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Dabrowski's Emotional Overexcitability of Gifted Children

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Girl Kissing Stuffed Animal

Girl Kissing Stuffed Animal

Image credit: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

The emotional overexcitability is probably the most significant of the five overexcitabilities. It is most easily recognized by parents of gifted children because these children display heightened and intense emotions and emotional responses to events and experiences.

Children with this OE have the capacity for great emotional depth. They develop strong attachments to people, places, and things. Because of their emotional intensity, they are often accused of over-reacting or being melodramatic. However, the emotions they feel are real. The molehills to them are truly mountains.

The emotional OE is also manifested in a deep concern for others, as well as self-criticism and anxiety. Even gifted toddlers high in this OE can show concern over a baby's cries or over the distress of a fellow toddler who has been hurt or become upset. As sympathetic as they are to others, they seem unable to feel sympathy for themselves. Instead, they tend to be highly self-critical. They can also feel a deep sense of responsibility, which can lead to feelings of failure and guilt.

Not only do these children empathsize with others, but they feel a connection to animals as well. These children may become vegetarians at a young age because they cannot bear to eat what was once a living creature.

While their compassion and sense of responsibility can lead those with emotional overexcitability to help others, it can also create problems for them. The levels of anxiety they experience can interfere with simple tasks like home chores or even completing homework. They can also develop psychosomatic symptoms like stomach aches or suffer from depression.

The depression that those with emotional OE often experience is existential depression, which means that they become depressed over issues concerning the basic questions of life: death, poverty, war, and disease, for example. Bouts of existential depression can be caused be some specific experience, but they are just as likely to arise spontaneously.

Children with the emotional OE also have a hard time adjusting to change and can experience high levels of anxiety when they are put in new situations or unfamiliar surroundings. They may also be shy and slow to participate in social activities.

Children do not grow out of this sensitivity. A child with intense emotional feelings will experience the same depth of emotion as an adult.

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