part of their identity. For smart people, being wrong can feel like a personal attack, and being right, a necessity.
They lack emotional intelligence. While intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) don’t occur together in any meaningful way (Smart people, on average, have just as much EQ as everyone else), when a smart person lacks EQ, it’s painfully obvious. These high-IQ, low-EQ individuals see the world as a meritocracy. Achievements are all that matter, and people and emotions just get in the way. Which is a shame because TalentSmart research with more than a million people shows that—even among the upper echelons of IQ—the top performers are those with the highest EQs.
They give up when they fail. Have you ever watched a sporting event and seen the stunned look on the face of an athlete whom everyone expected to win, but didn’t? Smart people can easily fall into the trap of seeing failure as the end of the world because frequent success creates expectations that make failure hard to tolerate. People who have to work hard for what they achieve have plenty of practice learning how to deal with failure. They learn to embrace it because they know that failure is just a stepping stone to success.
They fail to develop grit. When things come really easy to you, it’s easy to see hard work as a negative (a sign that you don’t have what it takes). When smart people can’t complete something without a tremendous amount of effort, they tend to feel frustrated and embarrassed. This leads them to make the false assumption that if they can’t do something easily, there’s something wrong with them. As a result, smart people tend to move on to something else that affirms their sense of worth before they’ve put in the time to develop the grit they need to succeed at the highest possible level.
They multitask. Smart people think really quickly, which can make them impatient. They like to get several things going at once so that there isn’t any downtime. They think so quickly that, when they multitask, it feels like it’s working and they’re getting more done, but Stanford research shows that this isn’t the case. Not only does multitasking make you less productive, but people who multitask often because they think they’re good at it are actually worse at multitasking than people who prefer to do one thing at a time.
They have a hard time accepting feedback. Smart people tend to undervalue the opinions of others, which means they have trouble believing that anyone is qualified to give them useful feedback. Not only does this tendency hinder their growth and performance, it can lead to toxic relationships, both personally and professionally.
Bringing It All Together
To some, this post will read like I’m trashing smart people, but I’m not. Some of life’s greatest gifts, including high intelligence, can also come with challenges. If you aren’t willing to take an honest look at the whole picture, you’re selling yourself short. And that isn’t smart.
How do you see smart people acting stupid? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
Author: Dr. Travis Bradberry