I am looking for one word to describe an ability that does more harm than good to the one having the ability.

For example, an artist who has so much to express that it drives him mad. Or a scientist who is so brilliant and ahead of his time that he is never appreciated. Or a precocious child who becomes a troublemaker because he is always bored.

The sentence I was trying to form went something like:

The scientist's brilliance turned out to be {adjective} for him. OR

The artist's extraordinary sensitivity to beauty {adverb} drove him crazy.

  • What research have you done and can you provide an example sentence?
    – Hank
    Feb 18, 2017 at 19:26
  • 1
    Research done: none except for thinking about it. I didn't know any place where I could 'research' for such things. Feb 18, 2017 at 19:59
  • Add that to the post please. Also, add an example sentence of how you would use the word.
    – Hank
    Feb 18, 2017 at 20:00
  • "tragic", "disastrous" or worst: "fateful".
    – Graffito
    Feb 18, 2017 at 22:50

4 Answers 4


"The scientist's brilliance turned out to be a double-edged sword for him."

Neither an adjective nor an adverb, this idiom seems to fit perfectly.

From TFD - "something that causes both advantages and problems."

From MW "something that has or can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences"

  • "His great intelligence was a real double-edged sword because he never felt he could communicate with ordinary people." - TFD

  • "This much freedom of expression and opinion can be a double-edged sword." - MW

  • I like this. For example sentence #2, a possible adverb might be paradoxically. Feb 19, 2017 at 3:29
  • @aparente001 "paradoxically drove him crazy" is both idiomatic and grammatically correct, but I'm not sure it conveys the "favorable and unfavorable" meaning.
    – Centaurus
    Feb 19, 2017 at 11:58


The scientist's (gift of) brilliance turned out to be burdensome for him.

Free Dictionary

  1. Weighing much or hard to carry; heavy.
  2. Causing hardship or distress.

I like "double-edged sword" but I will offer a couple more ideas.

bane a person or thing that causes misery or distress (esp in the phrase bane of one's life) (Collins)

affliction 2. something responsible for physical or mental suffering, such as a disease, grief, etc. (Collins)

Examples of use:

The scientist's brilliant mind turned out to be the bane of his existence.

The artist's extraordinary sensitivity to beauty was, paradoxically, also his affliction.


Obsessive and addictive are both good words to use to describe that sort of behaivor.

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