We often associate anxiety with giftedness but whether there is a causal relationship is not definitive. Because gifted children experience the world intensely, they may show a heightened level of behaviors that are associated with anxiety. Children who are acutely aware of the world around them may develop anxiety over worrying about global and local problems, perfectionism in themselves, and general fears regarding situations out of their control.
A 2009 study from Hungary’s Semmelweis University found an association between high academic performance, creativity, and the T/T genotype, a gene that’s been linked to an increased risk of psychosis – all of which may help to explain why we often associate anxiety and stress with gifted children. Anxiety affects about 18% of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Certainly, the care of mental health professional should be sought if anxiety issues are a concern at school or home. But, as parents and educators, we can be aware of behaviors that suggest anxiety is a problem and be aware of ways we can assist in reducing anxiety.
Here are just a few of the common ways that anxiety in gifted children might manifest:
- Separation from peers
- Health complaints, seemingly to avoid situations or tasks
- Changes in temperament or attitude
- Unprompted or inappropriate outbursts, tantrums or withdrawal
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Lack of enthusiasm or carelessness
- Inability to concentrate, fidgeting and other “hyper” behavior
- Persistent worrying
If your student is dealing with anxiety or stress, consider contacting a professional, and be aware of these potentially supportive suggestions:
- Teach coping and relaxation skills such as deep breathing, muscle tension and relaxation, and practice techniques for overcoming fears.
- Encourage positive social interactions by role playing social situations, teaching positive affirmations, and preparing students ahead of time for anticipated events and presentations.
- Stimulate creativity to help students find tools for feeling successful, self-expressive, and stress-free. Encourage exploration in creative arts fields, teaching the skills of creative problem solving, modeling creative thinking and engaging in imaginative activities, and deferring judgment of the students’ ideas and products.
- As we do here at SIG, emphasize the dual importance of emotional well-being as well as cognitive excellence. Express feelings; engage in explorative extracurricular activities without pressure, and accept and love our children for just being themselves.
This post gives a very quick overview of a potentially complex and serious topic. Those adults experiencing intense levels of anxious behavior in children are encouraged to delve more deeply into this important topic or to seek the expertise of a mental health professional. If you have additional ideas you’d like to share with our readers, we encourage you to do so!