Therapy for the Gifted Child: Perfectionism – Obsessionalism – Procrastination

Gifted young people often succeed well beyond expectations for their chronological age. Their amazing accomplishments seem to come naturally, with little effort. However, trouble may start in school when they elaborate grand visions but cannot execute them perfectly.

The desire to create a “perfect” project can reach a fevered pitch in high school when their dreams to be admitted to the best colleges intensify their need to get the best grades. Swept up in the frenzy of their struggling, normally endowed peers, gifted young people often lose confidence in their own extraordinary abilities. Although the academic work has gotten harder and more complex, superior results for them will still require only a modest increase in effort. Unfortunately, their desire for perfect grades can get completely out of control, as when they become obsessed with making major modifications to inconsequential aspects of their work. This type of procrastination can lead to endless requests for extensions. At this point, gifted adolescents can begin to live in a state of denial and avoidance, ignoring the fact that each extension may be accompanied by yet another penalty. This trio of perfectionism-obsessionalism-procrastination can morph into magical thinking: More extensions to create a perfect work product will ensure a higher (rather than lower) grade. Although gifted adolescents may be attempting to turn in their best work and get the best grades, their perfectionism-obsessionalism-procrastination have the opposite effect: grades that are not commensurate with their true potential.

Perfectionism-obessionalism-procrastination, individually and together, may also serve another unconscious function: creating a struggle where none need exist. Agonizing over their already excellent work can make them feel less guilty about their superior abilities and more like their less gifted friends. In addition, perfectionism-obsessionalism-procrastination, individually and together, act to inhibit the overall development of their giftedness by maintaining their focus on the minutia of their project rather than on their creative input.

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Jerald Grobman M.D.

646-872-6842

Madelon Sann L.C.S.W.​

646-354-0907