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Characteristics of Overexcitability

Characteristics of the five types of overexcitabilities, distilled from these two documents: 

Conceptual Evolution of OE – Dabrowski


Conceptual Evolution of OE – Piechowski


Psychomotor Overexcitability

Psychomotor OE can be understood as an organic excess of energy which can manifest as:



Disruptive behavior

Fidgeting, pacing, drumming fingers on desk

Nail biting and nervous habits

Compulsive talking and chattering


Initiating and engaging in physical fights


Frequent, excessive irritability

Struggles in the classroom

Rapid speech

Jumping from task to task, inconsistent work behavior

Issues with attention


Pressure for action

Strong competitiveness


But psychomotor OE can also be viewed as:

Boundless energy and stamina

Great capacity for sustained work and effort

Working in bursts of activity

Zeal for planning and organization

Love of intense physical activity

Love of movement for its own sake

Tendency to create great works.


Sensual Overexcitability

Heightened sensitivity to sound, light, touch, taste, texture, or smell.

Need for comfort, luxury, esthetics, fashions, superficial relations with others, frequent changes of lovers, etc.

Transfer of emotional tension to sensual forms of expression

In children sensual overexcitability manifests itself as a need for cuddling, kissing, clinging to mother’s body, early heightened interest in sexual matters, showing off, and need to be with others all the time

Intensified sensory experience which, if isolated from other modes of experiencing stops at the surface of life

Sensory enrichment and gratification do not contribute to psychological growth because they lack the link with processes of inner psychic transformation

Seeking of sensual outlets for inner tension.

A need and active search for sensory experiences, such as gentle touches and caresses.

The pleasures and delights offered through seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, and sex, as well as multisensory experiences, become enhanced.

Specific aversions to certain tastes, smells, or touch, and the like are also common

Sensual pleasure tends to be relaxing and temporarily satisfying

When emotional tension is diverted to the sensual channel it may become excess in eating, smoking, shopping, sex, and a constant desire to be admired

Can be viewed in two ways: as difficulty (the excessive sensitivity associated with Sensory Integration Dysfunction) or as the capacity for aesthetic appreciation.


Intellectual Overexcitability

Intensified and accelerated activity of the mind. Curiosity, questioning, persistence to ask probing questions. Thirst for knowledge, avid reading, love of theoretical thinking analysis, reverence for logic. Striving for understanding and synthesis, searching for truth.

Not to be confused with academic achievement.

Precision in observation, recall, and careful planning. Reflective thought, exemplified by watching one's own thought processes, introspection.

Solving problems, finding it difficult to let go of a problem, and finding new ones to solve. Perceiving patterns and relationships leads to naming them; thus, new concepts are born. Irresistible attraction of brain teasers, logical puzzles.

Independence of thought (often expressed in criticism). Stubborn individuality may be misinterpreted as defiance toward authority or indifference to social context.

Capacity for concentration and sustained intellectual effort. Generating an intense engagement with ideas. Seeking integration of concepts and intuitions. A desire to gain knowledge, systematize it, and bring order to it. Endows a person with the capacity for evaluation and discernment of quality.

Processes of self-monitoring, self-evaluation, preoccupation with moral problems and with questions of the meaning of human existence and moral responsibility. Doubts about beliefs present themselves almost inevitably, consequently they may precipitate a crisis of worldview, in other words, a moral crisis.


Imaginational Overexcitability 

Enlarges one's sense of reality, and one's sensitivity to the inner and outer worlds. Increase the degree of organization of his psychic structure.

Pronounced maladaptation to reality. Experience of other dimensions of reality. Reach out beyond the limits of actual life into a world of dreams and fantasy.

Creative, has vivid fantasy and is often full of ideas and plans.

Imaginational obsessions, richness of dreams, ideas, inventions, creativity, which in the eyes of others usually have an "unreal” character. Such elaborated world of imagination…has its own sense, its own limits, its own organization, its own laws independent to a large extent from the laws of the ordinary reality. Such a world gives an experiential satisfaction to those who dwell in it.

Association of images and impressions, inventiveness, use of image and metaphor in verbal expression, vivid and often animated visualization.

Leads to an intense living in the world of fantasy, predilection for fairy and magic tales, poetic creations, or invention of fantastic stories.

Free play of the imagination leads to frequent distraction, wandering attention, and daydreaming.

Animistic thinking involves endowing inanimate objects with personality, character, and a will of their own. Magical thinking rests on the conviction that to think something is as good as making it happen.

Images of fear and anxiety, images of fears of the unknown, manifested as fears of the dark or of evil powers. Emotional tension is easily diverted into the theater of imagination where feelings and emotions find their form.

The basis for the development of prospection and retrospection, that is to say, the ability to use one's past experiences in the planning of the future

To be able to convert experience into imagery depends on an exceptional ability to see analogies, which are facilitated by unusual associations to emerge as metaphors.

Facility for visualizing, making elaborate dreams and fantasies, perceiving life experiences poetically and dramatically. Words are inadequate and limited, but an image carries the energy and felt quality that reveals the meaning of an experience.

Imaginary playmates and imaginary worlds are lived with the full range of sensory experience and vivid memory… To allow for the “as real as real” quality of experience, a more fitting term is imaginal.

Preference for the unusual and absurd.

Low tolerance for boredom. 

Imaginational overexcitability, expressed in intense, free-flowing creativity, inventing improbable or bizarre stories, converting the everyday into fantastic images, or simply daydreaming, may seem to indicate Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or even a delusional disorder.


Emotional Overexcitability 

Inhibition (timidity and shyness) and excitation (enthusiasm).

Strong affective memory. Emotional ties, attachment to persons, living things, and places. Empathy for the natural world, animism.

Concern with death. (Especially the death of loved ones, rather than one's own death.) Awareness of death and of its interpersonal consequences.

Fears, anxieties. Depressions and suicidal moods. Existential anxieties and despair.

Feelings of loneliness. Difficulties of adjustment in new environments.

Concern for others, compassion. Empathy as a way of knowing. It is emotional sensitivity that moves to compassion, caring, and responsibility. Intuitive connection and mutual understanding on a deep level. Friendships transcend gender stereotypes. Exclusive relationships. Need for security.

A function of experiencing emotional relationships. Intensity of feelings and display of emotions alone are not developmentally significant unless the experiential aspect of relationship is present.

Exploration and examination of oneself, usually negative, because it seems to be in the nature of human feeling that in the absence of viable links with others we begin to feel worthless.

Somatic expressions, perspiring, blushing, feeling tension in the body, and other physiological responses.

Extremes of feeling, intensity, richness and high degree of differentiation of intra- and interpersonal feeling. Awareness of the full range of emotions. Heightened intensity of positive and negative feelings.

The basis of one's relation to self through self-evaluation and self-judgment, coupled with a sense of responsibility, compassion, and responsiveness to others. Responsibility.

Keen awareness and sensitivity to nuances of feeling both in oneself and in others.

Feeling of being out of place, and not belonging. Occasional feelings of unreality.

May be seen as evidence of immaturity, poor parenting, or even a serious mood disorder in a gifted child. This greater responsiveness to stimuli – whether from the external environment or from internal thoughts and memories – needs to be understood and accepted as coming from a deeper and more intense processing of experience rather than from dysfunction.