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Correlation Between Intelligence and Anxiety Disorders

Updated on November 30, 2014

What exactly does it mean to have a high IQ? Why don't all children with extremely high IQs do well in school? Why might a high IQ often come paired with social disorders? Knowing that a child becoming aware of his or her IQ could help or hinder him or her, would you tell your own child if his or her IQ score was much higher than normal? What if it was much lower?

Intelligence is the ability to solve problems as well as the ability to adapt and learn from one’s experiences. (Santrock, 2012, p 247). An individual’s intelligence quotients (IQ) are determined by dividing the person’s mental age by their chronological age and then multiplying by 100. An IQ score is a measure of an individual’s crystallized and fluid intelligence on a scale of 0 to over 140 though the average score is between 85 and 115 (Cherry, 2014). A low IQ score, below 70, can be an indicator of an intellectual disability when combined with evidence of cognitive limitations existing before the age of 18, and limitations in at least two adaptive areas such as communication and self-help skills (Cherry, 2014). A high IQ score is considered to be any score over 140; individuals with a score higher than 140 are believed to be moderately to profoundly gifted (Cherry, 2014).

A high IQ score in a child does not always mean that he or she will do well in school; the IQ test only measures crystallized and fluid intelligence not emotional intelligence, which can play a role in each child’s success at school. A child could have a genius level IQ with a low emotional intelligence and/or a social disorder such as: anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or autism (Rettner, 2012). Children with high IQs can do poorly in school if they are not sufficiently challenged either by extra projects or through a gifted or accelerated program.

There is a substantial connection between high IQ scores, mental disorders, and psychological problems (Andromeda, 2010). Individuals with a high IQ tend to experience extra stress, communication problems, and/or difficulties interacting socially; individuals with autism and bipolar disorder often have a high IQ score (Andromeda, 2010). The stress from high expectations combined with a high IQ score can lead to isolation, depression, and/or social disorders.

I believe that children should not be informed of their IQ scores regardless of their score being low or high. The child knowing their own score in my opinion is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If children are told that they have a low IQ then they might accept that and not try as hard at school and at life. If children are told that they have a high IQ then they will have to deal with the expectations, stress, and pressure that often come with their high IQ. I believe that neither the child nor the parent should be informed of the results of IQ tests so as to not pressure the child to succeed or expect the child to fail. It is my belief that neither the child nor the parent gains anything from knowing the IQ score. The only people who should be informed are the teachers so that they know to move the children with high IQs to a gifted program if they appear to be prepared for it and to monitor the children with the lower IQ scores to make certain they understand the material and do not fall behind in class.


Andromeda, R. (2010, November 22). Challenges for Persons with a High IQ. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from

Cherry, K. (2014). What Is the Average IQ? Retrieved November 19, 2014, from

Cherry, K. (2014). What Is Considered a Low IQ? Retrieved November 19, 2014, from

Cherry, K. (2014). Do You Have a Genius IQ Score? Retrieved November 19, 2014, from

Rettner, R. (2012, April 13). Anxiety Linked to High IQ. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from

Santrock, J. (2012). A topical approach to life-span development (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Onset in Maintenance of Depressive Disorders and Anxiety Disorders: Jutta Joormann

"1. How did you become interested in psychology?

>> Yeah, I actually knew already in high school that I was really, really interested in, you know, just kinda human behavior and emotions and, you know, what people do the things that they do and happy emotions that they are having. So it was kind of no-brainer for me to go on to college and then, you know, graduate school.

2. What is your current area of research? How do you study emotion and cognition?

>> Yeah, I'm looking at onset in maintenance of depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. And I'm trying to bridge basic psychological research and clinical psychology. So I'm very much looking at, you know, how do people process information, you know, how--what do they intend to, what do they remember. And how is this related to, you know, them having a higher risk of onset for depression or anxiety disorders. So, you know, we know that cognition, memory, attention, you know, the way you think about experiences that you're having and the way that you remember them are very important for your emotional reactions to them. And we also know that people, you know, do not just have emotions, they actually regulate them and they put a lot of effort into regulating them. And that cognitive processes help them regulating their emotions. So, I'm trying to make the link between cognition, emotion and clinical disorders basically.

3. What parts of the brain are related to emotion?

>> I don't have, have the time to really list them all of 'cause there are a lot that are involved, but we think about it right now in terms of emotion generation and emotion regulation. And emotion generation is, is actually related to an, to, to the oldest part of the brain that we have which is often called the limbic system. It's a, it's a, it's a subcortical system, so it's, it's, you know, it's kind of deeper in the brain. And as, you know, as people think about it, it's, it's the oldest system in terms of human development, and also, you know, development in history and also in of the lifespan. And, and for example, the amygdala, the hippocampus are parts of that system. And the idea is that this system response very quickly to stimuli, and evaluates them as being threatening, or helpful, and then this response gets regulated by the newer systems of the brain that we often call [inaudible] prefontal cortex has kind of been used -- parts that, that we get. And so this part is very important in cognitive regulation of the emotion that gets created by, by the limbic system, so it's often called the cortical limbic circuit that people talk about when they talk about emotion generation and regulation.

4. How do you conduct your research on clinical disorders and the regulation of mood states? Does mood affect certain behavior?

>> So we're mostly interested in clinical disorders so we recruit from the community and sometimes from hospitals, and then we diagnose everybody, so we use a standardized clinical interview to make sure that they fulfill, you know, give them criteria for this order that we're interested in. And then what we do is we have them -- so we have them come to the lab to do this interview, and then we have to have them come back when they fulfill criteria to a number of very basic clinic kind of cognitive tests on the computer. So, for example, what we often do is we induce -- we show them, you know, film clips that make them very sad or make them very happy, and then we, you know, set them in front of the computer and show them words that they have to memorize, and then later on we tell them either to forget the words or that you keep thinking about those words and then we'll look at how well they do this, and if there's any effect of valance, so they do they, you know, afterward, after we induced a negative mood state, are they going to be more likely to remember the negative words that we showed them, which might be an important mechanism in, in, you know, helping them to regulate the emotional state.

5. How do cognitive processes and emotion interact as they relate to depressive disorders and anxiety disorders? How do genetics play a role in these disorders?

>> One of the most interesting studies that we're doing right now probably is that we look at actually daughters of mothers who have a history of depressive episodes, but the daughters are between 9 and 14-years-old, and now completely healthy, so they have no, no problems at the moment. But we know from research that they are at higher risk for an onset of depression themselves. And so what we do is we do those kinds of tasks with them, so we get them into the lab, we make sure they have no history of any psychopathology, and then we show them movie clips and put them into a negative mood state with those movie clips, which is very sad to do with 9 and 14-year-olds. But it's very effective. And doing that, we found that these girls, even though they have not, you know, experienced depression themselves at this point, have, you know, orient towards negative, negative faces that we show them on the computer screen. When they have the choice to look at a neutral face or a negative face, they orient towards the negative face. And they also are more likely to remember negative words that we presented them on the computer screen, compared to, you know, girls of the same age who don't have parents with psychopathology, so I think that's, that's kind of, that's a very interesting finding and we're going to follow them up to see if we can predict the onset of depression.

6. What types of movies do you show participants during your research?

>> One of our favorite ones was a little mean to say is, is, for example, Step Mom. I think it's called Step Mom right now, and so it's, it's kind of the conversation that the dying mother has with her daughter, it's very moving, and especially, you know, given that we're looking at daughters. It's very easy for them to get into, into the feel of that.

7. What precautions or steps do you take when showing young girls powerfully negative images and words?

>> You need to be very up front and very clear with, with them before you start doing this, so we have on multiple occasions, we, you know, before they even come in, we, we tell them a lot about the, about the study. Then when they come in, they have to, so their parents have to give us their complete informed consent. They have to give us the consent for the daughters, and the daughters also have to fill out the form where they give us our consent -- their consent for our, for the study. So we have -- we're very, very careful with that.

8. Do mood and emotion have an impact on social behavior?

>> As I said, we mostly look at depression and anxiety and for both of those disorders, mood state and emotion has a lot of influence on the, on the behavior. For example, interpersonal behavior, you know, we know from depression that people [inaudible] I'm not very likely to approach other people, don't have a lot of close friends, and often, you know, have very passive behaviors, spend a lot of time at home by themselves. And all of those dimensions are very much a behavior, are very much influenced by mood and emotions. You know, so do you, you know, do you -- are you, are you happy when you, when you are with other people, do you anticipate that, you know, meeting other people will be, will be a fun experience, all of that is very much influenced by your, by your mood state. And for anxiety, it's, it's the same if you, you know, if you're, if you're afraid of things you, you know, you're very unlikely to go out and explore. You're likely to avoid situations that, you know, could, could be good for you to attend, and, and those kinds of things. So it has a lot of impact on behavior.

9. Do individual differences in emotion, mood, or personality increase the risk for depression?

>> There are general personality effectors that have been associated with reactivity to emotional situations and also differences in regulation like neuroticism, for example would be one of those, positive effectivity, you know, emotion impulsivity and, and things like that. And then, you know, right now, as I said, we're looking at history of, you know, parent, parental history of psychopathology, or if you have a history of psychopathology, you're going to be more likely to have problems in, in this area. So we're looking a lot, for example, at people who are, who have been depressed before, but are out of a depressive episode at the moment to see if those, those things are stable, you know, if they're still having trouble regulating emotions, even though they're not depressed at the moment.

10. Can constant rumination have a particularly harmful role in an individual’s mental health?

>> Yeah. We're, we're actually investigating that a lot, so that's one of the factors that we're looking at is rumination. And, and we know that it increases the risk for onset of depression, and also that people are more likely to have prolonged depressive episodes when, when they ruminate. And [inaudible] has done a lot of studies, for example, looking at children already who, whom -- you know, mostly adolescents, who might be prone to ruminate and then when they encounter a negative life event, it might increase the risk of onset for depression for them to a large degree. So, that's, that's very important factor.

11. Do deficits in emotion regulation have neurological correlates?

>> Oh yeah. We are, we are actually looking at this, I'm working with Ian Gotlib [assumed spelling] at Stanford University right now, and we're doing studies on [inaudible] of emotion regulation. And, again, the idea as I said in the beginning is that it might be an interaction between the more limbic system, the more subcortical system, and the prefontal cortex that's important in, in regulating emotion with, you know, the limbic system being the emotion generating area, and the prefontal cortex being very important in bound regulating, the emotion that, that, that is activated.

12. What particular element in your research might lead to effective treatment programs for anxiety and depression?

>> So, I'm very interested in, in looking, looking at more at risk factors, that's why I'm very excited about the study with the daughters that, that I'm doing, again, in collaboration with Ian Gotlib [assumed spelling] at Stanford. So, what, you know, what are the underlying mechanisms of risk, who, you know, who is, who's at particular risk to develop those kinds of disorders and can we line that up with certain cognitive functions in, you know, difficulties in emotion regulation.

13. What direction do you see your research heading?

>> We are very, very interested in risk factors of the onset of psychopathology especially depression and anxiety disorders, because we know that, you know, people respond to the same events that they have in their lives in very different way. Some people are, you know, have very severe life events and just, you know, go through and there is no problem at all. With other people, have the same events or even lesser events and respond with the onset of psychopathology. And so, we were really wanna understand that difference between those two groups and as I said in collaboration with [inaudible] Stanford, we are looking at that in terms of, you know, what are those kinds of risk factors. And, you know, are we able to predict the onset of psychopathology in people is gonna be very, very interesting.

14. What research findings have surprised you the most?

>> So, one of the most surprising findings we had actually is related to the emotion regulation inside of it. So we did a study where we look at people with depression and had two conditions and one condition we--so we, you know, induce the negative mood state with a film clip. In one condition, we ask people to distract themselves with some kind of very easy cognitive task after they had seen the film. In the other condition, we ask people to recall positive autobiographic memories from their life. So, you think back to your high school years, what were the times were you we're feeling really good and give a little description and they, you know, got a sheet of paper and we ask them to write down those experiences. And we compare depressed and non-depressed people in their mood state before they did that. And so, before the film clip, after film clip and then after this low task, and what we found is that the depressed people actually respond that with more negative effect after having recalled a lot of positive events from their lives. And we we're really, really surprised to see that, because we have not expect that we have kind of looked, you know, we we're interested in looking at the different effectiveness of differentially effectiveness of distraction. But to find that they really deferred on how much they responded to recalling positive thinks from their lives was really--"(Joormann).


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      When I worked as a School Psychologist, testing children for IQ scores and learning difficulties, I found this premise to be true, that those individuals with learning problems that had high IQ scores had emotional and social issues that kept them from learning adequately. I don't know if this is true across the board, though, as not all students were given IQ tests, only those that had learning difficulties. When I tested my own children for practice while in college, they scored high on the IQ tests, but they did not have emotional disorders. Like you said, we have to be careful what we do with this information once it is obtained, as it can create more problems than it solves.

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