Feelings of inferiority are messing with my mental health. What to do?
January 3, 2016 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Some years ago a psychologist conned me into taking an IQ test. If that weren't bad enough, my test subscores ended up being, for the most part, horrible—nearly bad enough to put me into a percentile in which the 'intellectually impaired' are a part of. Though deep down inside I'm not convinced I'm the dolt I am on paper, these results have really fucked with my head and have made me spend much time questioning my intelligence. Really, all these results have done for me is lower my confidence and cause me a great deal of depression and anxiety that sometimes gets so out of hand that it leaves me feeling suicidal. And this I very well knew could happen. And I knew that receiving less-than-stellar results was highly possible due at least in part to my anxious nature which makes it hard for me to focus when around others. And I knew this would ruin me; and ruin me it has. Now the question is: can the damage be undone?

So some years back—seven years to be exact—a psychologist recommended to me that I take an IQ test and, unfortunately, successfully conned me into taking one despite me clearly specifying to him—more than once—that I was not willing to take one. And I provided him with reasons as to why I did not want to take one. To this he replied each time with something to the effect of: 'OK, OK—but I really wish you'd take one.'

After our second session together he had already started tiptoeing his way around using the term 'IQ test', avoiding it entirely and replacing it with 'cognitive test', making me think he had some alternative test for me that wasn't going to be an official intelligence-grading test (I've good reason to believe that he hoped I would think that this 'cognitive test' he wished to administer to me was going to be some run-of-the-mill psychological test—not an official IQ test that I was going to be graded on). When it came time to do the test I was not told what the test was called nor that I was being timed, the latter being enough to severely skew my results. Eventually I was diagnosed with some mental ailment and when finally my diagnosis report arrived in the mail (which, by the way, ended up taking my psychologist months to ship out to me—not the two or three days I was promised it would take. Heck, he even lied about sending it when he hadn't done so yet) I was shocked to see that the test he had administered to me was in fact an official IQ test where every aspect of my intelligence was graded and given a number. In addition to me being pissed off about coming to the realization that my psychologist had bullshitted me, I was disheartened to see that my results were, for the most part, subpar.

This did much to shatter my ego and, to an extent, make me even more distrustful of others—especially of those in positions of trust. Years have passed and though deep down inside I'm pretty certain I'm not the dolt I am on paper, I'm still pissed off and can't help but view myself as an inferior being because, after all, that's what I am officially on paper according to none other than a Doctor of Psychology—you know, those people who are universally considered to be smart. And it's depressing.

So: can someone suggest things to do to help rid myself of some of the pain this has caused me? I feel that something needs to be done as this has taken a huge toll on me. Some have suggested I take another IQ test where I know ahead of time that I'll be taking an official IQ test which could, and most probably would, allow me to score higher (though probably not much higher as that element of anxiety always gets in the way) as I'd then know not to fuck around and would know not to answer any questions in a half-assed manner and that receiving better results would make me forget about my previous, horrible results. But that, I don't think, I'm willing to do as I worry that there's a chance my scores would not change and it would further instill the belief that I'm—officially—an inferior being.

Then there's my lifelong interest in hypnosis which has made me wonder if hypnosis could help me negate these negative thoughts. Anyone think this could be beneficial?

I've even considered going on anti-depressants despite having nothing but shitty experiences with them in the past. Wellbutrin seems to be today's go-to for those who don't want to experience all the shitty side effects that come with most SSRIs (the only class of anti-depressants I've been on). I'm tempted to ask for a prescription for them.

To end this, I wish to add that though my shitty experience with the psychologist may seem out of the ordinary, I'm surprisingly not the only person I know of who's been conned into taking an IQ test in the same manner. Some years ago I befriended a man who had the same thing happen to him leaving him feeling betrayed and suspicious of the mental health system. Speaking to each other of our negative experiences was therapeutic for the both of us but, unfortunately, his depression got the best of him and he withdrew entirely from the world and ceased contact with everyone including myself. And now I no longer have any kind of support network.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You said a magic word here -- "suicidal" -- that should mean that all the advice you receive should be urging you to seek immediate professional help. AskMe isn't enough.

You had a shitty experience with a psychologist, but that won't happen with every one you see. Just see one. See a hundred of them if need be.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:55 PM on January 3, 2016 [15 favorites]

IQ is only one measure of intelligence and your results can deviate in any direction based on a number of factors, particularly if you are depressed or have other neurological disorders. Think of it like the BMI: It helps get a sense of where you stand but being in a certain range doesn't mean you meet all the criteria to be compared to all individuals in that range.

posted by Young Kullervo at 6:57 PM on January 3, 2016

I think hypnotherapy could help with this, since you asked and seem open to it.
posted by sweetkid at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

You need to seek assistance from a behavioral health professional. Some of them are shitty, some are not. There are lots of different angles that they take, depending on when they were trained and what their background is. You can have different experiences than you have in the past.

If you are in Chicago, I can recommend some resources.
posted by PMdixon at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

(I say 'need' and not 'would benefit from' because you mention feeling suicidal.)
posted by PMdixon at 7:02 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, judging from your writing you are VERY intelligent.

You had a crappy shrink. It happens. There are better ones out there.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:05 PM on January 3, 2016 [45 favorites]

An IQ test is a clumsy mostly useless thing that is designed to make quantification of intelligence easy. Unsurprisingly, it's crap. It's to make it easy on the tester, not to get the best measure of the testee. It's analogous to a police composite drawing of your smarts, whereas a couple of paragraphs of prose is like a cheek swab of your smarts. This is the crux: you write like an odd*, smart, fascinating person, the exact opposite of a dolt. Trust that, not the test. The test was useless and no measure of anything. To hell with that sadistic shrink.

*yikes! I don't mean "odd" in a bad way at all. I mean odd as in not typical, not dull. A "worth it" person.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:07 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

OK that IQ test was dumb. You have constructed this question well, so my money is on that you have above average intelligence!!!! Go to a doctor tomorrow to discuss your depression or call a local mental health hot line. This is not optional.
posted by Kalmya at 7:07 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am not a psychologist, but I've taken I.Q. tests as a child and again as an adult. I don't recall what the numbers were but I'm pretty sure I didn't do as well on the test as an adult as I did in my childhood.

I remember reading up on it because of my disappointment, and recall an article said that the tests are more meaningful when taken by kids because they haven't been taught much and do things on instinct, whereas as adults, we go through school and are trained to think, and to second-guess ourselves. You have to also keep in mind how we're feeling, what we've been doing lately, and a plethora of other things can affect the outcome of these tests. You're made to feel stupid by someone suggesting you take this test, you're feeling depressed, you weren't interested in doing it... yeah I wouldn't have done great on the test either.

Fuck IQ tests, man. Anyone who's close to average or lower is going to feel like shit about it. Everyone wants to feel conventionally smart.

Thing is, when you're an adult, not everyone needs to be smart in every conventional way. Not everyone needs to solve logic puzzles, do math, know proper grammar, so if you don't use it regularly it falls by the wayside.

Think of what you ARE good at. Write down all the things, and focus on that. As St. Alia mentioned, I would start with your writing skills - you are perfectly eloquent, and therefore no dummy.
posted by lizbunny at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2016 [9 favorites]

IQ tests are shit, man. I've taken them and they say I'm way past genius level; however, I can't string sentences together anywhere near as well as you did in your question.

You're certainly not the idiot the test suggests. The shrink committed malpractice on you.

Suicidal ideation = get help NOW!
posted by notsnot at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

I don't know whether reassurance will help, but in case it does:

It is simply not possible that someone with your vocabulary and the ability to write a lengthy, thoughtful, coherent letter could be intellectually impaired - or even nearly intellectually impaired. Your psychologist's behaviour sounds unethical to me; I can more easily believe that he was unable or unwilling (!) to administer the test fairly than that you are less than a bright person who isn't good at taking tests.

I can't see much point in you taking another IQ test. I score reasonably highly on them, which means that (unfortunately!) I can assure you that they don't reflect people's actual capabilities. If you really were intellectually impaired - which you're not - they might be a guide to the assistance you needed. But you're not impaired and you're not being offered that sort of assistance. At best another test might reassure you; given your anxiety, though, it could be an another unpleasant experience that would end up falsely confirming the original misdiagnosis.

The other advice people have given about your mental health sounds good to me, but it's not something I know much about. Suicidal thoughts are a real problem, and I hope you can find a good therapist to help you deal with them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2016 [15 favorites]

Others are addressing the points re: suicidal ideation, your shrink's crappiness and the like really well, so I'll just add this one point. You said:

When it came time to do the test I was not told ... that I was being timed

I'm sure you know this, but in the interests of driving it home: The way you approach a timed test and the way you approach an untimed test are absolutely different. (Hell, I've screwed up tests by behaving as though I was under time pressure when I wasn't, and that's a far less messed up situation.) So of course you got a low score on the thing. Under those circumstances, I'd wager that a great many of us would.

You were given a test you didn't want by what sounds like a not-entirely-competent person who administered it wrong. That was unfair at best and professional malpractice at worst, and you did not deserve to go through that, just as you don't deserve to have to deal with the emotional fallout.

Hell with that test.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

First off, I want you to know that you are one of the more articulate writers I have ever seen grace the AskMe pages.

I would begin to try to reformulate all of your beliefs about IQ tests and what this incompetent therapist pulled on you. For one, the validity of them is widely disputed in the scientific realm. This has been the case for years. Psychology is not a hard science and there are certainly practitioners of it that are not operating on sound principles. Think of this as something that happened to you and not a reflection of you.
posted by incolorinred at 7:17 PM on January 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, you're obviously intelligent just from the way that you write. It may help to keep in mind that virtually no one knows what their test results are and very few people ever talk about their IQ score, and those who do (if it's on the high end) are seen as incredibly pretentious and silly. The way people regard you will almost certainly never come down to your IQ score—especially administered under those shitty circumstances. IQ tests are deeply flawed and biased and they tell you nothing about someone's emotional intelligence, sense of humor, compassion, and creativity.

If it makes you feel better, I would report that shrink to the appropriate authorities. This has helped me with a doctor who treated me like absolute dirt. It's unlikely anything will come of it, but it does loosen that feeling of helplessness people feel about health care workers as some kind of ultimate authority.

Please don't give up on seeing a therapist. I've had great luck with psychologytoday.com and going off my intuition about practioners (for me, because I have anxiety about talking on the phone, I have found my two most recent therapists based on how at ease they made me feel when I called them.) Focus on how they make you feel right away and not as much on their credentials. I currently do hypnotherapy with an amazing therapist and you need to establish yourself with that person before they will hypnotize you. It has absolutely been beneficial and I can't believe how quickly I have been able to work on things (vs the slow but steady progress I've made in therapy over the past few years.)

Coincidentally, the multitude of mental health questions on AskMe lately prompted me to face my extreme fears of prescription antidepressants and I started Wellbutrin 4 days ago. I cannot believe what a difference it's made in just that short amount of time. The thing is, there is nothing to lose by trying it. It seems like such a big deal for some reason, but it's not. But you need to find a mental health professional to give you the coping skills needed to combat your feelings of worthlessness.

And seconding everyone who has mentioned that suicidal feelings are not something to trifle with. Please be kind to yourself.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 7:19 PM on January 3, 2016 [13 favorites]

You almost certainly just have test anxiety, not low intelligence. You could not have written this post as well as you did if you were only as smart as that IQ test claimed you are.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:33 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

I remember the IQ test I took to get into "gifted" a thousand years ago. One of the questions was a line drawing of a house with clouds of smoke pouring out of a window, and the tester goes, "What would you do if you saw this?" I was paralyzed for a long moment wondering, "What do these assholes want?" Do they want me to say something really imaginative? Or should I try to appear sensitive? What would the little gifted fauntleroys say? It really mattered because I was in dumbass math and dumbass everything else, and if I could get into "gifted," it would be an hour of blessed relief every school day of my life. Finally I just held my nose and jumped and said, "I would call 9-1-1." Tadaaa, I got into "gifted." With the benefit of hindsight I now realize the correct answer to that and every other question on that and every other such test then, now, forever, is a kungfu move called Monkey Steals the Peach.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:34 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

You have our permission to ignore the results of this one IQ test. You're clearly articulate and this psychologist sounds like a quack. IQ tests test one fairly narrow set of problem-solving skills; you're certainly smart enough to recognize that a human being's intelligence can't be quantified by a single number, or two, or even a few dozen. Just because it purports to score "every aspect" of a person's intelligence doesn't mean it does so; if they said it only scored a few aspects of intelligence do you think they'd sell more?

A final thought: Did you get good grades in school? Those are an imperfect measure as well, but I'd not be surprised if you got pretty good grades in school. If so, why fixate on this one IQ test?
posted by axiom at 7:40 PM on January 3, 2016

You need professional help for the suicidal ideation and to discuss treatment for depression and anxiety. This sort of catastrophic mindset leads to depression but is intensified by a drumbeat of building anxiety. Wellbutrin may increase your anxiety at least for the first week or two but a good doc should be aware of that. It's good to have a script for a benzo on hand even if only for the first week or bad days where you have trouble sleeping and carry anxiety into the next, whether Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, or Restoril. I hardly use my script for Klonopin and Restoril but when I truly feel I need them they make a night and day difference in how I carry anxiety from day to day.

Agree with others that you sound perfectly intelligent and if I had to guess I would think 125 is what you got only because you've made it out to he so bad but sound smart and perhaps wrapped your identity up in a 140 or higher. But the number doesn't matter, especially the out of context wrongly administered test derived number. I'd deal with anxiety and depression first and work out with a therapist whether another test might give you peace of mind. Maybe there are some identity based issues in your personality, we all have varying ones in modern culture I surmise, and getting to the root of why you'd be so wrapped up in this test outcome could be helpful. My parents were neurotic about test scores for instance and my mom was sort of annoyed with me when I beat her on a standardized test, so I have some weird hangup about wanting my kids to be much smarter than me so I can be a proud encouraging parent instead of a competitor.
posted by aydeejones at 8:16 PM on January 3, 2016

IQ tests are bullshit. They only measure a very limited amount of one single type of logical problem-solving and pattern recognition in a very vague and not very helpful way.Best selling author David Sedaris is total shit at IQ tests. Here's his story.

IQ does not equal smart, or worthy, or successful, or creative, or anything really.

You need help for this. Because you're focusing your depression and anxiety on one event, one test, and one BS doctor. You need help because this obsession is driving you to want to leave this world. Please get the help you need to re-equalize yourself back down to what is important and how to fend off these negative feelings. Therapy and a doctor's appointment are a great start.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:22 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

By the way, if I was wrapped up in retaking the test like you might be (with anxiety paralysis on top) I would go into the mindset that anxiety is a manageable problem that can affect or hinder your cognitive performance, and that's a good thing because now you know you need to treat the anxiety. Then you can worry about anything else that may hinder or improve your cognitive performance like diet with the specter of anxiety toned down, and maybe some day retake it just for the hell of it, but only when you know you can face it head on without panic.

Realistically though the end game is figuring out how to manage anxiety without adding bad habits, and then making a game out of the effort of slowly improving yourself a bit each day, possibly using cognitive behavioral therapy and definitely positive and corrective self talk to build yourself up even when you're in a funk, because you're self aware of what's going on in the moment and know you'll get through.
posted by aydeejones at 8:23 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

And yes the wonderful thing about the human spirit is that so much aggregated damage can be undone or more accurately turned into a source of strength and wisdom once you gain the strength to overcome it. It often takes time to see results so you have to give yourself little victories the entire time. A good therapist helps with that process. There's a lot of inertia that makes it seem like a perpetual motion machine but you can correct it.
posted by aydeejones at 8:27 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your psychologist sounds like an asshole, and the test didn't sound remotely called-for. Or, indeed, accurate.

I'm generally regarded as intelligent, and my social experience as a quasi-official "smart person" and mingling a lot with other "smart people" (I'm in academia) is the following:

* Nobody knows what the hell intelligence actually is in a quantifiable way. A lot of people think they know it when they see it, but the extent to which what people see is a product of education level or upbringing --- or even simply what they expect to see --- is pretty enormous. Most people who are actually good at complicated and intellectually taxing endeavors have a pretty low opinion of attempts to quantify intelligence, because the talents the top members of their field exhibit are usually completely different from those quantified by the usual "intelligence tests".

* Intelligence is only a small part of talent. Lots of intelligent people are lazy, socially awkward, inarticulate, and/or undereducated. And since we don't all even agree on what "intelligence" really is, it's even possible depending on your definition for it to coexist with a lack of creativity or imagination. Likewise, even modest levels of what they call "intelligence" can support talent in combination with the right drive, inspiration, and passion.

Short version: we neither know what intelligence is or really what it's good for. Except in the case of bonafide cognitive impairment, attempting to use it as a label for any sort of human ability is an exercise in meaningless number-juggling.
posted by jackbishop at 8:52 PM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

The only thing that a test really measures is how good you are at taking that particular test on that particular day. This is a dramatic overreaction to a singular event in your life. The test itself did not cause you harm - your reaction to it causes you harm. Inagine that you had not had this experience and a friend said they sometimes felt suicidal because they felt unhappy about the results of a test they took several years earlier. I hope that you would encourage someone who felt that way to pursue therapy and I hope you do as well.

The thing is, you don't have to feel this way. I don't know for sure but I imagine there are people out there who have taken the same test, gotten a similar result, and laughed about it, because it doesn't matter. If a colleague told me they once performed poorly on an IQ test, I'd think poorly of the test, not the colleague. You don't have to feel this way. Therapy can help.
posted by kat518 at 9:03 PM on January 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Intelligence tests - notably the IQ measure - came into broad use during World War I when the US Army was trying to identify half-educated, malnourished urban immigrants who could follow directions well enough to be cannon fodder in the trenches.

An IQ above 85 says you are acceptable cannon fodder. It says BASICALLY NOTHING ELSE USEFUL about how "smart" you are. (Fun fact: an IQ of at least 85 is still required to enlist in the US military.)

These tests should maybe be banned, they just fuck with people's heads. People who get very high scores often end up resentful and frustrated that they're "underachieving" their arbitrary intelligence number and become depressed. People given a low number have their self-concept upset and become depressed. I'm going to guess that you know the inside of your own head better than an arbitrary test does. Does it feel smart in there? Then ignore the arbitrary cannon fodder numbers that primarily exist to make people feel bad about themselves.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:17 PM on January 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

IQ tests should definitely be considered in a critical light, for many reasons, but there is no chance anyone who could have written your Ask scored as "intellectually impaired" on a valid assessment.

Nth that any number of factors could have bunged things up (not limited to the psychologist, or a psychological or medical condition, or what you had or didn't have for breakfast that day, etc. etc. etc.). The psychologist should have excluded as many other variables as possible and clearly didn't.

How old were you when this happened? Mild deception is sometimes used with children to mitigate the possible influence of anxiety. I definitely wasn't told what was going on when I was tested as a kid.

Given the room this event has taken up in your focus, and your evident distress now, it does seem that therapy with an appropriately matched therapist would be beneficial. (Not a psychologist, necessarily. There are talented and thoughtful mental health care providers with masters' level qualifications who are at least as good with actual people than the folks who spent over a decade fighting their way through academia, imo/ime, and they are often less focused on pinning things down.)

I completely agree with you that labelling kids is a horrible thing. I got "very superior" scores on the set of tests I did as a child. That gave me the label of "gifted", which might sound good, except it made me a target for bullying, which took me a long time to get over, and invited my teachers to set me up with expectations and standards I haven't been able to meet, in my actual life. To this day - I'm in my late 30s - I struggle to forgive myself for failing to live up to that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:22 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

You write very well. This 'test' you took belongs in the disposal.

Perhaps writing your thoughts and experiences with this particular psycologist as an online review (local library, with a toss away account) would clear your mind; and possibly spare others of his own brand of professionalism.

Proper psychology is *not* what you experienced. You write very well; and helping others by sharing your writing with others might make you feel better.
posted by buzzman at 9:38 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

You, my friend, are no dolt. As everyone else has pointed out, your writing clearly demonstrates your intelligence. But are a bunch of Internet strangers enough to convince you to get the help you need? I hope so because you are a worthwhile individual who deserves to feel healthy and happy. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:11 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hate IQ tests so much. I do very very well on them and that has done very little for me in my life except when people found out, set up expectations that were horrible and painful and made it clear that they didn't care about my happiness or well-being, but about what I could do for them.

One of my kids had an IQ test as part of an evaluation. It was carefully done and with some awareness of the challenges in the kid's background. The results suggested we would be lucky if the kid managed to take the bus independently as an adult.

That kid is now trying to decide between two decent current job offers from a hotel and a cruise ship, reads novels for fun, travels internationally on their own, speaks three languages fluently, has savings and insurance worked out. Needs help filling out the occasional form due to dyslexia, and won't be filing their own taxes ever, but hell, neither will most people.

We were so lucky that I had insisted the tests be done privately so they weren't part of the public record because I didn't trust them. They are a general broad population measure much like BMI is. What they mean on a personal individual measure is VERY VERY LITTLE. IQ doesn't say anything about determination or curiosity or interests or family or school or encouragement or social skills or hope or kindness.

It's about how quickly you can decode patterns of a certain kind. And it is very culturally fixed. If you are raised in a non-middle class western culture, they are biased despite their 'scientific objectivity'.

You are not a number. I wish I could scrub out the memory of what my IQ score is. I am so glad every single day I never told my child what their score is. I have another kid who would easily score very highly on a typical IQ test and will probably have to test out to get into a program here - I will never ever let that child know their score. It is a toxic pointless measurement.

You are not something that can be assessed and catalogued once and then forever stationary. Every single day, you become something new and different in potential and you are what you do. Not how fast you see a pattern. But what pattern you make yourself.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:12 PM on January 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

Everyone else is giving you great advice about anxiety and your health in general. I'm just going to give you three little ways of looking at this so you feel less fraught about the test.

1) My mother was born in 1936, her parents were separated, and her mother was a Rosie-the-Riveter. In such cases, kids got sent to school early; my mom started school at 4. She was completely lost, ignored by the system, and never caught up. Now, my mother is whip-smart, can tell you everything about the positions of each of the Supreme Court justices on a variety of cases, can cook low-fat, kosher, gourmet cuisine, and raised two strong independent daughters. However, test-taking was not part of her skill set, and she famously took an entire IQ test without ever turning to the reverse pages. In essence, she took HALF of an IQ test, and somewhere, written down, she's listed as having the IQ of shoe polish. She thinks this is hysterical, so we do, too.

2) Have you ever taken a Cosmo quiz or a "test" on Facebook, and had the results be pitifully "wrong" (even within the confines of how well a person can be defined by matching up with their Gilligan's Island character or whatever fruit with which they should identify)? Have you ever taken a personality test (Myers-Briggs or even Gretchen Rubin's 4 Tendencies) and not recognized the person you supposedly are, at least according to the test? Have you read about how IQ tests are dramatically skewed by culture, so that people who are upper middle class suburban (and presumedly white, and likely mainstream religion) will test far superior to people of color and those with backgrounds in lower socioeconomic areas as well as those less entrenched in "mainstream" culture, irrespective of actual mental acuity in a variety of educational paradigms?

Tests -- even, yes, so-called IQ tests -- don't necessarily accurately test what they intend to test at all, let alone well, even under ideal circumstances.

3) Do you know anyone who ever failed a driver's test? Or a test or assignment on which you did well? Do you know people who just don't test well, even on material they know well enough to teach? I do -- I bet we all do. (I was in a study group for a certification exam. A woman who had been in the profession twice as long as I had, and who had led our study group on some difficult concepts, did not pass the exam. She had not taken a formal test in 30+ years, did not grow up with SAT-style testing, and was jet-lagged. She was anguished about not having passed; the rest of us, including those of us who did pass, didn't think twice about her value or worth; at best, it made us doubt the testing.)

I found your post to be thoughtful, well-organized and cogent, and I'm picky about such things. You're smart, whatever that means. Are you a physicist? Probably not, but neither am I. (And I know a physicist for whom I had to balance his checkbook, because he could not. There are different kinds of "smart," and a score on an IQ test doesn't "prove" anything about any of them.) But I'm just a random internet stranger, so I don't imagine I'll change your mind. I hope, however, you're willing to consider these alternate ways of thinking about the situation as you work toward finding the right therapeutic support.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:18 PM on January 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

About 18 months ago, one of our kids had a series of aptitude and cognition tests as part of therapy. I can't remember why we thought it was a good idea; like you, we had reasons going in to suspect that it wouldn't be helpful. In any case, the whole thing was a disaster. Between his unfamiliarity with test-taking (from being homeschooled), his anxiety, and his dysgraphia, his results were not only, like yours, suggestive of mild cognitive impairments, but indicative of all sorts of diagnoses that didn't fit him at all, like ADHD.

The thing is, we knew the results had nothing to do with him, and so did his therapist. He found taking the tests unpleasant, but fortunately his therapist is actually excellent and she had presented them as a tool that might give them useful information; when they weren't helpful, she just moved on without making a big deal of it.

On the other hand, I have always done very well on tests of this kind, and as a young person gave them much too much weight in forming my self-image. I remember being about 20, and someone saying to me, "not that girl, you're a smart person—" I couldn't figure out how they knew I was smart, since I'd never told them my grades or any of my test scores. This was very eye-opening for me.

My point is that these kinds of tests are not proof of anything. The results were way off for my son for reasons that had nothing to do with his cognitive abilities. It sounds like the same is true for you. On the other hand, people who know me don't need to hear my SAT scores or Stanford-Binet results to know I'm smart. Neither do people who meet my son. Neither do people who meet you.

I'm not sure how to let go of a thing like this. I've found cognitive-behavioral therapy very helpful for my anxiety, and that might mean a combination of reminding yourself rationally of what you know about the inappropriate behavior of this therapist you had, and the various reasons why the tests, of limited usefulness for many people, are not at all meaningful in your case. It might also mean learning to cut off your train of thought and re-direct it if you catch yourself ruminating on it. I found The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook very helpful when I was learning to use these techniques.

There are a lot of bad therapists out there. But there are good ones, too. A good one can help you with this.
posted by not that girl at 10:33 PM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, Nthing that there is NO WAY you are cognitively impaired, given how coherently you write and the depth of your vocabulary. The test results are straight up wrong, and given how shady this psychologist was I would be extremely suspicious they did something wrong, intentionally or not.

That said, I would also question why this matters so much to you, to the point of considering suicide. Let's pretend for a moment that the test was accurate. People are born with different innate talents and gifts, and IQ tests only measure a tiny subset of them. A person can be gifted in many ways: empathy, social skills, logic, spatial reasoning, math, music, performance, athletics, artistic composition, fine motor skills, etc etc.

So some test says you sucked at logic that day - who cares? You're clearly a talented and thoughtful writer with a deep vocabulary as well as empathetic and sensitive (and I'm sure many other things that aren't apparent from just this one post). IMO, it's laughable to think that all of the ways a person can be intelligent can be boiled down to a single meaningful number, even if we restrict it to the purely "intellectual" domains like logic and mathematical reasoning.
posted by zug at 10:34 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sorry, my answer probably wasn't that useful in terms of setting your expectations around the "does it get better?" part of your question. The impact of a label on any given person can indeed be far-reaching, and that depends on a lot of things.

One thing that makes a difference in how much that label stings is how things in your life went for you (or me) in general at the time, as well as how they're going right now. It sounds like you're dealing with a few challenges at the moment; they are all worth addressing.

For my part - I'm dealing with a few challenges, and I'm back in school to retrain for a new career, which means my teachers' voices have got a megaphone in front of them at the moment. They quiet way down when I'm living in a more typical way, and am not being tested and assessed on a regular basis :/ It's something it would probably help to deal with at the moment, so if it's any consolation, buzzman isn't wrong, your asking this question brought this realization to me.

Our culture lends those tests a lot of authority, whether they're measuring anything relevant or not - and as people have said, often, it's "not". Reading a bit more about IQ tests and the criticisms that have been raised in this thread may help.

An event like that can become part of the story of your life. I agree with buzzman (again) that writing it down could help you get it out of your system. You can, with some help from a therapist, if you need it, find another way to tell that same story, so that things might start to look different to you from here and now. You can also give it less importance - the best way to do that is to continue living your life, working towards goals that are rooted in what you value.

As many have said, what you have is an obviously incorrectly obtained result on an intelligence test. Which as so many have said, is not the same thing as intelligence itself; it's an attempt to measure it, by - in the first instance - defining it in a particular way. And even if a psychologist performs the assessment perfectly, all that result will tell you is that you gave an answer that met particular criteria given a certain operational definition. And no matter what the score is, it has little relevance to how anyone's life turns out.

So that's IQ tests for you. My question is, other than intelligence, which can't, in itself, really be captured in a test, what do you value?
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:43 PM on January 3, 2016

You seem sort of unduly fixated on this event from 7 years ago to me. Maybe the results of the test and the toll it appears to have taken on you are symptoms of a larger problem, not the problem itself.

I don't think anyone needs to convince you of all the flaws inherent in the concept of IQ (of which there are many): see a healthcare professional about your depression ("suicidal") and when that's treated, you may find your angst about this event from a long time ago has subsided as well.

Hypnosis may work, I'm not sure. Since you're interested that's definitely another reason to seek a professional so you can ask. I'm sorry you had a bad experience with a psychologist. They're not all bad, so maybe try shopping around a bit? You could start by looking for a psychologist or psychiatrist who's also a licensed hypnotherapist.
posted by losvedir at 1:01 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

No one who writes as well as you do could possibly have a "sub par" IQ. In fact, I'd judge you to be above average.
Your doctor sucks and is unprofessional. DTMFA.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:19 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure taking an IQ test would be a horrible idea for me too because although logically I know it's a flawed test (as pointed out by many people already), I also know that I would obsess about the results - no matter what they were.

It sounds to me that, like me, you can logically analyse why the IQ number you were given for one test you didn't know you were taking is wrong. But, it seems to be stirring up some deeper insecurities that are overriding the logic-based response. Maybe you struggle with imposter syndrome? Or felt you had to prove your intelligence and therefore your worth to some authority figure in your childhood?

I would strongly suggest you find out the underlying nerve this is hitting, ideally with a therapist. Hypnotherapy or guided medation would probably be good things to try since this seems to be rooted strongly in your emotions and subconscious.

You said you were strongly against taking the test. Maybe your initial reasons for not wanting it will give you insight into why it still impacts you.

Also, what a shitty, shitty psychologist!
posted by brambory at 4:42 AM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I appreciate that people are trying to help you by telling you your question is written well - and it's written just fine - but I think the bigger issue is that this one test and this one incident has hindered you to such a degree.

I don't think the counterbalance of AskMe saying you wrote this question well is a good thing to set your insecurity against. A stronger approach is to seek out a therapist and/or hypnotherapist to address this.
posted by sweetkid at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

In case it helps in your seeking appropriate help: As far as I understand, master's level therapist (so, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Professional Counselors) are not qualified to issue IQ tests or other in-depth psychological tests. So if worrying about that is preventing you from seeking therapy, maybe look for someone with an "MA" after their name rather than a "Ph.D." or "Psy.D."
posted by jaguar at 10:34 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

...that is to say, if worrying that another mental healthcare provider is going to force an IQ test on you is preventing you from seeking therapy, you could look for an M.A. rather than a Ph.D./Psy.D.
posted by jaguar at 10:43 AM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

This doctor sounds like a con man. He pressured you into doing something you didn't want to do, he lied about the nature of the test, and then lied about how long it would take to get the results. How can you trust the test was even a valid test that measured anything correctly? If he'd given you a palm reading, you wouldn't trust that, right? Just because he's an authority figure with a lot of education (if that's even true!) doesn't mean anything at all about your intelligence. It sounds like junk science from start to finish.
posted by desjardins at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I get it about the IQ test and your negative experiences with one particular person who clearly was not helpful to you, which means "This person was not helpful."

That you are still thinking about it and affected by it as much as your post indicates, tells me that this is the shiny bauble distracting most people, yourself included from the real issue(s).

Please find a competent therapist who is a good fit for you. It may well take a few tries. Here's a resource that might help: Finding a therapist and seven tips for therapy; from "What's Right With You"

Good luck with it; I'm rooting for you.
posted by dancing leaves at 4:46 AM on January 6, 2016

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