6 Reasons Why Intelligent People Fail to Be Happy

fail to be happy

Have you noticed that some of the most intelligent and deep thinking individuals out there fail to be happy?

They may have a loving life partner, family and be successful in their job; yet, there is something that occasionally makes them feel alone, sad and discouraged. As Ernest Hemingway said, “happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

Here are six possible reasons why happiness in highly intelligent people is such a rare phenomenon:

1. Intelligent people overanalyze everything

Many people with a high IQ tend to be overthinkers who constantly analyze everything happening in their life and beyond. This can be draining at times, especially when your thinking processes take you to undesirable, frustrating conclusions.

Have you heard the saying, ‘Ignorance is bliss’? It surely is – the less you understand, the more carefree and, therefore, happy you are. Being able to read people’s true selves and hidden motives is enough to make you feel disappointed with the whole world sometimes. Not even mentioning the feelings that come along with the reflection on philosophical matters, global issues and life’s timeless dilemmas that have no solutions.

2. Intelligent people have high standards

Smart people know what they want and don’t settle for less than that, no matter what area of life we are talking about. This means that it’s more difficult for them to be satisfied with their achievements, relationships and literally everything that has a place in their life.

Moreover, many people with brilliant theoretical minds happen to have poor practical intelligence and somehow idealistic views of the world. So when their expectations face the raw reality of life and other people, it inevitably leads to disappointment.

3. Intelligent people are too hard on themselves

Another reason why smart people fail to be happy is that they tend to be too strict with themselves. And here, I’m not talking only about one’s achievements and failures. Intelligent, deep thinking individuals often analyze themselves and their own behavior in such a rigorous manner like if they are intentionally seeking out things to blame themselves for.

Sometimes, you just lie there in your bed trying to fall asleep and suddenly recall a situation (which probably happened years or, at least, months ago) when you didn’t act the way you should have. This is enough to mess with your sleep and spoil your mood.

Intelligent people often experience such kind of flashbacks into their past mistakes. All this cultivates guilt, discontent and other negative emotions that can poison one’s happiness.

4. Reality is not enough

People with high IQs never cease to seek something bigger – a pattern, a meaning, a purpose. The deepest and the dreamiest of them don’t stop there – their restless mind and imagination don’t let them just relax and enjoy “the good things in life.” I guess the reality with its trivialities is just too boring for them. Such people crave for something fantastic, idealistic, eternal… and, of course, never find it in the real world.

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong here and should have lived in a different era or maybe on another planet? Deep thinking, highly intelligent people constantly feel this way. How can you be happy when you feel like a stranger to the world you live in?

5. Lack of deep communication and understanding

Being truly understood by someone is one of the greatest experiences a human being can have. How comforting it is to sit with a like-minded person somewhere quiet and have a meaningful conversation, realizing that this person understands your ideas and shares your views of the world…

Sadly, intelligent people rarely have this pleasure. Many of them feel alone and misunderstood, like if no one is able to see and appreciate the depth of their minds.

It’s now scientifically confirmed that in order to be happy, individuals with high IQs need less socialization than those with average levels of intelligence. However, it doesn’t mean that smart people don’t crave for human interaction and a good conversation. They simply prefer to talk about fascinating and meaningful things rather than discuss food, weather and one’s plans for the weekend.

No need to say that nowadays, it’s particularly difficult to find a person to have a deep conversation with. Thank today’s consumerist and materialist society for that.

6. Many people with a high IQ suffer from psychological problems

There have been many studies that link psychiatric disorders, such as social anxiety and bipolar, with high IQs. Could it be that these conditions are a kind of a side effect of a creative genius and a brilliant mind? Who knows, science is yet to unravel the mysteries of the human mind.

At the same time, the intelligent people who don’t suffer from any mental disorders are still prone to so-called existential depression, which often is a result of excessive thinking. If you are thinking all the time and analyze everything in depth, at some point, you start reflecting on life, death and the meaning of existence. Sometimes, it’s enough to make you want to re-evaluate your own life and, as a result, get sad for no obvious reason.

Can you relate to the struggles described in this article? What other things, in your opinion, make intelligent people fail to be happy? Share your thoughts with us.

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Anna LeMind

Anna LeMind

Anna is the founder and lead editor of the website Learning-mind.com. She is passionate about learning new things and reflecting on thought-provoking ideas. She writes about science, psychology and other related topics. She is particularly interested in topics regarding introversion, consciousness and subconscious, perception, human mind's potential, as well as the nature of reality and the universe.

Copyright © 2017 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.


  1. WJ February 20, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I think it would be better if we valued ourselves and life differently. Whether you are intelligent or not, the lives we lead are not ones inclined to make anyone happy. Maybe if we learned from the smart and evolved like the Dalai Lama or Pope Paul II or any other figure who tried compassion and knowledge put together our world would improve. I don’t think it matters where you fall on the IQ scale. It is the man made world that has us so sad…and understandably so.

    • Kelly March 19, 2017 at 4:23 am - Reply

      I couldn’t agree more. We humans today, especially in developed countries, are so far removed from real purpose and nobody is happy. We’re more isolated than ever before and sense of community is hard to find. Sad really.

  2. Mufti saqib February 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    I have been topper all my life . I have been considered intelligent person in every class I joined . I am doctor myself now and I agree 100% with your analysis.
    What I would like to know is , Is there something I can do to ease my life , decrease my anxiety and better my social life?

    • Frank C March 5, 2017 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      I’d recommend stepping outside your comfort zone, and engaging in activities, people, and experiences that you haven’t before

  3. Clinton March 18, 2017 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Not finding the right friend to socialize with.

    • Dollar April 20, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Even I feel the same, I haven’t met Like-Minded Person yet.

  4. priyadarshini March 18, 2017 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I think intelligent peoples brain are so much confused that they can not fall in to a good conversation and thus they have lack of communication problem.

    • Unknown April 27, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Currently I’m in middle school, going to highschool next year. I’m a topper in all of my classes and am in all gifted and talented classes. I have a 4.0 yet I’m very satisfied with my life, I have a good social life and have never been unreasonably sad or aggravated. Maybe this applies to some people but not all ‘smart people’. Finally it really bothered me how you labeled ‘smart people’ like a group when they really aren’t. In fact, anyone can be smart some just don’t choose to be.

      • Ibrahim June 10, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

        I think it only start to kick in in your early twenties or so , I also was a topper my whole life and have no memory experiencing such events until I reached that age , I think the way you think is the same it just that you start to developpe your own thoughts due to past experience and that might be draining and depressing when you come to negative conclusions

  5. Carmen March 18, 2017 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I believe that the intelligence you have, high or average, must be used first to identify your skills and lacks of all kinds and also must allow yourself to accept them. In this way you can experience the desire to overcome your weaknesses to improve yourself as a person. Otherwise you are not so smart or put another way, you can have high analytical intelligence but not emotional or artistic or social if you think this can improve your happiness you must work on it. Neither is everything white or black, there are grays!

  6. Viviane March 19, 2017 at 12:50 am - Reply

    I totally identify with points 4, 5 and 6. Yet I don’t consider myself a highly-intelligent people. I do feel like I don’t belong here all the time. Like I am from another era, or another world, or another form of life or I should even be a different thing. Like my so-called soul is in the wrong place, wrong body, wrong time. And I do have existential depression, to a point that I am lately choosing to sleep more than doing any activity that used to be interesting for me but it is no longer fulfilling or attractive. And I theorize WAY too much. But hey, I still enjoy the “simple” things of life –which humans will destroy at one point in the future, sadly– such as nature, the creatures in it, (even the nasty ugly ones, because they all have their own interesting idiosyncrasies and physical capabilities, very distinct from those of us boring humans and even other species), the amazing weather phenomena, like a great thunderstorm, rain, the wind, looking at the mountains and the clouds, and of course good food, a good sleep, and the only human-created things I really enjoy, are good films with good stories and plots in them, and most specially, comedy shows, specially animations…

  7. Christian Hartman March 19, 2017 at 11:36 am - Reply

    I can relate to this article. But I’m not sure that I am anything exceptional. Are you sure that what you talk about is not more widespread than just those with higher IQs?

  8. Marsha March 28, 2017 at 4:24 am - Reply

    Sure, I feel and experience all these things but I’m not sure it is a sign of having a high IQ. Being a person–whatever my IQ–who thinks and analyzes what I experience and what I read, I would appreciate this article more if there were some sources to support the assertions the author makes. Certainly, these are six reasons that could make a person not be “happy” but there is nothing to support the correlation with high intelligence.

    • Anna LeMind
      Anna LeMind March 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      When writing this article, I was not sure what term to use to describe them: intelligent people, dreamers, deep people, deep thinkers.. I believe that all of these categories could relate to the struggles described in the article. But eventually, I decided to use the word ‘intelligent people,’ inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s quote.
      Also, I didn’t intend to give any assertions, as you say, and base the points above on any kind of evidence – I just described my personal experiences hoping that other people would relate to them too and would feel that they are not alone in this. This was the purpose of my article.

      • Scott Thomas Wilkinson April 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

        My IQ will be left untold as I have no reason to attract any conversation with another.
        There are many questions of higher IQ and many expect an answer.
        It’s because we tollerate what people do not understand and we leave alone to create our own fustrations. Meaning another question that needs to be answered.
        In which creates, an ever lasting chain to be solved.

  9. Imad April 1, 2017 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Reading and feeling your words made me sad and relieved at an equal level. Except for the last point, it was like a badly rhymed poem to my life. And the only reason for the last point to miss out on me is the fact that I believe to have found what might be the purpose of my existence, even if the mere thought of our only certainty – death, is making me and everything I consider a purpose look as obsolete as romantic.
    Nevertheless, as one part of my so-believed purpose is life itself, these rare moments of pure and deep connection to another soul are worthy to be considered life-saving and worthy to be living for. Such as your article.
    For that I thank you.

    I truly believe you will find what is waiting on you. And it will be pure.

  10. Kaylee Montez April 1, 2017 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    I can utterly relate to this and feel somewhat relieved. A wanderer with his/her depth of knowledge and undeniably intricate mind. Wondering, dreaming, hoping, longing , analyzing and drawing own conclusion and judgement – a constant , repeated and non-stop process that posses one’s mortal body physically and mentally.

  11. Shivani April 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    Just because intelligent people are more prone to psychological disorders does not mean that we should accept these as a ‘normal side effect of intelligence. Everyone has the right to proper mental and physical health, and these disorders are debilitating and can severely affect an individual’s life. The WHO considers depression to be one of the major causes of suicide. Bipolar disorder, in its manic phase, also leads people to commit suicide. And many factors such as genetics, childhood trauma, emotionally unresponsive parents and drug/alcohol abuse can lead to these disorders. Also, these disorders are caused by chemical changes in the brain If left untreated, they can cause serious damage to the brain and body. Secondly, communication skills are not the result of IQ alone . Emotional intelligence is something which is developed by parents, caregivers and teachers. Things like understanding ones emotions and problems, finding a balance between optimism and pessimism, understanding ones strengths and weaknesses, emotional regulation and empathy are learned and not inborn traits. Social skills can also be developed, if an individual wishes to learn them. If they prefer solitude, that’s their call. Thirdly, hypervigilance (constantly monitoring ones thoughts ), fear of failure and perfectionism are ultimately detrimental to intellectual performance. While defensive pessimists, for example, focus more on their weaknesses than their strengths, they are able to envisage challenges and devise strategies to face them, But perfectionists have a distorted image of themselves, as they take extreme views of their strengths and weaknesses depending on external factors. They have an external locus of control- or low self efficacy. For example, if they do badly in an interview, they feel that they have failed and might become dejected. Or they may not ask for help when they don’t understand something because they don’t want to be seen as ‘less intelligent.’ Psychologists have shown that students are motivated more when they visualize intelligence as a product of hard work rather than fixed identity, and are able to learn from and improve on failure. This emphasizes a ‘growth’ rather than a fixed mindset. This is again the result of overly high expectations by teachers and parents, rather than intelligence per se. Interestingly, many great people did not subscribe to these views. Albert Einstein, for example, famously said that ‘ intelligence is ninety nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.’ Socrates also stated, ‘ We only know that we know nothing.’

    • Andronikus Byronikus April 15, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

      Socratean here 🙂

      1 thumb up

    • Eduardo April 24, 2017 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      Interesting and from my point of view true at some extent. I do see my self in the article though, just trying to look for explanations.

  12. Queen of the know April 10, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Being smart is really hard, seeing and knowing peoples motives sometimes before they themselves do, makes it all the more harder to have friends. Its even harder being able to see the outcome of situations before everyone else dose ….sometimes you just have to sit back and let the situation play itself out the same way you saw it happening in your mind, and that too is hard …I really liked this article you did a great job ….its just good to know that their ate others out there…. As well the world has chat sites for every sort of people out there however there are none for the truly smart ones…if you hear of any please let me know ..
    Thank you and have a wonderful day

    • Andronikus Byronikus April 15, 2017 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Hey Q.o.t.k, we seem to be in similar levels of thinking judging by your writing. Have you ever had the thought that..

      ” Theres billions of people out there and there’s no real need/reason to make off springs that doesn’t stem from a selfish origin ? The human kind has enough reservoir of genetic make up to go on without me contributing in.”

      I’ve followed a personal thought project for about 7 years now, in the context of Amygdalal (fear) decision making Vs “Cortical (Logic)”. All I see around me in terms of human behavior is that we are still off in terms of brain evolution and that it faces more stressors that it is designed to handle by the rapid expansion of knowledge and thus stimuli. And even though we have the knowledge of what we’re facing our logic is overrun by fear and usually about 90% of the times, our actions are dictated by fear rather than logic (common control tool through out the ages of civilization i know.. Internet=blessing.).

      Granted with genetic design we’ll straighten that out in half a century (unless a set back like a war occurs), but until then I decided to consciously override fear actions and choosing with logical actions often undermining thy self in social circumstances because of recognition of repetition through generations (remove thy self from the formula and disrupt cycles to pursue focus) to the point of rejecting my own DNA you could say while recognizing contrary to common belief that I’m not really losing in this “race”. Maybe I have achieved the level of neuroplasticity I aimed for and am now like Data from Star Trek lol 🙂

      Quite a pickle.
      #Eyeofthebeholder #Reality? #Takeiteasy

      (Q.o.t.k) Any chance you ever stumbled upon a similar existential thought like that ?

  13. Pukhavi S Chophy April 24, 2017 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Well, according to my opinion, intelligent people lack emotional intelligence and are self-centered.
    & they also be like, ” he is a fool, he does not even know what I mean”.

  14. Jojo April 30, 2017 at 5:53 am - Reply

    I have difficulty fitting in with others. I find their conversations so trivial to the point of being highly annoying. It’s sad. I come alive however when I meet another like myself. So enjoyable to interact on a higher level. I am also ADD. Claircognizant and Clairsentient. I think deeper into who we are, where we came from… and where we are going. I do enjoy my alone time.

  15. Howard Ryan June 2, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Intelligent people get the point of the article immediately. They have already came to these conclusions and it reinforces the justification for their feelings. I think some of the comments give example of good marks being an aspect of intelligence but not by any means the exclusive indicator of intelligence. Drawing this conclusion because of how many people are bragging about marks and being topper and at the same time offering the suggestion that with a simple tweak of focus or perspective it would all just go away. Absolutely missing the point ergo smart people but not intelligent. I am sure this idea is insulting to someone and I am sorry but not as many of you are as intelligent as you think. This type of article describes a very exclusive set of my smart friends…. the ones who get it beyond being able to demonstrate it through work or schooling. They are smart all the time, one might say intelligent. Most of you just need therapy. Take pity on the smart people, there is very little they can do to shake the problem described above.

    • Ally June 23, 2017 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      You made me happy 😊

  16. natasha yates June 12, 2017 at 1:34 am - Reply

    I almost cried when I read this article. It seems to sum up everything that I struggle with. Having read it feels validating somehow. As usual though, I couldnt just enjoy the the feeling; it also highlighted the difficulties I have (especially with most of those I have any kind of telarionship with) and how there is not much I can do about it. That doesnt feel so great. This all hapoened at once which overehelmed me and hence I nearly cried! That is some acheivement as I rarely manage to and do actually want to sometimes!!
    really glad I stumbled upon this page.
    Thank you.

  17. Jason Sharpe June 17, 2017 at 9:53 am - Reply

    I loved this article and agree with its analysis. Intelligence and happiness are both relative and gradient. Understanding the six causes provides clues to potential tools and techniques to help each of us perhaps just be a bit better than we otherwise might be. For myself, I have found much help in AL-ANON and EBT Connect. However, the greatest joy of all has come from whoever I can. Ring myself to take me out of the center of why I do what I do. Just helping others and doing some volunteer work or charity work has brought me much lasting joy.

  18. Ally June 23, 2017 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    I still maintain that these so called unhappy intelligent people, aren’t intelligent enough, that’s why they’re unhappy. Another thing is that people tend to confuse being emotional with being sad !!!! It’s not the same. There’s a level of intelligence that one will attain that comes with bliss , it is blissful. So I don’t know what all these articles are saying, it’s disappointing that this is such a spread out topic and it’s everywhere.

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