Mental Health Misdiagnosis among Gifted Children
Jean Goerss, M.D., co-author of Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults


Gifted children are being labeled with inaccurate diagnoses all over the country because of the general lack of awareness of giftedness, its characteristics, and the frequent mismatch between the child and the school environment. Psychologists in private practice and working in our schools, psychiatrists, school guidance counselors, pediatricians, and others who work with children need to be more aware of the pitfalls in evaluating gifted children if we are to avoid damaging labeling, medication side effects, inappropriate counseling, and inadequate intervention.

Most of the behavioral issues that bring these children to the attention of professionals arise out of their hypersensitivity to the environment, their hyper-intense reactions, and their developmental asynchrony. Typical gifted behaviors mimic a number of serious mental conditions. These children may be distractible in school, hyperactive generally, suffer from intense mood swings, demonstrate perfectionism, and develop oppositional behavior. Misdiagnosis of ADD, ADHD, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder are among the most common misdiagnoses made based on these behaviors.

On the other hand, because of the stress of inappropriate school environments and frequent peer rejection, many of these children do suffer from depression and anxiety. Even if these are diagnosed correctly, the underlying stressors are often not recognized and treated by professionals who are not familiar with typical gifted children’s issues.

The Counseling and Guidance Division of NAGC (the National Association for Gifted Children) can be on the forefront of educating the professionals who encounter gifted children, thereby improving the care of gifted children nationally. Individuals at SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) are ready and willing to speak about this issue. We need forums, such as national conferences, that will reach large numbers of these professionals. You can help spread the word by making colleagues aware of the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults, published by Great Potential Press, and SENG. If you can help us find appropriate state and national forums where we can educate more of your colleagues, please contact SENG ( or any of the authors of the book, including myself, Jean Goerss, M.D., at


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