Being highly sensitive is a common experience for many, if not most, gifted people. It is related to intensities and excitabilities in five areas: emotional, intellectual, psychomotor, imaginational and sensory.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen comments in an article of hers about the high sensitivity aspect of giftedness.
Here are a few excerpts:
“It appears that highly gifted adults may be more finely tuned in to the subtleties of life and more easily aroused than others around them.
“Their attention is drawn to stimuli others seem to ignore, which begins to explain why a highly gifted person might appear fidgety or edgy, adjusting and readjusting the thermostat, a sweater, or couch pillow.
“This kind of ultra-awareness can be a valuable contributing factor to their qualitatively different experience of life in terms of heightened tone and color and meaning, not simply thin-skinned peevishness.
“Yet the same sensory alertness can render the gifted more vulnerable and uneasy, and may result in stimulation overload.
“The pressure to respond to the slightest shift in barometric pressure, a bright light or loud noise, a pungent aroma, commotion or emotional upheaval, or tiny blips in the way their body is working, can make the life of a gifted adult a rich tapestry of experience.”
From her article Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time.
Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD is author of The Gifted Adult.
For more on overexcitabilities, see multiple articles on my various sites, such as:
[Photo above is from book: Sensitivity: From a Burden to a Blessing by Launi A. Treece Ph.D.]
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Photo: ‘For some of us, even a little Times Square is too much’ by Nina Berman – used in article ADD, Stress and Overstimulation – Living Too Close to Edge, by Susan Meindl.
She writes, “More and more adult clients arrive at psychologist’s offices suffering from stress and an inability to concentrate that makes them worry that they may have ADD.
“Often they are just overstimulated and overwhelmed.”
The photo was originally in the article “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast” by Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, Nov. 17, 2002.
This article refers to the book Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World, by Sharon Heller.
Note: Sensory Defensive Disorder – a term Heller and other psychologists use – sounds to me like the diagnostic label Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Elaine Aron, PhD addresses such labels in an issue of her newsletter, commenting: “Simply put, high sensitivity is not a disorder.
“It is found in about 15 to 20% of humans. Further, some trait like it, usually termed differently but with close to the same ratio, is found in almost every animal species studied. So it is a normal temperament variation that has evolved for a reason.”
She thinks that with descriptions of SPD, “You are going to see considerable overlap with what I would call normal sensitivity.”
And she adds, “We HSPs [highly sensitive people] know, however, that ‘normal’ can be in the eyes of the beholder. HSPs and HSCs can seem strange and even dysfunctional to non-HSPs — always a problem when a non-HSP is making a diagnosis.”
From her newsletter: February 2009 Comfort Zone ONLINE, HSP Living: More Answers to Some of Your Questions.
Her books include The Highly Sensitive Person.
For more on the topic, see my Highly Sensitive site.
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Stress and anxiety, high ability and being creative
In his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD asks,
“Are you creating less often than you would like? Are you avoiding your creative work altogether? Do you procrastinate? That’s anxiety.
“Do you resist getting to your work or marketing your work? That’s anxiety. Do you have trouble deciding which creative project to tackle? That’s anxiety. Do you find completing work hard? That’s anxiety.”
My video: Eric Maisel on Creative Anxiety
See more quotes by Maisel and others in the post Creative Anxiety.
In his book “Why Smart People Hurt” he notes how intelligence is such a central aspect of our identity:
“Smartness is a smart person’s defining characteristic. Everything she thinks about the world—how she forms her identity, how she construes her needs, how she talks to herself about her life purposes and goals—is a function of how her particular brain operates.”
He also writes about challenges:
“We could name countless ways in which smart people have it easier than, or at least no harder than, other people. Nevertheless smart people encounter many special challenges that can cost them their equanimity, their self-confidence, and their emotional health.
“Among these challenges, and the one that I want to explore first because of its vital importance, is the challenge of meaning.”
From book: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative by Eric Maisel.
[You can also find multiple articles by Eric Maisel in which he addresses meaning, and other topics related to personal growth and living a creative life.]
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Disorder or misdiagnosis?
In his article Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children, James T. Webb, Ph.D. notes:
“The most common mis-diagnoses are: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Mood Disorders such as Cyclothymic Disorder, Dysthyinic Disorder, Depression, and Bi-Polar Disorder.
“These common mis-diagnoses stem from an ignorance among professionals about specific social and emotional characteristics of gifted children which are then mistakenly assumed by these professionals to be signs of pathology.”
A related article:
Misdiagnosis of gifted adults: Dysfunctions versus aptitudes.
The image is from the book: Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope by James T. Webb, PhD.
“Many bright idealists find themselves disillusioned in today’s world, and they may experience existential depression as they examine their lives and search for meaningfulness. This book will help such individuals to understand themselves and their struggles.”
Emotional Health Program for Creative, Gifted, Highly Sensitive People
Therapist Sharon M. Barnes works with creative, sensitive, intense, intelligent people.
Her site explains her program:
We designed the CASIGY™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense and/or Gifted You-s) Social-Emotional ACES Home Video Program™ to help you become ACES, that is, skilled experts in the Social-Emotional arena.
You’ll learn to ride the intense waves of emotion in your life, instead of being pulled under by them.
And if you have creative, sensitive or gifted children at home or in the classroom, it’s also designed to help them ride their waves of emotion instead of being flooded by them.
Learn more at her site page: