“Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences” (Annemarie Roeper)

If you are very emotionally receptive to the world around you, If you are constantly looking for intellectual stimulus, trying to find connections and coming up with new ideas you may feel you are different, maybe think there's something wrong with you. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy lends itself to people who think this way

Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980), a Polish psychiatrist, described gifted individuals as people who have "overexcitabilities"- an unfortunate translation of a Polish word; what Dabrowski meant is greater capacities to respond to various stimuli. This is an inborn expanded emotional, intellectual and imaginational awareness which is a source of creativity and inner conflict. A great capacity to care, a love of learning, vivid imagination and lots of energy.
He grouped the overexcitabilities into 5 categories: Psychomotor, Sensual, Imaginational, Intellectual & Emotional
If you are a gifted individual you probably have a great capacity for more than one of those fields. You may be very enthusiastic about a sport and have a great appreciation for beauty. You may enjoy thinking about thinking, be introspective and love to use metaphor. You may have a wonderful capacity for empathy and a strong affective memory.

All these are great things to have but for many gifted children, adults and especially teens, they become confusing, isolating and difficult to handle.  A gifted adult may develop compulsive habits or feel very competitive. A gifted child may be overwhelmed by her sensual perceptions, become very concerned about the state of the world, develop a harsh sense of self judgement or tend to mix reality and fantasy. 

Developmental models have defined intellectual, physical and emotional goals which match with age groups. We are used to this kind of thinking- we see it at the pediatrician's office, at parent- teacher conferences and in child development and parenting literature. This has become a convenient way to measure a child's development and a useful assessment tool for many children. However people, unlike yogurt, don't have a completely predictable development course with a clear expiration date (fortunately). Some children develop in an asynchronous way.

Asynchronous Development is one of the features of giftedness. Researchers have found in gifted individuals rapid development in some areas while other areas develop at a regular of even slower pace than the norm. Rapid development may be a source of trauma with little support from peers whose developmental changes are more consistent with each other. This is a major factor that can effect self esteem and personality throughout the life span.
If you were a gifted child or you are a parent of one, you may notice that your child:

  • Enjoys playing with younger or older kids but not with kids their own age.
  • Their academic performance or their creative skills (musical talent, artistic or dramatic abilities) exceed those of their peers in a dramatic way.
  • Their physical performance (gymnastics, soccer, dance, fine motor skills) exceed dramatically compared to their peers.You may remember feeling the world in an intense way and having a hard time articulating it and finding peers that share your experience.

When a gifted child is expected to perform in a group with children who are very different from him he may feel isolated and out of sync with his peers. He may be bored in c
lass, have a hard time relating to his class mates and adhering to rules that don't make sense to him or seem cruel. This kid does not fit the mold and many schools see this child as having a problem.

Overexcitibilities combined with asynchronous development can create a picture that may fit DSMiv criteria for ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder or autism spectrum disorders ( especially PDD-NOS and Asperger's). While sometimes having those diagnoses can be useful, treating them as disorders without considering the effect of giftedness as part of the picture really leaves out a lot of who this child is.
I think of the individual's symptoms: depression, anxiety, asperger's ADHD, relationship problems etc. as part of their way to make sense of the world.
If your child experiences the world with great intensity, they may become overstimulated and need to withdraw- this can look like an autistic spectrum disorder. My goal is to find a way together to make this person's interaction with the world more bearable.
If you are very emotionally receptive to the world around you, even if your own life is relatively comfortable, you may be confronted by the reality of human suffering by being to an extent that can make you become very depressed and filled with despair. My goal would be, together with this person, to try and find a way to make use of their compassion rather than their compassion pulling them down.

Contact: 510-356-2783