Highly Intelligent but Socially Handicapped: The Psychology of the Nerd
My son in his mid-30s, is extremely intelligent, has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and is a postdoctoral researcher at an Ivy League University. He has significant social-relationship problems. He does not know many of the rules of social interaction, and lacks confidence in social situations. Some of his actions are often considered eccentric. He is interested in developing social relationships. But, he has had no significant romantic relationships with the opposite sex (though he has had a couple of brief ones). He does have male friends but none very close. He also has non-romantic relationships with the opposite sex (even more-so than with male friends). He has some minor eccentric behavioral mannerisms. His almost always carries a backpack with him, often to the most inappropriate places, his dress awareness is weak (by any convention), and he has developed other minor unusual mannerisms, which discourage potential female partners. He is, though, generally considerate, kind, and gentle, he is attractive though short in stature (about 5ft2”). He is well aware of his problem and makes an effort to deal with his situation (sometimes they are clumsy and sometimes with varying degrees of success). He is well liked and respected by some of his academic peers, and his research results are impressive but he is often not invited to participate in social events because he is seen to ‘not fit in’. He interacts well with his family and has a loving relationship with his parents and siblings. He lives away from home (near his university) and speaks often by phone and visits his family occasionally. He is not generally depressed (he has many professional successes and is quite respected), but his clumsy social skills and lack of romantic relationship do depress him. He is generally kind, rational, and forthcoming. He readily seeks advice from his close family. He is easily insulted in social situations when his is confused or reacts inappropriately. When in his element (chemistry, history, politics, or near his family) he is confident and imposing, and often humorous (he has a keen sense of humor). His main concern is that he will not succeed in finding a life-partner and will not raise a family (which he dearly wishes to do).
THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION WILL NOT BE DISPLAYED UNTIL YOU HAVE INDICATED YOUR AGREEMENT WITH THE DISCLAIMER PRINTED JUST BELOW. CLICK THE 'I AGREE' BUTTON TO AGREE TO THESE TERMS AND SEE THE RESPONSE.
- Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.