6 Disadvantages of Being a Highly Intelligent Person

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The unexpected downsides of being smart — and how to deal with them

Almost 70% of the global population has an average IQ between 85 and 115. An IQ of 130 or more is considered high intelligence and only 2.2% of people reach these levels.

The average IQ in the United States is 98.

If you find yourself in the 2.2% group, or anywhere above 115, your life is full of benefits. Smart people solve problems better, are adaptable, and learn faster.

Besides this, highly intelligent people are more likely to succeed at work, avoid getting into trouble or committing crimes, and use critical thinking to deal with everyday problems.

However, high intelligence comes with many downfalls as well. Smart people even tend to be more miserable than folks with an average IQ.

The quote from Bertrand Russell explains one of the cons of high IQ,

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

That’s not everything, though. The following points show 6 other problems highly intelligent people might struggle with every day.

You prefer to be on your own

Scientist Carol Graham mentions that “those with more intelligence and the capacity to use it, are less likely to spend so much time socializing because they are focused on some other longer-term objective.”

It’s simple. When you’re smart enough to set your goals and maintain productivity, it’s hard to interrupt this flow only because your colleagues throw a party on Friday night.

You protect your time and plan your days wisely. Attending a party might break your routine and make it hard to get things done.

Having fun with friends and collecting new memories sounds great. Smart people, however, prefer to spend their time building things that bring them perks in the future.

They postpone instant gratification in exchange for achieving meaningful goals.

The Oxford Handbook of Evolution, Biology, and Society explains why exactly intelligent people don’t mind being alone.

“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems, may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations than less intelligent individuals do.”

You don’t need a million people around you to have fun. You also don’t need these people for another reason — as you can solve the majority of problems on your own, help from others isn’t usually necessary.

However, socialization is important for good mental health, and not spending time with loved ones is a number one mistake people regret later on in their lives.

How to deal with it

Avoid toxic friendships and stop wasting time on worthless relationships. Narrow down the circle of people you’re seeing.

The few ones left on your list are real treasures, and you should cherish them whether your schedule is busy or not.

You have fewer friends

In the research published in the British Journal of Psychology, scientists concluded that “more intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends.”

They’ve analyzed data supporting psychologists’ assumptions that having a few good friends brings higher life satisfaction than many weak friendships.

Average people don’t mind spending time with almost anybody. You can see a group of people sitting together at a café without paying attention to each other. All of them holding their phones lost in virtual realities.

Carl Jung once explained why some people tend to be on their own.

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”

How to deal with it

If you have nothing in common with some people you’re seeing, there’s no point to keep seeing them.

Imagine the amount of time you can save once you stop listening to your ex-schoolmate worries about her new diet that doesn’t work.

You’re scared of your knowledge

What’s the difference between very intelligent people and less intelligent people?

Less intelligent people tend to overestimate their knowledge and abilities. This phenomenon was proven more than two decades ago in research done by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

They found that people who didn’t perform the given tasks well rated their performances way above reality.

Smart people can rate their knowledge more accurately, based on their ability of metacognition — “the act of thinking about one’s own mental processes”. Besides that, smart people realize not only how much they know, but how much they don’t as well.

At this point, your knowledge is a blessing and a curse. The smarter you get, the more you understand this truth.

Unfortunately, this can end up in suffering from imposter syndrome, a tendency to believe you aren’t that smart, or worth your achievements. This syndrome, surprisingly, often affects people who are “well accomplished, holding high office or having numerous academic degrees.”

How to deal with it

The cure for a bad self-image is to rewrite the mental program in your head that keeps saying you’re not worth the success. Be kind to yourself and spend some time evaluating your achievements. You’ll get back your confidence once you understand how much you’ve done in your life.

You get lost easily

Intelligent people are often unable to stick with one particular thought, and they get distracted by other thoughts popping up in their minds.

A study from the Georgia Institute of Technology proves that “people with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering.”

You keep switching between a million thoughts, and you don’t know what to focus on first.

According to another research“intelligent workers may have difficulty concentrating due to the vast number of clever ideas popping into their gifted brains.”

It doesn’t have to be only skipping in between your thoughts. You can get easily distracted by daydreaming as well.

None of these things is fundamentally wrong — they are only proof of your amazing brain capacity. Even the geniuses like Franz Kafka, Charles Darwin, or Anton Chekhov often fell for distraction while working on important tasks.

However, the point is to get things done. If you can’t focus on one thing at a time, you might have difficulties finishing your job.

How to deal with it

Practicing meditation and mindfulness is key to having a clear mind and good focus. Especially in the evening, right before you go to bed, it’s crucial to clear your mind so you can fall asleep faster.

You constantly over-analyze and worry

A survey done with more than 100 students reports that “a tendency to worry goes hand in hand with higher intelligence.”

One of the key findings of this survey was that students who tend to worry and ruminate more usually score higher on verbal intelligence tests.

It doesn’t mean that being chronically worried equates to being super smart, though. It simply means that when you know more than the average people, it’s hard to stay blindly optimistic like them.

You can analyze the data, find reasons why things might not work out, and see possible obstacles in your way.

Less intelligent people, however, don’t see many obstacles. They don’t lack confidence, and often, they find their way out of the problems due to an unexpected event (often originating in a stupid decision).

A quote from Ernest Hemingway proves this point,

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

How to deal with it

When it comes to making decisions, being worried, or over-analyzing things (that won’t matter in the end), you can use a simple technique that always helps.

Ask yourself if the decision you’re about to make, or the worry that bothers you, will matter in one year from now on. If the answer is no, don’t spend more than 5 minutes on it.

Your sleep routine might be off

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa suggests that intelligent people tend to go to bed later than average-intelligent people — and they wake up later too.

The paper from Kanazawa and Perina offers a deeper explanation,

“Survey of ethnographies of traditional societies suggests that nocturnal activities were probably rare in the ancestral environment, so the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to be nocturnal than less intelligent individuals.”

Another research also confirmed that “contrary to conventional folk wisdom, evening-types are more likely to have higher intelligence scores.”

But again, it doesn’t mean you’re a genius only because you’re unable to control your schedule and bedtime routine. You just might need some time-management lessons.

However, smart people tend to work until night on their projects, or they spend evenings with their noses in the books. That might be the reason why they go to bed later than average folks.

How to deal with it

A good bedtime routine is one of the keys to a happy, productive life. Never underestimate this fact and learn how to relax in the evening.

Things that require a lot of mental energy should wait for you until the next morning.


Regardless of intelligence, everybody is facing some struggles in life.

Smart people are full of doubts and they have to face them every day. Less intelligent people might be full of confidence, but their real lives don’t reflect this self-image.

The point is to go on with your life no matter what problems or IQ levels you have — and make the most of it every single day.