Gifted Adults, Intense Emotions, Depression and Anger

As gifted adults, we far too often find ourselves experiencing deep, intense emotions. We can swing from feeling sad and depressed to being frustrated and angry in the blink of an eye. But by knowing the likely source of these swirling emotions, we can begin to build the solution.

Many gifted adults don’t even know that they’re gifted. And if they have heard the term used for them before, they usually just think it means they’re smart. They aren’t always aware of all of the extra stuff that comes along with giftedness – the intensity, the strong need for fairness and justice, the intuitive perceptions of the world, and so much more.

So what happens?

They go through life feeling out of step and don’t understand why. They think there’s something wrong with them because their world doesn’t seem to look or work the same as everyone else’s.

In essence, they feel out of control in some way:

  • Out of control of the circumstances in their lives that leave them feeling unfulfilled.
  • Out of control of themselves because their thoughts and emotions are so strong.
  • Out of control of their relationships because they can have a hard time connecting with other people.

When they feel that they lack control, their emotions go into a natural cycle – one of sadness and depression and then one of anger, resentment and frustration. They enter into the ‘Crazy 8’.

Our Needs

As human being we have 6 different kinds of needs that we fulfill. The first ones, variety and certainty, fall on either end of a spectrum, as do the second ones, love/connection and significance. The other two, growth, and contribution, stand more on their own, kind of like this:


love and connection…………………………………..significance



Our Emotional Patterns

When we feel like we don’t have control, we fall into one half of the Crazy 8 cycle. (Picture a sideways 8 or an infinity sign.)  If we prefer variety and love more than certainty and significance, we jump into the sadness and depression side of the 8 first. We feel upset with life, we aren’t happy with ourselves or other around us, and overall things just look blue. We look to others for support (we get love), and we get people to behave in ways toward us that they wouldn’t usually (we get variety).

But because, as human beings, we can’t always stay in the same state, after some time we tip over into the other half of the Crazy 8 and become angry and frustrated. We yell, or demand things from others, or blame others loudly for things going on in our lives. And so from this we get certainty (for sure we get their undivided attention), and significance (they listen to us and do what we say).

(If a person values certainty and significance more than variety and love, then the same pattern of behaviour occurs but it begins on the opposite side of the 8, i.e., with anger and frustration. Can you tell which side you go to first?)

Understanding Our Giftedness

Remember, this entire roller coaster of emotion begins from a place of feeling a lack of control. So what can we do?

Learn about giftedness. Understand what it means and everything that encompasses it. Read about the social and emotional sides, not only the intellectual side. Identify the parts of you that are not ‘broken’ as you may have originally thought but are just different than non-gifted people.

Understanding Ourselves

Learn about yourself. What makes you tick? What do you value and what is most important in your life? What ‘rules’ do you follow?

The more you know about what makes you you, the more you’ll realize that the parts of yourself that you thought were out of control really aren’t.

The more you can see gifted characteristics in yourself, the more you’ll be able to find them in others and can begin to make more fulfilling connections with people like you.

The more you ‘get what makes you tick’, the more you’ll be able to make focused choices in your life and recognize that you are in control. And the less time you’ll spend stuck in the Crazy 8.

Now that sounds good, don’t you think?

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  • Edith Johnston

    Sonia: Very well put!! Creating that understanding of being gifted is a critical step in overcoming the flip flopping on the figure 8. Also with understanding and overcoming we can then express our gifts more satisfactorily and decrease the flip flop even more. Yes, knowing is empowering. Thanks!!

    • joe

      Wow…’s me..

      • Nina

        Whatch the language. It IS offensive!

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  • lawyeredup

    As I aged, I started to “learn” that the emotional intensity was “wrong” — I’m coming out of that misconception now. How timely to read your post. What I find really interesting, though, is why anger ends up so dominant sometimes. Are there reasons you know?

  • Mary K

    I came across this page on a Yahoo search for “depression and anger”. I had no idea that there could be a connection with being a gifted person. I was labeled “gifted” as a child and always felt different from the people around me, and still do. I am so glad I found this site and look forward to reading more.

    • Christian7

      Hey Mary I think I may be gifted too. Here are some of the things that I usually have to deal with my daily life. I tend to be my own worst enemy most of the time. Ie) I usually know what somebody is thinking or saying in response to what I’m saying because I am very emotionally sensitive. It’s also hard for me to maintain relationships because i always want a more meaningful relationship but it is hard because of my sensitivity. If you struggle with these sort of things let me know thanks.

      • Jessica

        Wow Christian, me too! I find people to be shallow and I have a hard time understanding others. My emotions are intense and I have a really hard time focusing when I’m emotional.

        • Christian7

          I know! At least your not alone. If you want you could IM me or contact me in some way so we can have some method of relating to someone. Thanks. Let me know.

  • Tory

    Great, now is there any reasonable way to make it all stop, or at least easier to manage? I’d love to not collapse into a quivering mess when things go wrong

    • Ashley Baley Thompson

      Tory, I don’t think you can make it all stop, but you can dampen it a bit. I have emotional intensities and they often make me quite anxious. Talk to your doctor about it. He or she can recommend medication to help.

  • Nazrin

    i’m crying a little. This…..this is my answer…the whole dyslexia, emotions, anger..frustrations…the ability to learn fast…jack of all traits master of none. I have trouble blending in…and when i read through out from child,adolescence and adult..i recognised almost all of the characteristic..How do u lot deal with the depressions and the anxiety? did anyone developed a series of phobia? how to deal with..its tiring..especially at night..i wanna sleep but i still think, my mind never seems to shut up..urghh

  • nick

    I have read through a lot of the information and some of it rings true yet some of it doesn’t. I can say that I feel things very intensely yet I don’t feel like an emotional rollercoaster. And while what I feel is very strong I often feel detached to others emotions. yet with a few select people I can feel what they feel as strongly as if it were my own.

  • K NA

    This is exactly me! I’ve always been told that Im an emotional person. I can be lifted high but as soon as I get upset I get low and stay there and think about it too much. I feel things amplified 10x more than everyone else. Sometimes I wonder why I feel the way I do and react so intense. Even went to see a psychiatrist, gave me med to calm me down. Which it helps, slows my thinking down so I won’t react so intensely. People see the difference, but if I stop ppl ask if I’m ok. I just see myself as a very passionate person.

  • Miriam Pia

    Aside from hoping for a better time getting me interested in having sex, I think the simple remedy recommended by my peers at least as a young woman was actually to get stoned. Now that it is legal in many locations and decriminalized elsewhere, it is at least an herbal remedy to alleviate basic stress reactions but I don’t think reefer or any other medication alone is the “solution” to these issues. I heard of a movie star who used meditation, physical exercise, and spent time in therapy and got a decent wife for his needs and that seems to be working relatively well. You have probably heard of him: that was Robert Downey Jr.. I didn’t know about the emotional factor either. I thought I was just a woman.