Why Even Gifted Teens May Experience Mental Health Challenges


You might suspect that a teen who is gifted in math, science, or academics in general has got it made. They don’t have to worry about grades, or jobs for that matter, later in their life. You might believe that they have a golden ticket through life. However, more and more experts are becoming aware of the fact that actually it is a teen’s giftedness that may be causing a problem.


Teens who excel in school might experience boredom, may not know how to relate to their peers, or might even be the focus of bullying from a classmate. As a result their mental health might suffer. They may slip into a depression or experience anxiety. Here is a list of problematic situations that gifted teens may experience:


  • Difficulty with peer relationships
  • Refusal to do routine, repetitive assignments
  • Inappropriate criticism of others
  • Lack of awareness regarding how their unique ability is affecting others
  • Not feeling challenged at school
  • Depression as a result of boredom
  • Anxiety as a result of feeling different
  • Difficulty receiving constructive criticism
  • Hiding intellectual and creative abilities
  • Resisting authority, nonconforming
  • Excessive competitiveness
  • Isolation from peers
  • Frustration tolerance is very low
  • Poor study habits


Although it’s easy to categorize children and teens with special talents as being successful, the mental health field is discovering that this isn’t always true. In fact, the most common diagnosis among gifted teens tends to be depression. These teens have social and emotional challenges that leave them feeling isolated or lonely. For instance, gifted teens might be more sensitive, tend to be perfectionists, and have high levels of energy. They may have personal traits that contribute to feeling different than their classmates.


Also, it’s important to point out that even children who aren’t labeled as gifted can experience the symptoms listed above. They may have a high level of intelligence that has gone unnoticed by teachers and school administrators but still possess the personal traits that make them stand out among their peers. These children may also be at risk for developing a mental illness.


If you’re a parent of a gifted child and you’re looking for support, you can turn to the SENG organization, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. They have a wide range of research-based articles, an annual conference, and many supportive tools for parents. A parent might also look for help in books and articles online. For instance, Tracy Cross’ book Suicide Among Gifted Children focuses on the presence of depression in gifted children and how parents can help. Lastly, parents and caregivers can turn to a mental health provider for help. Mental health providers can assess your gifted teen for depression or another mental illness and then provide the appropriate treatment. What’s important is that your teen gets the help that he or she needs.