Intellectually Gifted Women


happens to intellectually gifted girls when they grow up? Do they go on to

have brilliant careers? Do they become bored and confined? Or do their

gifts disappear? Much of the literature about gifted individuals focuses

on children and adolescents. Yet these students grow up. What then? 


gifted girls

can start to

fall behind when they enter middle school. There may be more social

pressure to conform, to be like everybody else. Girls and women are often

socialized to accommodate to others—to fit in. This runs counter to the

gifted individual’s drive to create, innovate, and look beyond the

ordinary. These girls and young women may have been encouraged to hide

their talents to avoid provoking envy. Or they may be so bored in school

they withdraw into themselves. One might expect that this would not be the

case now that women have more choices in career and lifestyle. However,

adolescent girls and young women are still conflicted about whether it is

acceptable to stand out from the crowd.



her childhood gift?


woman may say that she “used to be gifted” when she was in school. Now

she is like everybody else. She may have put her aspirations on hold to

support a husband’s career plans.  She

may feel she is ‘different’ because she has not had contact with

similarly gifted women. She may have lacked a close relationship with a

mentor in her professional field. Until recently there were few prominent

role models for bright innovative young women. She may have trouble

understanding how to translate academic or artistic skills into practical

adult career choices. 


or Problem?

Some gifted

individuals are almost painfully perceptive and sensitive. At its best,

this quality this may lead to startling insights and increased empathy. It

can also leave a woman overly sensitive to criticism. A gifted woman may

be bored by or impatient with things that interest her friends; she may

feel she doesn’t fit in. She may wonder if the answer lies in therapy or

medication. To make her content without expressing her brilliance; to make

her ‘like everybody else’.



gifted woman might have boundless energy. Because she is multi-talented,

she may move from passionate involvement in one project to the next. Does

she have ADHD? 


talented artist or writer may need to seclude herself to spend long hours

on her single-minded pursuit of a concept. This intense focus may not make

sense to other people. Is she showing unhealthy obsession?  


woman has been feeling increasing frustration with the disparity between

her intellectual potential and her monotonous job. She begins to have

frequent spells of weeping, and is not sleeping well at night. 

Is she suffering from major depression? Or is her depression a

natural reaction to her frustration? 


problem? There is no

simple answer to these questions. We need to tread carefully. The

therapist should be familiar with the characteristics of gifted

individuals. When evaluating a highly gifted woman, one should compare her

to her gifted peers.  The

therapist should help the woman determine if the symptoms represent

conflict within herself or with an intellectually ‘average’ world.

Because of her compensatory abilities, a woman may hide her very real

depression or attention deficit from herself and from the world. If it is

not accurately diagnosed and treated she may not be able to fully express

her gifts.  


women may have areas of relative weakness. But they often have an amazing

ability to use their strengths to compensate for weaknesses. They may not

understand their uneven performance or the strain of working around

problems.  This can lead to self-doubts, “Am I brilliant or stupid? If

I don’t understand something, am I lazy or do I have a real problem with



with giftednessOne

gifted woman might only feel happy in a challenging occupation. Another

may find challenge and fulfillment in raising children, volunteering in

the community or working with her hands. People may unfairly criticize the

professional for neglecting her family or the homemaker for not “using her

intellectual gifts”.  


mentoring and self-examination help a gifted woman reassess her strengths

and weaknesses. Instead of feeling isolated, she can feel unique. If she

does indeed have some emotional difficulties, therapy can help her

overcome barriers. She can identify her areas of passion and pursue her

dreams and ambition.    


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County Psychiatric Associates

Offices in Monkton and Lutherville, Maryland