What are Gifted Children Mental Health Problems?

Gifted kids sometimes have problems that require the help of a therapist. Such children can be a mystery to parents and consult parenting handbooks isn’t always productive. For one thing, unless a parenting handbook is written specifically for parents of gifted kids, it won’t cover issues that relate specifically to such children, such as asynchronous development and intense emotional sensitivity. In addition, books can only provide so much help with gifted children’s mental health. There may be a time when parents need to seek professional help for children and when that time comes, it’s important to find the right professional.

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), experts don’t agree whether gifted children become depressed more frequently than children in general. Some say that gifted children are more prone to depression and suicide because of their heightened sensitivities, perfectionism, introversion, overachieving behaviors, existential concerns, and feeling like they don’t fit in. Others contend that no research proves gifted children are more depressed than others their own age.

Do Gifted Children have more mental health problems?

It is unclear from current research whether gifted children exhibit higher rates of mental health problems, says Laurie Thayer Martin, ScD, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health who specializes in the study of cognitive performance in childhood and its effect on physical health.

While gifted children and adults are not necessarily more prone to mental health problems, they still experience emotional and interpersonal challenges as a result of their heightened sensitivities, overactive minds, and differences from many of their peers. About 10% of gifted adolescents experience clinically significant levels of depression. Suicide attempts occur more frequently among youths who are artistic and creative, unusually sensitive, and who attend highly competitive and selective schools. Gifted kids might have other issues they need help with besides depression. They may be perfectionists and their attempts to do perfect work can lead to anxiety. Some gifted kids are happy with one or two close friends and those friends need not be their classmates. However, if interpersonal interactions are a source of stress and anxiety for your child, then it might be a good time to seek professional help.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), compared to children of normal intelligence, gifted children described themselves as more inattentive and lively, social functionality was reported to be low and they had a worse perception of their physical health status. Gifted boys were determined to have more depressive symptoms than gifted girls.

What motivates gifted children to learn?

Internal, or intrinsic, factors like personal satisfaction or genuine interest, or external influences, like the desire to please a teacher or earn high grades and accolades? Researchers have long linked intrinsic motivation to greater academic achievement in children, but this relationship has been less studied in gifted children, says Peter Marshall, PhD, an assistant psychology professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University who specializes in research on social and emotional development in children.

Finding the right therapist is as difficult as finding the right person to test a gifted child. It may be more practical to find a psychologist who is also qualified to administer tests. The reason is that having your child tested can give you quite a bit of information, more than just an IQ score.

How to find a therapist for gifted children?

One way is through your social network if you have one. Ideally, you have met other parents of gifted kids in your child’s school, perhaps through your child’s friendships or by attending school functions like back-to-school night. If not, you might want to talk to the gifted coordinator or specialist for the school or school district. Another option is to contact your state’s gifted organization. They often have contact with people across the state and may have some advice.

This article is provided by Dr. Ralph Kueche (Child Psychologist). Dr. Kuechle is a Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist who specializes in treating children and their families who may be struggling with mood and behavioral issues. Learn more about Dr. Kuechle.