What Are Overexcitabilites?


I have lovely children. They are also intense, and my daughter especially, sensitive. At first I wondered if it was a phase they were going through, but as they have migrated from one age to another, the intensity, the focus, the tactile sensitivity and emotional ups and downs have remained. When I found out about overexcitabilities or “OEs,” a light went off for me.

Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski theorized five overexcitabilities:

  1. psychomotor
  2. sensual
  3. intellectual
  4. imaginational
  5. emotional (Halsted, 2009)

Psychomotor may describe the child who just can’t sit still. Sensual OEs manifest in sensory, tactile issues – perhaps the seams in socks bother them, or wearing long sleeves. Intellectual generally manifests in great focus on subject matter and excitement on particular topics. Imaginational is represented in a child who is drawn to stories, fairy tales, imaginary friends, or seems to live in their own world. Lastly, emotional is one of the big ones – heightened sensitivity to real world problems, anxiety, and crying.

The above descriptions are a fairly vague overview of Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. Still, these traits coupled with strong advanced intellectual abilities or talents, make up what it means to be a gifted child. These five sensitivities are often overlooked in the “awesomeness” of a child’s gifted mind. If parents, counselors and librarians take into account the emotional range naturally occurring in these children, perhaps they can help make a difference in the student’s life and the way they absorb information. Perhaps they can advise them on books which resonate with these traits, making them feel less alone.

Books about overexcitabilities:

Any of these overexcitabilities can make a child stand out as different and can present a challenge to teachers, parents, the child himself, who all must make an effort to understand and cope with this difference (Halsted, 2009).




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