A Message from Dr. Dan Peters: Managing Anxiety in Gifted Children

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I am often asked if gifted kids are more susceptible to becoming anxious. My experience is that they are. Gifted kids tend to have active minds that think about A LOT of things. While their minds come up with elaborate and creative ideas, their minds also come up with creative ways things can go wrong at home, school, socially, and in the world. They often think about advanced things that their young minds don’t have the life experience to draw upon, such as death, homelessness, and cruelty to people and animals.

Next, gifted kids tend to be extremely sensitive (often referred to as “overexcitable”). This sensitivity involves feeling deeply to both their internal world or feelings, and their external world or the feelings of others. They feel deeply and often don’t know how to manage those feelings.

Finally, gifted kids tend to be perfectionists. They feel they should perform and achieve at the highest possible levels in everything and fear making mistakes and failing. Thus, they often avoid doing things they don’t think they can “perfectly”, and fear new things.

Anxiety has the potential to limit our gifted kids’ ability to achieve their potential and fully experience what life has to offer. Parents and professionals can help. I have found it helpful to educate these kids about the fear response in their brain and body (i.e., fight or flight), along with some simple cognitive techniques to become aware of how their thoughts impact their emotions and behavior. Training our kids to use their great thinking brains can help to overpower their irrational thoughts given to them by the “Worry Monster.”

I hope this information has been helpful. Remember, it takes a team to conquer the Worry Monster!

Dr. Dan Peters, PhD., Co-Founder and Clinical Director