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16 Scientific Reasons Why People Who Are Socially Anxious Are Usually Highly Intelligent

Many people know there’s a neurological correlation between being highly creative and mentally ill, but few seem to realize that the same is true between being socially anxious and highly intelligent. Everybody experiences a degree of social apprehension, and a high IQ is not the sole root of social anxiety as a classifiable clinical disorder, but it’s a huge factor, no matter where on the spectrum you fall. Here, 16 reasons why:

1. People with social anxiety exhibit high levels of sentinel intelligence, which is the ability to detect real threats that are invisible to other people. For example, in the study linked, participants were able to detect the smell of smoke far before others. This means that they are hyper-sensitive to perceived threats, and can feel uneasy or disturbed when they are mental or emotional in nature.

2. Socially anxious people are hyper self-aware. This is generally a positive thing, but when in a social setting these people will experience a sort of spotlight effect and become exhausted trying to monitor and control what they logically know other people could, and may, pick up on.

3. “An anxious mind is a searching mind,” and an intelligent one is, too. In the study linked, it was found that children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder have higher levels of cognitive ability and diligence simply because they are constantly examining things, seeking theories and explanations, trying to rationalize and evaluate information from multiple angles, all at the same time.

4. People with anxiety score higher on verbal intelligence exams. This simply means that they are more attuned to the dimension of meaning behind any given interaction. They perceive the world beyond the surface (and statements beyond their obvious meaning.)

5. People with social anxiety have a natural awareness of other people’s states of mind. This means that they are highly attuned to how someone is thinking, feeling or perceiving a situation, a little bit beyond what would be appropriate and healthy to function without over-thinking, worrying and trying to react to someone’s perceived state of mind, rather than the reality they are presenting.

6. Socially anxious people are, in a sense, empaths. That almost psychic ability to be aware of other people’s states of mind ties inextricably to being aware of their emotional state. Often, if people don’t realize that they are so empathetic, they adopt other people’s issues as their own. They experience an influx and instability of emotion around others (especially large groups) just because they are picking up on everyone else.

7. People with social anxiety are also downboard thinkers: they are a few logical steps ahead of the conversation at almost all times. This leads to feeling easily embarrassed as they can immediately determine the repercussions of a social faux pas.

8. People with similar levels of social anxiety tend to bond quickly; friendships that form quickly and last for a while tend to have this in common. When it comes to being around people whose levels are not aligned with your own, a sense of looming discomfort approaches as they feel ‘outnumbered’ or misunderstood, and certainly uncomfortable.

9. Intelligent people compile empirical evidence from their lives to create a conclusion… socially anxious people do, too. Because intelligent people are far from being naive, they understand how, realistically, history could repeat itself, so if they’ve had a series of negative social experiences, they close off and try to avoid being hurt again.

10. Intelligent people best cope with things that are logical, and social situations are not logical – and neither are people. Their social anxiety is born of a sense of misunderstanding; intelligent people search for information, not emotional cues, and this is how it becomes difficult to interact with others, or even just understand them.

11. Socially anxious people are subconscious overthinkers. This is to say, they don’t know that they’re over-evaluating and coming up with (ironically enough) irrational conclusions.

12. Mental and emotional intelligence is not the same thing, and often, mentally intelligent people will try to decipher emotions in a rational way, which leads to a lot of stress when conclusions cannot be made. When people don’t behave in ways that create patterns, and their emotions are not logical or consistent or dismantled with reason, this misunderstanding of mind vs. heart can lead to a lot of internal stress.

13. Intelligent people are simply less able to dilute reality. Most people choose to ignore all the possibilities, the “what-if’s,” but that doesn’t make them less a part of reality, it makes them less a part of their reality. Unfortunately, intelligent people lack the ability to do this (for better and for much, much worse.)

14. The Theory of Mind is a crucial element of both intelligence and social function, but a hyper-understanding often leads to unnecessary stress. Theory of Mind, otherwise known as commonsense psychology, is the ability to determine and attribute mental states to oneself and to others. Over-thinking this natural perception, however, leads to unnecessarily negative conclusions and the like.

15. Socially anxious people are far more perceptive of intent rather than what appears at face-value. This is because their natural inclination is to dig beneath the surface and understand the root, cause, meaning, purpose, and ultimately, intention of anything (so this need extends into their social lives.)

16. Intelligent people can be more judgmental if they haven’t channeled their awareness into being discerning instead. This is where the whole intelligent-pretentious correlation stereotype comes from. Intelligent people have a hard time of seeing things on more simplistic levels, and an even harder time of stomaching someone else’s lapse in perception (especially when it’s leading to a negative consequence in their lives.) This results in a constant state of social anxiety: tell someone the truth and help them out, or remain mum and feel frustrated regardless. TC mark

Image Credit: Sophia Sinclair

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