S.T.E.A.M. Day

Overexcitabilities in gifted children

Does your child have trouble with fidgeting and focusing? Do they have trouble sleeping? Are they really picky eaters? Or are they physically affected by emotions? Some of these traits, or overexcitabilities (OE’s), are a sign of giftedness but are often misdiagnosed as mental disorders or problematic behavior. 

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dąbrowski

Dąbrowski theorized that children often exhibit intense behaviors in psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational areas- these are called “overexcitabilities” or “supersensitivities”. Research has shown that OE’s are a key characteristic in gifted children; they tend to have one dominant OE while experiencing others (to a lesser degree)


5 signs/types of OE’s 


Psychomotor OE’s are characterized by an abundance of physical energy. These children lack sufficient mental stimulation which can result in concentration issues (often misdiagnosed as ADHD). 

Key characteristics include:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Fast talking/speech
  • Compulsive talking 
  • Overwhelming need to organize
  • Prefers high energy activities/sports 



Psychomotor OE’s occur due to intensified experiences with any of the five senses. These children derive high degrees of pleasure and disgust based on their preferences. 

Key characteristics include:

  • Sensitivity to materials 
  • Appreciation of the arts, music, writing, nature
  • Tendency to overeat 
  • Sensitive to pollution



Imaginational OE’s usually manifest themself in vivid pretend play. These children have such an incredible ability to immerse themselves in their fantasies that they often become absorbed in their own world. 

Key characteristics include:

  • Daydreaming
  • Imaginary friends
  • Detailed dreams
  • Passion for fantasy 



Emotional OE’s present itself in heightened feelings and extreme affective empathy (sharing another’s emotions) ability. Children with high emotional OE’s can be labelled as ‘overly sensitive’ or can even be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Key characteristics include:

  • Shyness
  • Heightened positive and negative emotions 
  • Physical reactions to emotions 
  • Strong senses of guilt, inferiority, shame, and responsibility 
  • Anxiety/depression



Intellectual OE’s are reflected in the desire to understand a deeper truth or natural curiosity. Children with high intellectual OE’s seek understanding, are avid readers, and love to explore their thoughts. 

Key characteristics include:

  • Love for reading 
  • Constantly asks questions 
  • Grasps abstract ideas quickly (before other children)
  • Understanding of theoretical ideas 


Identifying if your child is gifted is the easy part, but what is the best way to nurture your gifted child? In short, don’t solely focus on intelligence, but also social-emotional development.