6 Reasons Why Intelligent People Fail to Be Happy

/, Psychology & Mental Health, Self-Improvement/6 Reasons Why Intelligent People 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.


Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

About the Author:

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.


  1. Dan March 13, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    Spot on!

    I’ve been trying to articulate how I feel for most of my life. This article spells it out perfectly.

    Now…. the real question… what is to be done?

    80 plus years seems a awfully long time to spend on a planet I really don’t understand.

    Answers on a postcard please.

    • Sal July 6, 2018 at 4:19 am - Reply

      I thought the 58 years I lost with this was a lot.

  2. Khanh March 23, 2018 at 6:38 am - Reply

    If we are happened to be in this situation, what are possible solutions that we could do to overcome the overthinking, how and what could we do to be happy?

    • Amy May 7, 2018 at 1:25 am - Reply

      I have had great success with Minfulness practices including Yoga.

  3. cristina April 23, 2018 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Appreciation. Appreciate things, small things, seemingly mundane things, appreciate it all. And jump! Don’t be afraid to fail-jump in

  4. ronald-trip May 4, 2018 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    How can we not despair at our own finiteness in a universe apparently devoid of any meaning? No matter what effort we put in, we will all be annihilated by the sands of time. The human lifespan is approximately 80 years. Even if you succeed to make a mark in your lifetime, the process of forgetting the totality of who you are starts at the moment you blow out your last breath. Alexander the Great is nothing more today than a name and a set of anecdotes. Who he really was? No one alive today to tell us that.

  5. Victor May 6, 2018 at 4:52 am - Reply

    My over-thinking can lead to unpleasant uncontrolled thoughts and emotions. For me, moderate amounts of alcohol can help slow down my thoughts; but I avoid excess. More physical activities rather than staring at screens and monitors also help.

  6. Amy May 7, 2018 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I think that our happiness on many levels relies on relating to others and to their ideas and thoughts, highly intelligent people have a hard time doing this. I suggest, from my own experience, making learning to relate to others and to appreciate and not dismiss their ideas a priority, use it as a study. Look for the merit in the thoughts of others, it can enrich our own experiences and help us to feel more connected to the people around us and thus our reality.

  7. Iffah June 3, 2018 at 3:30 am - Reply

    this article spoke my mind for me. Thank you soooo much. I think we can all start by reducing our overthinking and overanalyzing and wanting perfection all the time. Also, one could rephrase the word “intelligent” here to “bright and realistic”.

  8. Peace June 28, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Something I face a lot is not being able to properly articulate with others in a conversation. I’ve had ADHD since early childhood, but once I was properly tested intellectually my results shocked everyone. I’ve noticed that without medication I tend to be more of a listener than a participant in conversations. Not because I can’t articulate, but it feels like my thoughts on the topic at hand have rushed through my mind before I could get them out. Since I’ve gotten past the interruption issues I had in childhood, it causes a distraction and my attention has moved on to other thoughts. The confusing part is that if I’m questioned about a situation or conversation after the fact it plays back in my mind like a video.

  9. Miracle Mastery June 29, 2018 at 2:58 am - Reply

    I’d Share My Own thoughts if I Could Leave a Comment.

    • Little bird July 11, 2018 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      I can relate.

  10. Carlos C July 5, 2018 at 5:45 am - Reply

    Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought. I’m pretty good at being happy. I think it takes practice. Just looking at the bright side of things. As for the meaning of all this… From the Big Bang to the Primordial Ooze to AI, everything in nature seems to be constantly reinventing itself. All of a sudden, Bam! Life on Earth and then Humans and self-awareness. We are all made of elements; humans, plants animals, planets, stars. All part of the same “spice rack.” Humans are the only arrangement of atoms that knows it “IS.” And we can manipulate the physical properties surrounding us at light-speed compared to nature’s previous methods.That makes us incredibly special in the Universe. I for one am very happy to be a part of this species. And at such a great time. We are not perfect, but we can improve. Our numbers and collective knowledge continue to grow. I only wish I could be around for the next few millennia to see what we come up with next. Alas, it is not meant to be. But it’s not about me. We must use our intellect to serve and help perpetuate this… Intelligence. So that life can someday flourish throughout the Cosmos. That’s what nature seems to be working on, let’s be on it’s side.

  11. Sal July 6, 2018 at 4:32 am - Reply

    The fact that my parents, when I was a child, and I had no idea why I was/am who I am has caused many hurtful experiences in my life. After many hours of searching for the answers, the pieces are falling into place. The research I have done explains many things going back to my adolescents. Some say being the mind that I am is a gift. For me it has been a curse. It takes away the most basic need that I personally desire to feel whole. To be accepted and loved unconditionally is all I want. I believe understanding this curse is the path to either hiding it or controlling it enough so someone will accept me into their life.

    • Rafal July 15, 2018 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      You are most certainly not alone. to your dissertation I would happily add Christian faith. what a curse we do live indeed.

      Joyous and painful in equal measure.

  12. Pat July 9, 2018 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I run closer to what Carlos describes about his experience than some of the others in this forum, most of whom have likely endured far greater suffering in their lives despite their evolved Minds (from both the external world and internally sourced) than I have ever personally faced myself. I certainly don’t take any special satisfaction in that, its just a great example of my own burden and story of my life. In fact it adds to my irrational guilt clusters for having lead a semi-charmed kind of life for approximately the first 40 years . Well more accurately, for too often taking my fortune and opportunity for granted and sometimes believing my own press releases to strongly, and for getting progressively more lazy with each passing year and for allowing myself to accept a lesser potential from myself than I was actually capable of…

    But we all have a story to tell and I can say with complete sincerity that the idealism and naivete that carried me through most of my youth did not, in the end, yield me much practical experience for how to hold things together when s*** happens and life turns out not to be so swell after all. Nor did it give me any actual insight for how to deal with the perpetual shame and inevitable burden that comes with higher States of self – actualization, or teach me how to face and compartmentalize the unnecessary but rampant unfairness, ignorance or divisiveness that my current more weathered version must constantly come to terms with now. Despite all that I still feel internally in my bones and always work hard to project externally a happy guy persona by choice and sometimes despite the crap I overlooked or disregarded just for assuring the highest probability that I will remain the most optimistic one in the room, all other things being equal. I remain committed to serving others, sometimes even sacrificing my own needs for somebody that clearly needs my time and energy than I do. You will just have to take my word for it because like all of you I am cursed with what I consider to be a state of higher intelligence and more deliberate emotional intelligence than nearly everybody else I will cross paths with during the course of a normal day. And at the risk of appearing to be classically narcissistic, I refuse to say that with any hint of canned humility or situationally appropriate false modesty 4 a bunch of brilliant strangers who likely already considered The Narcissist scenario as a possibility before I ever mentioned it, and yet will more than likely choose not to judge me for anything more than the content of this dissertation.

    Should also point out that you are all every bit as smart as you think you are and probably much smarter than you allow yourself to believe. I say that with a certainty that comes with the knowledge that you would not have contributed nor even be reading this note , at this moment , unless you belonged in this forum. Just for the sake of closure, I am not a narcissist, but instead much more of an empath, which is to a fault the Polar opposite of a sociopath. But its probably more fair to metaphorically describe me as a human pinball of sorts, bouncing randomly around the universe in search of somebody else who needs saving . And typically, most comfortable as just one of God’s Little clowns.

    I will let that stream of Consciousness introduction speak for itself and cut to the chase here. don’t know if it resonates with anybody else but it can be exhausting both professionally and socially to be everyone’s steady Rock or voice of reason or cheerleader or payday loan officer for so many other people . It’s hard to get your joy from helping others without leaving it all out on the court most days. So little part of me is disappointed that I don’t have some kind of equivalent assistance in my life, or that sometimes when I feel sorry for myself I checked out put in 3 cylinders worth of my 4-cylinder self and wallow in self-pity knowing that all my sacrifices for others has come at the expense of ever truly reaching my own true potential. I don’t bring home any of that energy, at least not at that level, and apply it to myself to get to the next level of my own Journey. This is partially due to my struggle with projecting a happier form of me when I’m certainly not always as fond of myself as I let on and it’s typical stuff about being your own worst critic with a large dosage of sedentary surrender mixed in.

    Here’s the kicker, are you ready none of that s*** matters. It’s self-serving it’s designed to churn on its own power and drama until I expect it to be a fixture in my life and I already know that is not satisfactory and if I want to lead a rich and fulfilling life I have to stop feeling sorry for myself I have to stop finding ways to complain about my nature that is serving so well and brought me great satisfaction in my life and I’ve got to take responsibility for the guy I turned out to be. Doesn’t matter if your religious or not or how smart you are, it is in everyone’s reach 2 except they’re suffering to forgive the sources of that suffering, too practice radical acceptance of the things that are within my control including accepting my choice to take an easier path sometimes without planning in some self-pity. And then to rededicate my life to removing the suffering and replacing hopelessness with opportunity for those countless people who have and will continue to suffer right to the end if I don’t get in there early and help them find a way to make a realization that there is a different direction they can consciously take. That is the Panacea they said didn’t exist, only you control how much you hurt, and when you are ready to finally put it to rest and live the rest of your life and peace. Expect the best from yourself strive towards Harmony not victory, listen harder, judging others let’s harshly, and get out there and help somebody who can’t help themselves like we are all capable of doing.

  13. Vikki July 19, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Am from an African background and coming to a more civilised economy like London to read articles that has been a plague all my life and also knowing that I was alone this gives me great courage but please can somebody please help with a solution you can reach out if you are reading this please do.

  14. John Doe July 24, 2018 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article, I have found much of these ideas to be true, over time I have found being alone or not talking about much with people to be best, most people are just awful to be around. This article is just more motivation to get a job at a place where there are other above average thinkers, and performers, then never leave work so I don’t have to deal with all the disappointing people out there so much. Thanks

  15. Jerry July 31, 2018 at 7:20 am - Reply

    I have felt that I didn’t belong here since high school. My mind has alway analyzed every move I made to determine the possible outcomes all while missing out on happiness and fun as the other people around me seem to enjoy. My first wife hated it and started calling me a retard. My second wife is now saying that i am on the Autism spectrum. I don’t enjoy regular conversation nor the regular type of fun that most people do. I enjoy diving deep into the problems of the world and the possibilities of future or reality. This pattern of thinking has caused me to become severely depressed and disconnected. I often try to act like I am having fun just so people dont look at me like there is something wrong. It is nice to know that I am not alone in this path of loneliness.

  16. WWKN August 13, 2018 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the article, it’s another indication that I’m not as weird as my siblings think I am. Having relocated last year to be as far away as possible from the clan, my life has improved bit by bit. A life coach (also therapist) told me I have higher standards than most, to move on and find my tribe.

    At the moment I am retired as it’s affordable to do so; it’s also clear to me that many, many insecure people are afraid of or avoid me as they sense our differences. I continue smiling and finding my own way in this world. As they say, you just keep keepin’ on and look for the things that bring you joy. Learning to be grateful, seeking out those who ‘get you’, focusing on the positive and choosing your own lifestyle are key points from what I’ve learned so far.

    Here’s a short list:
    1. Open your mind and be aware of what your gifts are whether you are intuitive, etc. Learn as much about these as you can, learn to appreciate them.
    2. Read everything you can find on reincarnation studies, go to Amazon and search for authors like Ian Stevenson, Jim Tucker, Michael Newton, Brian Weiss. There are many, many more with a ton of information.
    3. Note that 2/3 of the world’s population believe in reincarnation at this point according to my inner journey instructor. The Pope has stated he believes as well.
    4. Find a hypnotherapist in your area and if possible one that does regression therapy. That’s next on my list in this journey of discovery.
    5. Do that numerology report, there’s one online for less than $40 and it’s very explanatory. Once you have that go to a trained numerologist and hear even more great things about you!
    6. Be aware that holding negative thoughts will only bring you more of that, period. Get treatment for it if you cannot break that cycle. Every morning and indeed every time you realize your mind is going negative say this: A negative mind will never have a positive life. Then work to understand that point every day, retrain your brain, move on.
    7. When people treat you badly, walk away. You are not meant to suffer in this life so go after your own version of happiness and find that zen lifestyle. Comparing your life to others does no good, it’s not their journey but yours alone.
    8.Understand that being different in this way is a blessing, not a curse. You were not born to just fit in, you are meant to do something that brings you joy and helps the world. Finding that is simpler when you understand your plan for this lifetime.
    9. Do a personality test, it’s entirely possible you are highly introverted and that is not a bad thing. Half the population in the US is introverted and finally we are getting some respect! Read books on introversion, there are many out there now and all of them made me feel a LOT better. There is a video on youtube that is the most viewed ever, by the author of Quiet.
    10.Find what works for you and turn the page on your situation. One thing I’ve noticed in the documentation of regression therapy is the realization of errors one has made upon deciding to bail on their current life. They usually regret it immediately but there is no going back as their body has died. We are here to problem solve, work our personal plan and live the best life we can, however we want. Own it.

  17. Kate McQueen August 15, 2018 at 4:36 am - Reply

    I think that due to a level of intelligence that’s evident to those around them, the expectations are much higher. Others believe that intelligent people should be successful, and their definition of successful often contradicts that of the “intelligent” one. I also think that for true intelligence to culminate, it takes both mind and heart. Intelligence doesn’t originate in the mind alone, at least not the limited human mind. Intelligent people that are capable of opening their heart and mind in tandem, are often high achievers in more altruistic endeavors, however small or large, and thus don’t experience the anxiety and depression that so many “brilliant minds” suffer through.

  18. Average Joe September 4, 2018 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    A younger me would have gotten a slightly inflated ego boost from the accuracy to the way I think. After being humbled more by lifes hardships, this left a temporary feeling of despair. We’re pretty much doomed to be unhappy!? Or this artical targeted that response to strike a familiar feeling in others? Could there be other smart, temporarily unhappy people like me? Or am I being narcisisstic to think I am that smart at all? Or do WE all just accept that this is our life? This life is your journey. No matter who is around you or who you are related to, only you take the first and last steps. I wish I had more opportunity, but I am greatful for what I do have. That’s as close to being truly happy I am at this point. I am 1 of 9 billion. Struggling to leave a positive mark on society. As if there is someone who knows me and why does it matter if happiness is a goose chase?

  19. GlennSac September 11, 2018 at 2:42 am - Reply

    I often said to my friends that if i had to choose which year i were to be born it would be in 1970 and not in 1992.
    Sports & Music were GOLD back then. Foods were clean & fresh, people love more and think less.
    Since the 21st century everything is just pure toxic.
    From the food we intake, the news, wars, killings, technology, the society, politics.

    Put it simply i always thought “Can i go back? Can i live where my parents lived in? I’m certain good and bad existed in those days, but atleast the world were not as rotten as it is today”.

Leave A Comment