Gifted 101-An Overview of Overexcitabilities

In my last post, I mentioned the fact that gifted children have traits that can be awesome and amazing, but they also sometimes have characteristics that can be frustrating and even a little scary at times. Today I'll begin elaborating a bit on what I meant when I typed that. I'm going to start with a phenomenon seen frequently in the gifted population called Overexcitabililties (OEs). When I learned about OEs during my graduate coursework, I was truly fascinated by this information. Though, you should be warned, I am a little nerdy and I DO buy what my husband refers to as "textbooks" (I prefer the term professional learning materials) for fun and read them in my free time. Nonetheless, I think you'll find this information interesting at least!

So, a while ago, there was a psychologist and psychiatrist from Poland named Kazimierz Dabrowski who came up with some theories about human development. Part of his work revolved around what he called "overexcitabilities," which in the most basic sense means that some people tend to experience the world with a heightened sense of awareness, and that their brains react more strongly to these stimuli than your typical brain. The heightened awareness, sensitivity, and stronger reactions happen pretty regularly in people who have overexcitabilities, and OEs seem to occur more frequently among the gifted population (though not all gifted children have them) than your average folks. Most researchers believe that you're born with OEs, so it's important to learn how to help children cope with them as they arise.

Here are some quick things you should know about these intensities:

  • There are five overexcitabilities that Dabrowski identified: Psychomotor, Sensual, Emotional, Imaginational, and Intellectual 
  • People can have all five intensities, but usually some are more pronounced than others
  • There is no 'cure' for these intensities, so not only is it important to help children understand what they're experiencing, it's important to be patient with them as they learn to cope
  • Overexcitabilities are REAL. There are strategies and interventions that people have developed over time to help people deal with their experiences and feelings
  • Living with these intensities isn't always a bad thing! They can lead to success, creativity, and a greater appreciation of the world. 

There are TONS of places you can find more information about OEs. The links below are just a few. In addition, I'll be blogging about each of the intensities in the coming days, so STAY TUNED!  

  • Duke Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) has a great article here
  • SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) has a more detailed look here
  • Blogger/Presenter/Gifted Person and Professional Ian Byrd (of has a straightforward and succinct post you can find on his site here


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