Burning Out Syndrome
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
What is the disorder where a child or teen is highly intelligent and
capable of doing their work, but in school or life they have not been
challenged enough mentally so they decide to just quit, and lower down
to their peer's level? And most likely fall behind then. Up to the 6th
grade, I was the highest in my class, I had skipped 2nd grade, and was
always in honor roll.
Then come 6th grade, everything was so easy for me so I decided to just
kind of give up, and try to fit in with all the other kids because I
thought being intelligent was a terrible thing. I wasn't challenged
enough, so I basically just pretended to be dumb. Now I am a senior in
high school, and I swear ever since then I have actually TURNED a lot
stupider, and my vocabulary is at least 3/4 less than what it used to be.
I know that there is a name for children like this, do you know what I
am trying to think of?
Thank you so much!
There is very limited information that is given so I am assuming that
you are indeed gifted. It is called “burn-out” and it is not a disorder
but a condition that happens when mentally unchallenged in the world of
giftedness. Why would you think being intelligent is a terrible thing?
Were you treated differently? Did something happen to make you feel that
way? Did you seek any help then or did anyone try to help you when you
started under performing from what you usually achieved?
Think about the root of the problem which may be more than merely not
being challenged enough. And, if you are gifted, you may have just burnt
out - and giftedness is lying dormant somewhere within you waiting to
manifest as it did. And as long as there is no trigger, it will remain
but will never go. So, you have not turned “stupider” (what an awful
word to use for yourself!) in any way.
You can still gain momentum if you feel motivated to. It has to come
from the inside and I believe you can since you made the effort to look
it up and wrote this letter. Whether you have been gifted or not, anyone
can burn out with the constant pressure to succeed and especially so for
gifted children when they feel unchallenged and are working well only
because they have to (parental, school pressure) and not because they
enjoy learning. And for some children, it is never good enough; no
matter how well the child does; there is always room for improvement.
Some individuals get pushed so much that they lose focus and fall within
the cracks of the system. Some just thrive - different people react
An interesting therapy that may help burn out cases is Cognitive
Behaviour Therapy. This therapy replaces unrealistic beliefs with
realistic beliefs and can be particularly helpful in your case. You may
want to consult your school counsellor regarding this therapy. It may
help you rethink your beliefs, to use new words to describe your
experiences, and finally, to change your behaviour so that you have a
better understanding of your performance at school.
I also believe that you need to have the drive to achieve to do well.
Read a lot to improve your vocabulary. There is no short cut to hard
work though. If you lack motivation, get some help from a counsellor or
a coach. List your priorities and work towards achieving them. If you
have done very well previously, you can do well now too. First and
foremost, find the root of the problem and deal with it. Once you
understand yourself better, it would be easier for you to focus on your
present. I think, somewhere along the way, you have lost interest due to
some reason that you may be aware or unaware of. But you are in high
school, and there is time to reverse your scores - not without effort
An interesting set of life beliefs developed by Delisle (1990)
specifically for gifted students may be of help: They are as follows:
Seven Realities for Successful Transition From Adolescence to Young
Reality # l: Remember that the real basics go beyond reading, writing
Reality #2: You can be good at something you don't enjoy doing.
Reality #3: You can be good at some things that are unpopular among your
Reality #4: Life is not a race to see who can get to the end the
Reality #5: You have the ability to ask questions which should have
right answers, but don't.
Reality #6: It's never too late to be what you might have been.
Reality #7: A life's career is not a life sentence.
Another one, an
interesting website you may want to read - though it may
be better for your parents.
Wishing you all the best!