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Trauma Manifestations Among Gifted (Q & A)

By Dr. Patty Williams on August 8, 2023

Bright Insight Support Network founder and president Dr. Patty Williams is a trauma therapist and coach who specializes in EMDR, ND-Affirmative DBT, and IFS modalities. Through Bright Insight, she works to counsel, coach, and advocate for gifted, twice-exceptional, and neurodivergent persons, along with other marginalized populations.




Trauma Manifestations Among Gifted (Q & A)


In a Facebook group where I asked for questions folks wanted to be answered about giftedness and trauma (as research for my book), a lovely friend and participant shared that they were intrigued to learn about my informed estimate regarding the occurrence of different trauma manifestations among the population I identify as gifted.


This person also wanted to know my approximation for the number of individuals concealing their experiences and what proportion might mask difficulty and then openly share struggles with a select few.


Additionally, this individual asked me to describe the demographic composition of the gifted community dealing with trauma, suggesting that my educated speculation on these aspects would be appreciated.


OOF!


So, this is complicated. I had a couple of answers to their inquiries, however, I was not sure if I even answered them well!


First, though, I must insist that it is difficult to possibly measure some of these constructs and percentages of the populations we are talking about, and therefore I dare not guess at them. What I can say is that there are identifiable factors that contribute to the predictability of trauma and other seemingly negative health and mental health outcomes for individuals who experience them (think of the ACEs study and assessment if you are familiar).


Unfortunately, as with much research, gifted individuals and other marginalized outliers are often not well represented when such assessments are normed. And, as was alluded to, gifted folks often mask not only traits and behaviors but also difficulties. Trauma itself may not be realized by many who normalized and packed it away psychologically so they could understandably continue with other important tasks involving the preservation of safety and ego.


Ultimately, we do however see that marginalization increases the possibility of trauma, and marginalization happens with gifted folks. It also happens with other populations and demographics that a gifted person may belong to, making them twice- and thrice-exceptional and so on. When you throw in the judgment of overexcitability and also how overexcitabilities and other gifted qualities allow individuals to experience situations more intensely (or code them more intensely), even the quality of what is traumatic is different for a gifted individual.


So, there is so much to unpack.


I would be comfortable saying that *most gifted individuals have experienced trauma and that it impacts them.


Now, I also like to keep this impact identified as neutral. While I do not wish the difficulty of trauma on any person, I also know that post-traumatic growth and other types of emergences from difficulty can be valuable and meaningful. This is a WHOLE other topic though. <3


Did I even answer their question? Maybe- to the extent it is answerable. <3

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