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 as 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.

One study found 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 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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This Post Has 266 Comments

  1. Kalani Philippart

    The only thing I might add to Anna LeMinds article would be the Big EGO that accompanies a High IQ —It’s difficult to drop (or control) your ego when your a Genius. But that ego tends to get in the way. It is frustrating us because its make us think were better than we are. As if we know everything there is of the known info (Its mind boggling). Not to mention all the misinformation.
    All the Happy intelligent people I know, don’t wear their EGO around the neck, The unhappy people, well they just proudly proclaim this or that and then blame other people or side step any issues (intelligently albeit) piss everyone off around them thereby limiting their human contact. Not to mention what happens when their ego’s are shattered.

    These are the tools that can help
    A They never learn to let go. If your always analyzing you’ve taught your subconscious to do the same. Which makes psychology a big deal. We humans love to do what were good at. Time to practice things were not good at. Or practice doing the opposite of whatever your thinking. It’s an adventure. Who doesn’t like an adventure.

    B: Happiness is a goal that needs to be worked at. Read “The Art of Happiness”

    C. Learn and pass the true (eastern philosophy) meaning of Compassion. “Understanding”
    With compassion you understand the people around you, and you don’t care so much about mistake you’ve made in the past cause we make mistakes and were going to keep making mistakes. Were still stuck with our human brains.

    D: Exercise, yeah I said it,. The closest thing to a “Magic Bullet” is exercise. Which ails many problems (depression), keeps the body and mind in good working order relieves your stress and gives you a chance to be social.

    1. Ben M

      My only claim to fame is my iq and i’ve always thought that it somehow was what i based my personality off which i knew was bad but i had no confidence or anything to show people other than that, and as you say i’m not happy, not at all, i cried when i found this page because it feels like a curse to overthink and overanalyze, but reading through all this, i now realise how much I rely on my IQ to make me feel good about myself. I don’t know how to lessen my ego but knowing i’m not the only one has lifted so much weight thank you x

  2. Teresa

    I don’t consider myself as super intelligent, but this describes me to a “T”!

    1. Elie Boraya

      Me too…. This describes me though I never thought of myself as that

  3. Heart and soul

    Intelligence and happiness are quite compatible, when both reason and conscience are in co-operation. When they work in balance. When reason that includes intelligence, doesn’t oppress the other side – conscience that includes empathy, love.

    There are two sides in every human being. Both our brains and our hearts are divided into two halves, working in mutual operation, benefiting the whole human being.

    If the other side oppresses the other, dominating in an authoritarian way, then of course the whole human being is not well. Highly intelligent people may decide that the love side, that includes happiness and joy, isn’t so important, since that side of the brain doesn’t and cannot calculate.

    These two sides in a human being are expressed in spiritual language as yin and yang. Or feminine and masculine.

    In our patriarchal culture male side dominates. It oppresses the feminine side. Now remember that these sides are in every human being. So basically intelligent people are oppressors and then they suffer because they are oppressed. The other side in them oppresses the other. It’s difficult to be happy in that situation.

  4. Regina Agyapong

    I got teary after reading this article. I sometimes feel like giving up on everything in this life. I have always anticipated for a very beautiful relationship with the man i have always loved dearly. I tend to forgive him easily even when he offends me, but unfortunately he cannot do same and we are going through a whole lot in this relationship. I decided to end it with him since i couldn’t deal with the problems and accusations anymore 🙁 .I give people who open up to me about various issues, good advice but when it comes to mine, i am always in difficult situation. I seriously want to start some sports activities like swimming or YOGA but unfortunately i don’t have the means to. Meanwhile family and friends always see me as an inspiration and role model, but nobody can make me feel better like i make others. I am in so much pain as i type this comment, i need that sense of belonging, joy, happiness and affection again. I really need help honestly…

  5. Jack

    I relate to all the points in the article.
    I used to do and feel and still do most of the time, all of the things and feelings described, especially overanalyzing everything and feel depressed about the state of our world/reality.

    Most of the time this is stoping me from actually doing/achieving things. Moreover the fear of starting a family and then still feeling empty has as of now prevented me from doing so.

    What i have understood and learned through the years is that you can’t control anything but your own mind.

    Those of us who have a highly active and wandering mind first have to be able to become real masters of it before we can change ourselves and the world around us.

    We must be able to silence our thoughts and have moments of calmness so that we can focua mentally. Meditation is a great help in this way and has helped me personally greatly.

    I hope for everyone to find their internal peace.

  6. Christa D’Auria

    As I agree that the regimes in countries are controlled by these unintelligent people as dictators who are violent and insensitive but oppressive, our innocent, intelligent people really have suffered so therefore. The United States of the America has committed violations to our international human rights by oppressing our minorities, citizens with disabilities, women, and others resulting to the corrupt and oppressive government, and to our US Constitution and our rights of freedoms. Our American educational system is described as the “failure education system” as a lot of young Americans still drop out before their graduation as they’re not intelligent enough as they have lower I.Q.s. I’m not interested in Christianity and other religions in a fact. Our America is the destroyer of our environment in a concern. Then it always goes to wars however I strongly disfavor wars and others as forms of human violence on our Earth.Well Europe, Asia, and a few of countries have much better educational systems, and a lot of intelligent citizens. In honestly I am the Nature lover and Animal lover but a pacifist who is Jewish as the highly intelligent person in reality. Christa D’Auria

  7. Pippit

    There are some grains of truth in the article but I think it is too much of a generalization. Intelligent people do see things that go on beneath the surface of life and sometimes that keen awareness does make us disillusioned, but along with our disillusionment co-exists a very deep awareness that things don’t have to be this way. We understand that while the world may be on a collision course there is always the capacity for change. The world is what we collectively decide whether by political, legal, emotional, or by the antithesis of these modes. If we as a human race have messed things up royally, so do we have the capacity to un-screw them up.

    Understanding things deeply is not just a burden, but a gift because we also see the beauty in life on the same deep level as we see pain, injustice, and tragedy.

    My father always used to use the phrase “All good things must come to an end.” My counter-thought to that statement is that by the same token “All bad things must also come to an end.” If we wait long enough, act in our everyday lives to bring into practice the world as we want it to be, we by our actions come that much closer to making it so.

    This is where solutions are conceived. If we believe that we can set our world on a better course we will then act accordingly, and our actions will influence others, and bring about positive change. Having this outlook can make us some of the happiest people on earth even though at other times we can be some of the most tragic. When one can come to see these dualities as inherent in life we can shape our world and have a joyous interchange with it. Sometimes I can look outside my window and the light as it shines through the leaves on the trees gives me a profound feeling of peace. The tree frogs after a rain at dusk fill me with a serene sense that despite all that is wrong, unjust, and corrupt there is a persistent counter-balance of gentleness and kindness that cannot be extinguished.

  8. Wendy Swinton

    The accuracy in his article in 100%. The author describes my situation with the ultimate word choice. I must admit that I sometimes feel bored, sad and worried for no reason. At times I suffer loneliness and I never talk that much. Many are the times I even outgrow friendships because of levels of understanding and reasoning. I even rarely find anybody I can tell absolutely everything that is going on in my life. However, it feels great and quite encouraging that we are never in this alone.

  9. Sean

    This is me precisely. I have always cited these specific reasons for my lack of feeling content in life.

  10. J

    wow I’ve never read an article before that describes me 100%. I was beginning to think I was the only person out there and that there was something wrong with the way I see things. Although I don’t have a high IQ my brain computes 3 steps ahead in every situation analyzing everything and I often get frustrated that no one else can see what I think is obvious.
    I need to read more on this subject.

    1. Don

      Check out RH neg. blood characteristics.

  11. Gary

    Without a teleological definition of human nature, the intelligent person who asks deep questions is one who will entertain internal conflicts over many things. The more we discover about ‘being’, the more issues we find: having internal conflict is a recipe for obtaining low self esteem and social ineptitude etc.

    Imagine looking through a cutlery draw and finding an extraordinary implement that seems to have no use at all, you may ask “what the fuck is this for?” if you find your intelligence has led to a similar position concerning yourself, others and the universe, you have become a teleologist; you are looking for the ultimate plot!

    When applying ourselves to specific purposes and away from self, the emphasis of enquiry is directed to finding solutions that are achievable. The happiest intelligent people seem to be those who apply themselves to things tangible and mundane; however complex and/or pointless they may be.

    A scientist for instance is not looking for the ‘ultimate plot’ they are slowly unravelling truths, knowing that they are just doing their bit for the never ending enquiry which is science: many scientists are very intelligent, happy and content due to this.

    For many intelligent people the deep questions are always there in the background to some degree, and to whatever extent they are important to us, they will make us demanding of others and cause us distress unless we also use our ingenuity to make ourselves acceptable in the social sphere as well.

    I am sixty years old and a product of 20th century idealism and I enjoyed the social aspects of the society I grew up in, one where people seemed more interested in making enquiry into those things perhaps labelled as ‘The Humanities’. I think now that the gross materialism of our current world exhibits the true nature of most people and is more realistic and it carries less false hope. Idealism united people in belief systems, elitisms and all sorts of deception; and they are not satisfying for one who truly desires to make enquiry.

  12. anass

    I fully related to this article, the sad part about this is i’m only 23 years old and the things that make me happy are slowly dropping, in fact, i can say that really nothing makes me happy anymore, i am an engineer which is considered a huge achievement in my country, but it really means nothing at all to me, when i attended the final year’s party where we get our diploma, everybody seemed happy, i couldn’t understand why. Is it something wrong with me? i believe so! i tried psychotherapy but turned out that i know more about psychotherapy than my doctor, i tried smoking Haschich which is a stronger drug than weed, the feeling at the beginning was amazing, it felt like i was reborn again, but sadly weeks after i went back to my sad state, so i stopped, i thought about moving to a stronger drug but i knew the outcome would be the same and i’ll be stuck in an infinite addiction loop, so i avoided that. They told me you should find a job to fill your time with, i did that too, unfortunately i was not only sad but sad and exhausted from the work load.
    I feel like life is not fair, i gained nothing from sharpness and cleverness is misery, i just want to be someone who can be happy by buying a pair of shoes that’s all.

    1. Marta

      Perhaps you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency? Sometimes, psychological problems are caused by purely physical lack of a substance our brains needs to function. This might be a symptom of anemia, or magnesium or vitamin B12 deficiency. I had vitamin B12 deficiency for several years and it was horrible. I thought I was getting old and depressed (at 39, mind you) and nothing made sense anymore. Then after a week of B12… “OMG I can function and enjoy life again!” 😀 I also had these problems when I had undiagnosed stomach problems I didn´t know about.

  13. Don

    Positive affirmations have changed my outlook and feelings. GRATITUDE!! And intermittent fasting. I’ll be 80 in Nov. 2020

  14. Kim Land

    Hi Anna,

    great article! Many people assume that highly intelligent people have a freat life, but they have their own problems as well. Overthinking was an issue for me as well. What helped me was mindfulness meditation. I focused on becoming aware of the nergy field inside my body. At the beginning it was quite challenging and I couldn’t contentrate for more than 2 minutes without my thoughts trying to interrupt me. But I gradually got better and now I’m way less prone to overthinking.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  15. Terry Collins

    Our society is flawed in that we measure happiness equivalently with power, money and success. Other countries like the Netherlands know the true meaning of happiness.

  16. Lee

    This definitely describes how I feel, and I do not mean to flatter myself by admitting it. Since my teenage years, I have wondered when my life will really begin. I have earned two college degrees, own a veterinary practice, and will be fifty this year. I am watching my 16 year-old son achieve his milestones, and still wonder when my life is going to start. The years are starting to blend together so much that I often forget which decade I am in. My body has changed, even though my life hasn’t started. I cannot relate to other women in my community, even those I’ve known in my church for many years. The only times I feel intellectually stimulated are during 15 minute intervals, 3 or 4 times per year, when I go for doctor visits. Conversation about everyday things literally makes me physically ill. It seems like such a sad waste of time and mind power. However, here I spend a beautiful weekend alone, contemplating the essay I am attempting to write. It is about the shared characteristics of Marxist/socialism and fascism…people don’t realize that they are opposite sides of the SAME coin, and also that our default human natures lead us down that road without higher reasoning. This is not the behavior I observe in the people surrounding me on this beautiful weekend. My dad is frustrated, not wanting to address any more of my theoretical questions, telling me to stop thinking so much. But I can’t. I am an INTJ personality type woman, which is the rarest type of all. I think it might be the reason I’m so lonely. Then again, I like it this way. Alone. The only relief I feel is when I sleep.

  17. A. M. K.

    God, as someone with a remarkably high IQ who has completely failed at life, reading these bloated, overly wordy and lofty comments has made it finally clear to me why people hate nerds. We’re all completely insufferable.

  18. Marcia

    I have read that the most common MBTI type in the US are the XSTJs. They are sensors and they live in the physical sensory world. I am married to an ESTJ. I have seen no evidence in 30 years of marriage that he is capable of deep thinking. I am an INTJ and like the few other introverted intuitives, I live in a sea of shallow sheeple. It’s a lonely, isolating thing. I can’t help but feel like an alien from another planet. I see people running around like ants, working and struggling but not really getting much done of any importance. It’s depressing.

    1. Marta

      It´s actually a myth that some types are much more common that others. They´re really distributed more or less evenly. Also, intelligence, sense of higher purpose, shallow vs. deep thinking – those have nothing to do with type. I´m an ESFP, those are supposed to be the least academic types, and I´ve written an encyclopaedia in two languages. My aunt is an ESTJ, she has all the basic characteristics of ESTJs but she´s a deeply caring and deeply thinking pastor. These things are determined by other factors than MBTI type. Like genetics, brain wiring, experience, upbringing and education.

  19. Anders

    Happiness is the distance between expectation and observation. When you have high and precise – narrow and rigid – expectations and the world fails to deliver, you’re unhappy. Expectations are fantasies that take place in the mind, deams, phantasms; observations are lived reality.

    I happily have the opposite, where observations far exceeded expectations.

    During high school, I had no expectatiins but to dreamily travel the world like a hippy, a mendicant, a monk, absorbing ancient wisdom, swimming in the sea, meditating, etc. After five years of footlose and fancy-free travel and reading and thinking about everything under the sun, I stumbled into university, fell in love with an ambitious daughter of a professor, flew through my BA, MA, PHD, with the greatest of ease and no worries because I was very detached from the whole process, five world top universities in three languages. Now I create, design and develop international environmental programmes through my little two-man start up. Still detached, so no worries. No competition. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful children, I’m overjoyed. I have been blessed with a very high IQ and great happiness, nay, even more, great joy. Gratitude, vision, don’t expect too much from people, enjoy the simple things, eat healthy and sleep well. Sunshine and fresh air, spirit and nature. Strive to improve the world but don’t worry about things you can do nothing about, especially about what other people might be thinking. Have a place of value where even if all worldy things – money, prestige, love affairs – fail, you still feel blessed.

  20. Fabian

    I’m suffering from existential depression and this article is everything i struggle to understand about why i feel the way i feel.

  21. Mike

    These replies are quite interesting to read because if you just read all of these replies like I just did, I’m about to say I’ve never felt understood by anyone. I know that pain too well, but at least I’m not alone. Feel free to email me, perhaps we can have an actual conversation; [email protected] (delete if not allowed)

    What do we do now, that’s the issue

  22. Christian

    In my opinion what is explained here is probably factual. I don’t know for others but in my case I’ve been confronted many times with mockery, exclusion and marginalisation. That could explain, at least in my case, the discomfort and therefore the « forced psychiatric treatments » I had to endure because of my peculiar approach to the phenomenons I observe daily. I don’t feel people understand me either. I do think out of the box quite often, at least I did so in my childhood. Beside I suffer from type 1 diabetes since the age of 3, which doesn’t help either to feel happy. Anyway what helped me a lot is my interest to spirituality methods like meditation. I had some meditation state in which everything around me disappeared and left room for a kind of a golden light that breathes, so speaking. That was wonderful and I wish you too can experience this.
    All the best,

  23. Ben

    The ego isn’t intentional, it comes because you have to explain in layman’s terms complex topics to people with a lower IQ which comes across as patronising.

    Recently I was told I was mansplaining in an online discussion, I had to explain I’m actually inadvertently patronising to everyone as I often cannot adequately judge a person’s level of understanding and social etiquette means often a person won’t admit when they fail to comprehend complex topics.

    I’m not overly intelligent with an IQ ~135 but I’d love to know if those people with a higher IQ or better social skills learnt how to cope with having to interact with people that are frustrating from misunderstanding context (patronising was not intended, I have good intentions), subject matter (unable to grasp concepts without serious amount of elucidation and attention) or seemingly just incompetent at what should be one of their core skills.
    It’s quite alienating, particularly when they struggle and you can’t involve yourself (e.g. receptionist who can’t book an appointment on a computer, a delivery driver that damages or forgets items, an architect that doesn’t use modern design paradigms or materials causing extra cost, a neurosurgeon that orders the blatantly incorrect x-ray profile/orientation – all of these have happened to my family recently).

    In combination with the failure to communicate (which is my failing) the hassle of the mistakes that occur for what should be basic or well understood tasks is utterly depressing.

    1. Marta

      If struggling people bother you, imagine they have vitamin B12 deficiency. I´m quite deft and intelligent but those qualities went downhill for several years when I had undiagnosed vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is necessary for good functioning of the brain, nerves and muscles. It was like having Alzheimer´s and multiple sclerosis at the same time. It was horrible. I must have looked stupid to a lot of people. Also, these people often work night shifts and those can make people sluggish and confused, simply because of the long-term sleep deprivation.

  24. Linda

    I am one of the smartest people I know and what I realize is that sometimes I lack patience for people who have much greater empathy and much greater sympathy for their fellows. Sometimes we smart people. fail to recognize the gifts that people who have lesser IQs, who feel what we overlook. Being the brightest person in the room doesn’t always make you happy.

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