Identifying Gifted Adults

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Gifted adults have the capacity to contribute so much to the world around them. Yet, they can be lost in the masses of other adults trudging through ordinary workdays unchallenged with the full force of their potential unharnessed.

Throughout the years, substantial efforts have been made to identify gifted students in educational environments. However, surprisingly few efforts have been made by businesses, corporations, or society in general, to identify gifted adults who may not have been discovered during their school years.

Even adults who were identified as gifted in school and participated in gifted education programs often do not self-identify as gifted once they become adults. They either repress the different way their minds work or simply fail to express it.

The consequences, according to High Ability, are that many gifted adults experience symptoms of common mental health challenges, such as:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

The symptoms are sometimes far more complex than the initial diagnosis because gifted adults experience overstimulation, excessive internal processing, and extreme boredom that often lead to misdiagnosis of their actual conditions.

For these reasons and more, it’s so important to understand the various traits of gifted adults, so they are easier to recognize, identify, and appreciate.

What are the Signs of Giftedness in Adults?

There are many overlooked or missed signs of giftedness in adults. In fact, one surprising sign is introversion. According to High Ability, more than 75 percent of people who have IQs above 160 identify as introverts.

Below are several other key traits of gifted adults highlighted in the book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius.

Gift adults can:

  • Have insatiable curiosity.

  • Have high standards for self.

  • Be their own worst critics.

  • Be driven by creativity.

  • Be obsessed with puzzles.

  • Be perfectionists.

  • Have difficulty staying on task.

  • Have an off-beat sense of humor.

  • Be bothered or distracted by things others ignore.

Some gifted adults are gifted in certain areas, such as:

  • Creative geniuses

  • Gifted musicians

  • Inspiring artists

  • Amazing chefs

  • Superior athletes

Many people who are gifted are also highly empathetic and opposed to injustice. Many of those who become successful are also extremely philanthropic.

What are Academically Gifted Student Characteristics?

Students who are academically gifted also have common characteristics. They don’t always present as gifted, but when viewed in context, the below characteristics are common signs of gifted minds academically.

An academically gifted student can often:

  • Grasp new concepts quickly.

  • Display vivid Imaginations.

  • Present as driven to succeed.

  • Be overly sensitive to criticism.

  • Be prone to intense emotions and occasional outbursts.

  • Feel left out.

  • Be easily bored in traditional classrooms.

  • Have an early awareness of morals and injustices.

  • Be offended by injustices.

  • Be highly independent, sometimes resenting authority.

Sometimes the symptoms are overlooked or dismissed as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Which is why it’s often a good idea to consider exploring a gifted or ADHD checklist for students to help identify gifted students who are sometimes overlooked.

What are the Signs That You are Musically Gifted?

Musically gifted people often fail to recognize just how gifted they are. They may realize they have some talent or proficiencies in vocal performance, playing certain musical instruments, or even hearing things in music other people miss, but may not realize its exemplary.

Some musically gifted individuals can play complex melodies by ear. For others, it’s the ability to play well without devoting long hours of practice. Still, other musically gifted people can pick up a piece of sheet music or instrument and play it flawlessly on sight.

Early signs of musical giftedness involve the ability to match pitch effortlessly. But one of the most impressive early signs of musical gifts is the ability to pick out harmony in music from an early age. While melodies are often simple and easy to understand, harmonies are more complex and may not be recognized by the average person until much later.

Finally, people who are musically gifted are more highly affected by music. In other words, it can shape their moods. They are saddened by somber music and their spirits can be lifted by joyous songs. It is an early indication that someone is “experiencing the music” — rather than merely hearing it.

What are Some Tips to Identify Gifted Adults?

Perhaps the best tools you have to identify gifted adults are your own observations. Besides noting the above mentioned common gifted adults characteristics, look for the following signs in behavior and work ethic to identify potential giftedness in adults:

  • Highly excitable

  • Harsh self-criticism

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating on one task

  • Difficulty fitting in

  • Introversion

  • Curious

  • Driven

  • Insightful

  • A unique sense of humor

The signs and symptoms mentioned throughout this piece may not be signs of giftedness by themselves. But, when one person exhibits many of these signs of giftedness in adults, it’s a fairly safe bet that the adult in question is, in fact, gifted.


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