Are smart kids more likely to be depressed?

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According to psychologists, that depends on what kind of depression you're talking about. They say that "normal" depression can strike anybody, especially those who are genetically pre-disposed to it, but existential depression -- the kind usually reserved for French philosophers and mid-life crises -- has been known to strike kids as well, especially gifted ones. That is to say, if Junior is worrying about the inevitability of death or struggling with meaninglessness in the world, chances are he's above-average in the brains department. But where do these concerns come from? Dr. James Webb:

"Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns ... and by as early as first grade can feel isolated from peers and family members. When their intensity is combined with multi-potentiality, these youngsters become particularly frustrated with the existential limitations of space and time. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and making choices among the possibilities seems indeed arbitrary; there is no 'ultimately right' choice."

I myself went to a "gifted" school growing up, but didn't spend an inordinate amount of time wrestling with questions of existential meaning. (My friends and I played a lot of Nintendo, if I remember correctly.) I'm wondering: how many of you flossers were reading Sartre by age 10 and glumly pondering the meaning of life?

May 16, 2007 - 3:49am
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