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2017 WCGTC Biennial World Conference

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4.6.2 Finding Control in Chaos: Understanding Perfectionism, Substance Abuse, and Self-Destructive Behaviour in Gifted Students

The link between perfectionism and gifted students is well documented. However, there is a relative dearth of literature in relation to substance abuse and self-destructive behaviour in this population. Both perfectionism and addiction are indicative of low self-esteem, yet they are also suggestive of grandiosity. This paper explores this paradox, suggesting that for some gifted students such behaviour can be viewed as a ‘disease of disconnection’ or a ‘developmental disorder’; the emergence of an emotional state that demands a pathological self-soothing mechanism. But why do some gifted students develop such dysfunctional behaviours, and what can we do to help them?


Kate Burton
Alchemy Therapy

Kate Burton provides counselling and psychotherapy from her rooms at West Perth Medical Centre in Western Australia. She completed her doctorate at Murdoch University, focusing on the intersection between giftedness, creativity, trauma and addiction. Prior to moving to Australia in 2009, Kate worked as an associate lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan and The Open University. Kate is a founding committee member of Western Australia’s State Association for the Gifted, Gifted WA.


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