Misdiagnosis of gifted adults: Pathologized and stigmatized

Patricia Cornwell

Talented and challenged

Novelist Patricia Cornwell has had bipolar disorder: “My wiring’s not perfect,” as she puts it, and she takes a mood stabiliser.

Other highly talented people with mental health challenges include psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison, writer and actor Carrie Fisher, tv journalist Jane Pauley.

Giftedness misunterstood

But people may also label attributes of giftedness negatively, as psychiatric problems or pathologies.

Kathleen Noble, Ph.D., is a Professor and Assistant Director of the Early Entrance Program, University of Washington in Seattle, where she also has a private practice as a psychologist, working with gifted women.

In our interview, she said, “A number of my gifted clients are psychic or have psychic abilities. That’s only one place they might get pathologized.

“There are a number of qualities that gifted women possess that can easily get mislabeled and misdiagnosed… I have seen, particularly in adolescents, that gifted girls who are very high energy and high verbal are often punished by teachers for those qualities, and the qualities are then negatively represented, rather than positively acknowledged.”

Misdiagnosed and trying to fit in

The book Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults affirms that “Many of our brightest, most creative, most independent thinking children and adults are being incorrectly diagnosed as having behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders.

“They are then given medication and/or counseling to change their way of being so that they will be more acceptable within the school, the family, or the neighborhood, or so that they will be more content with themselves and their situation.

“The tragedy for these mistakenly diagnosed children and adults is that they receive needless stigmatizing labels that harm their sense of self and result in treatment that is both unnecessary and even harmful to them, their families, and society.”

Related article: Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children: Gifted and LD, ADHD, OCD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder By James T. Webb, Ph.D.

It can be profoundly valuable and helpful to acknowledge your attributes realistically, and find out for sure the ways you are mentally healthy, or not.

> Book: Kay Redfield Jamison. Touched With Fire : Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament

> Related :

Article: Misdiagnosis of the Gifted by Lynne Azpeitia, M.A. and Mary Rocamora, M.A.

Depression and Creativity site

Older pages:

Dysfunction / disorder resources : articles books sites

Bipolar Disorder quotes articles sites books


Originally posted 2006-05-11 22:31:00.


  07.20.14   By Douglas Eby
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  4. [...] Although it is classified among the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), like many people I think a better label for conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is neurological or learning ‘difference’ – because, for one thing, what is “normal” anyway? Also, a number of experts note there is a very real problem of diagnosing such characteristics; see my post Misdiagnosis of gifted adults: Pathologized and stigmatized. [...]

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