What is Twice or Thrice Exceptionality in Adults?
Updated: Oct 6
I have worked with many individuals who are twice or thrice exceptional, also known as 2e or 3e. The term 2e or 3e refers to people who are intellectually gifted but also experience some form of neurodivergence, such as ADHD, autism, or a learning difference. If you fall into this category, you may find that it can be difficult for you to navigate a world that doesn't quite understand your unique combination of strengths and struggles. This can lead to you feeling out of place in the world.
One common struggle for you may be feeling like an outsider. You may struggle to fit in with your peers, especially if your giftedness is not recognized or valued. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, 2e and 3e individuals often experience emotional sensitivity and intensity. You may think about things more deeply and feel things more deeply than your peers, which can be overwhelming at times. Your intellectual capacity may mean that you might exhibit rapid learning, larger vocabularies, stronger curiosity, creativity, and divergent thinking.
However, you may also struggle with social interaction, perfectionism, inconsistent performance, executive functioning, and fatigue. Another issue unique to you is the misunderstanding that you are not trying hard enough. Despite your giftedness, 2e and 3e individuals may still struggle with certain tasks due to their neurodivergence. However, because you are so capable in other areas, your struggles may be dismissed as lack of effort when in reality, you are likely trying as hard or even harder than your peers. This can be incredibly frustrating and can lead to low confidence and self-esteem.
There can be a number of issues with being labelled as the “smart kid”. This can create either a spoken or un-spoke pressure that 2e and 3e and other gifted people have a difficult time living up to. As a result, a person’s self-worth can be tied to their intellect and feeling an overwhelming pressure to do things perfectly. Or perhaps you were expected to overcome your struggles with your strengths. There is a toxic message that gifted people have it easier by default. This message can lead you to feel like you can never quite measure up to other people's expectations, or perhaps your own expectations and feel not quite good enough.
As a therapist and coach, I use an integrative approach to supporting 2e and 3e individuals that is strength-based and neuro-affirming to explore the various challenges they present with. We work together to focus on the strength that already exists, address negative thought patterns, and build coping strategies. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also be effective in managing emotional intensity. It's important to tailor the approach to the individual and their unique needs. I focus on resilience and leveraging the abilities my clients have and acceptance of their neurodivergence.
Twice and thrice exceptional individuals face a unique set of challenges that can be difficult to navigate. However, with understanding and support, you can thrive and reach your full potential.
If you are interested in exploring some of these topics in therapy, please visit the contact page to book a free 15-minute consultation.