Existential depression is the most common type of depression in gifted adults. Onset often occurs in young adulthood
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The most common symptoms in existential depression are:
- Lack of focus and direction
Existential depression is generally understood to be caused by personal, environment and professional mismatches: Typically a gifted adult’s inability to find a place and/or relationships where “deeper issues” and “bigger problems” can be shared, explored and mastered. This includes the difficulty gifted young adults have in finding inspiring mentors and coaches with whom they can identify. These deeper issues and bigger problems can be:
Rarely described elsewhere, the following are some other common causes of existential depression we have discovered during our wirh with our gifted adult patients:
- The meaninglessness of accomplishments and achievements
- Precocious and impressive as they may be to others, success that occurs without serious challenge and effort can feel worthless
- Resolving conflicts between the need for personal gain and the desire to be altruistic:
- Feelings of pride, pleasure and the financial rewards that come from actual hard work can conflict with the need to help others and make meaningful social contributions
- Conflicts and anxieties about becoming a leader
- Admiration and praise of parents, peers, teachers and even mentors can make a gifted adult feel “too powerful.” This is especially true of gifted young adults who may feel this unusual power is “too much” and has come “too soon”
- Working out fears about the use and misuse of the power and charisma that can often accompany giftedness is vital — unwarranted feelings of guilt can cause the passionate pursuit of a grand vision to feel empty and meaningless
- Balancing time for private thought and investigation with the need for social contact with others is an important task
- Finding a way to depend on others that does not seem false
- Getting comfortable with the intuitive (sometimes called “extra-cognitive”) aspects of giftedness.
- Special abilities to see beyond the ordinary and the capacity for having immediate and spontaneous insights can make gifted adults feel detached, removed and strangely different from others.
The capacity for unusual insight may extend beyond the academic and artistic to the psychological: At times gifted individuals feel they can “see” beyond social facades and understand what “really” motivates other people. This capacity can begin to develop in childhood and become quite sophisticated in young adulthood but it can also make a gifted young adult feel guilty: possibilities for helping other people can get confused with possibilities for manipulating them. Resolving these conflicts is important so that gifted adults do not abandon their giftedness by concluding that it is too dangerous.
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