High intelligence and insanity have walked hand and hand through the ages. Society has long thought that brilliance comes with an increased risk of insanity. This common perception has yet to be totally disproved, but what has been discovered is that the highly creative, intelligent mind is more similar, than dissimilar to the disabled mind. The difference is how the individual deals with the same stimuli reaching their brain. For many, high intelligence saves the individual from insanity.
A study done by Shelly Carson and Daniel Higgins of Harvard University, and Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto, shed light on the issue at hand. The study noted that psychosis has been linked to an individual’s inability to screen out stimuli that has been previously experienced to be irrelevant. The terminology for the ability to screen out irrelevant information is known as ” latent inhibition (LI)”. Many individuals with mental illness experience a reduction in latent inhibition and, in layman’s terms, the sensory overload causes mental impairment.
This reduction in latent inhibition is also found among the highly intelligent,creative, population. The reduction in latent inhibition allows the creative mind to perceive things the rest of us cannot. This contributes to an open mind and the ability for independent thought. High intelligence allows this individual to process more and different information and function on a higher level of creativity. The same decrease in latent inhibition causes brilliance in some and illness in others.
Increasingly mental illness is seen as a chemical malfunction in the brain. For example, those who suffer from severe anxiety may not have the same stress prevention chemicals in their brain as do the general public. This causes the individual suffering from stress and anxiety to always be on a biochemical state of alert, thus causing physical and mental dysfunction. If you factor in high intelligence, it may be the anxiety ridden individual is perceiving something others cannot. I will share a personal experience to illustrate my point.
I do not know my I.Q., it was tested and I have never been told the results. On tests, I have consistently performed well above average. If I am gifted, it is most likely in social analytical skills. I am very good at assessing body language and societal interactions. I also have severe, disabling panic/anxiety disorder which manifests itself primarily in physical chest pains, numbing and other types of panic attacks.
The first professional I saw to manage this problem put me on a medication that in retrospect was meant to increase my L.I. ability. I was told it would make me see the world as others do. For a short time, it did. My perception of my environment was different, more limited. The multitude of stimuli that I process was shut down.
Well my creative brain did not like that, so it began compensating for the drug. Even increased doses would not work. As the doctor began to prescribe dosages that were worrisome, luckily our relationship ended due to a change in insurance. I later found a doctor who prescribed Paxil, which helps manage anxiety. Paxil, in my experience does not limit your perceptions, it merely helps how you deal with the anxiety they cause you. In my case the anxiety , or its’ symptoms, cannot be treated to a point that I can no longer be labeled, disabled.
So I wonder if it is not the type of an intelligence a person has that either results in a creative, high functioning individual or someone who suffers from mental illness. An interesting question that I do not know the answer to.
Obviously many other factors need to be considered when treating mental illness. But one element of common thought has more than a little truth to it. Brilliance and insanity are closer than you think.