A couple of years ago, a number of studies came out in an attempt to ‘debunk’ people who put into practice spirituality. The study found that people who have a spiritual comprehension of life are more prone to mental health disorders, various addictions and anxiety.
A news report from the Daily Mail titled “Spiritual people are more likely to be psychologically ill (but at least they think life has more meaning)” took a jab at spiritual people as if to say: “They are crazy, but at least they think life is more important to them”. Another report by The Telegraph covered the same story, claiming that spiritual people struggle to cope with things mentally.
Now, is it possible that the spiritually-minded people have more mental health issues and anxiety problems not because they are looney, but because they are more connected to what is happening in the world?
What if they are more aware of things that go wrong in a society and are more emotional about the suffering in the world? What if an anxious mind is a searching and connected mind?
An interesting study came out several years ago linking social anxiety to increased empathetic capabilities. Participants in the study who suffered from social anxiety showed an increased ability to interpret the emotions and mental states of people surrounding them!
These study results support the hypothesis that anxious individuals may demonstrate unique social-cognitive abilities with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies.
In other words, people who have social anxiety are able to more tangibly feel the emotions of people around them. Many people who consider themselves “conscious” or “spiritual” also report feeling social anxiety and experience things like depression or other mental difficulties. But as it turns out, people who suffer from anxiety may also be brainier.
Studies link anxiety to intelligence
Lakehead University study found that people who reported suffering from social anxiety also scores higher on psychological tests which were designed to measure verbal intelligence.
People who reported having general anxiety disorder and depression actually scored higher on verbal-linguistic testing than people who did not suffer from anxiety.
Another study, published in the European Journal of Psychology found that highly-anxious participants were quicker to detect threats of danger and responded more quickly to those threats than other participants.
Social defense theory (Ein-Dor et al., 2010) proposes that, in threatening situations, people who score high on attachment anxiety quickly detect the presence of threat and then alert other group members to the danger and the need for protection.
Anxiety as a superpower
One explanation of this is that anxious individuals also tend to be more altruistic. In nature, animals that are able to detect and respond to threats and dangers the quickest are fitter to survive.
In fact, some species of the animal kingdom rely on having an individual in their herd that is anxiety prone and can detect threats before others can.
So, is it possible that anxiety is actually an evolutionary advantage? Could anxiety act as a biological superpower that helps us tackle problems, avoid threats and detect danger?
A study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York demonstrated that participants who suffered from severe cases of anxiety scored higher on intelligence tests (IQ tests) than those who did not have as much anxiety.
In other words, there was a direct correlation between degree of anxiety and degree of intelligence. This should come as no surprise since anxious people are constantly analyzing and assessing situations, formulating ideas, reflecting and processing information.
As Dr. Jeremy Coplan said about his study, “While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be.” So, we have evidence that people with “mental health disorders” are actually more intelligent on average.
What does this mean?
It means that people who are spiritually-minded tend to suffer from anxiety and depression more. But this is because their eyes are wide open to a world that is in need of repair!
The same people assumed to be “crazy” for having social anxiety and other mental disorders score much higher on certain IQ tests and have an evolutionary advantage in being able to detect threats before other people!
And that is why people who can accurately feel, interpret and “mentalize” the thoughts and emotions of others are called ‘intuitives’ or ‘psychics’.
It seem very credible that having social anxiety and general anxiety disorder is NOT actually a disorder, but it is a product of having a stronger intuition, more accurate interpretations of people’s states, and a very sensitive energy field.
Perhaps, what we call a mental disorder is actually a gift!