If I were to quiz you on the behavioral and physical characteristics of depression, for example, what would you say? What about if I quizzed you on what ADHD or autism looked like. Would you know what to say? Would you know how these individuals behave, think, or experience emotions? If you live with individuals suffering from the above or suffer from them yourself, you probably already know. But what if I told you that giftedness also looks like the above characteristics. What would you think then?
One of the biggest problems with our mental health system is that it is highly flawed. The biggest flaw of all is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a document filled with politically, socially, and culturally-based labels to describe characteristics of mental illness or behavioral disorders. Our current system of classification or labels has contributed to multiple misdiagnoses, ignorance among professionals and patients about illness, and years of confusion. I’m sure you can tell that I am not a fan of the DSM. Although I have and continue to reference it in my work, I refrain from any unnecessary interactions with the DSM. In fact, I only own a miniature copy of the 4th edition! I have a hate relationship with the manual because it lacks any core or scientific foundation. It also lacks research of ethnic minorities, all age groups, and other phenomenons such as giftedness that could help us understand human behavior better. The manual is a moneymaker. It serves no purpose for us today and probably never will.
That being said, lets talk about giftedness. Webb, Amend, Webb, Goerss, Beljan, and Olenchak (2005) wrote a book titled Misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis of gifted children and adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders. Although the book is “scholarly” in its language and terminology, it provides parents, families, and caregivers with a broad understanding of giftedness and the behavioral characteristics of gifted youth who have been referred to mental health professionals for psychiatric evaluations. What the DSM and most mental health professionals do not tell you is that we lack a complete understanding of behavioral and developmental disorders and could be labeling your child ADHD, Asperger’s, or OCD without much proof that these disorders actually exist. Even more disturbing is that ADHD, Asperger’s, or OCD often requires medication management, so many of our kids are being medicated unnecessarily by a system that has limited knowledge on giftedness.
Imagine your child, in the 3rd grade, unable to engage with peers, inattentive, hyperactive at times, and very restless. A teacher, out of frustration and an inability to control her student, might suggest a psychiatric evaluation or refer you. If the individual who performs the psychiatric evaluation is not knowledgeable about giftedness, your child may be inappropriately labeled and medicated. Medication on a gifted mind is a disaster! It’s a big mistake! Most gifted children are highly intelligent but some evidence a wide range multiple behavior problems that often get labeled mental health conditions or behavioral problems.
Think about a time in your life when you have met very intelligent youngsters who were drinking, doing drugs, or in gangs. Some kids are very promising, but aren’t being understood. Much of this lack of understanding rests on the shoulders of mental health professionals who lack appropriate knowledge and push DSM diagnoses.
Stay tuned for my upcoming article on the behavioral characteristics of gifted children. Feel free to share this article with those who may benefit from this insight!
All the best