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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
Our Articles on Women's Mental Health
Search Our Site
by Phrases or Key words
County Psychiatric Associates
Offices in Monkton and Lutherville, Maryland