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What Does it Mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person?

Rachel Saenger, LPC-S, LMFT-S provides counseling for anxiety, depression, life transitions and people with high sensitiveity

When you hear highly-sensitive person, your mind probably focuses on the sensitive part. Someone who is delicate and has more fragile feelings. A highly-sensitive person may not mean exactly what you’re thinking.

Highly-sensitive people fall into the neurodivergent category. They tend to feel things too deeply and have intense emotional, mental, and physical responses to stimuli.

Being a highly sensitive person can come with its own set of pros and cons. Having a better understanding of what this actually is will give you a road map to better navigate day to day life.

Background on High Sensitivity

The term highly-sensitive person, or HSP, was originally created by a psychologist named Elaine Aron. It is often interchanged with or viewed as a component of sensory processing sensitivity, or SPS.

Roughly 15-20 percent of the population lives as HSP’s. Research has found no real difference in prevalence with males versus females. While it can pertain to mental health, HSP alone is not a mental health disorder, and there is no test for it. It can often occur alongside other mental health conditions like sensory processing disorder, autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What it is Like with HSP

With HSP, there is a deeper processing in the central nervous system. If you have HSP, your brain operates differently than other people. It processes information around you a little more deeply, making you more aware of your surroundings. You tend to pick up on subtleties better than others.

HSP makes you feel a lot of things deeper as well. You may become overwhelmed easier than others around you. Being overstimulated can make you uncomfortable or elicit a seemingly inappropriate emotional response.

Certain social settings may be harder to function in for you depending on the lights, sounds, and amount of people around. Concerts, festivals, or loud parties could be difficult to navigate.

When under stress or pressure to perform, performance may suffer some. People with HSP tend to work better individually or in a quiet space. As the stress from either the workload increases or the stimulants in the environment increases, poor performance also increases.

Being highly empathetic, you may be more triggered by violence. This applies to real life and hypothetical situations. Watching the news can be more troubling because you feel it deeper. Playing violent video games, watching violent or intense television shows or movies can also have the same response.

The Positives of HSP

As with any personality trait, there are cons but also pros. By having HSP, you know how to read a room and others around you. You know when others are uncomfortable and when to shift the environment or energy to resolve it.

You especially know when your people are suffering and will be able to use your life experience to help them work through it and hopefully find a solution to their problems. Your problem solving skills can actually translate to many situations.

People with HSP also tend to be more creative. You may have a deeper appreciation for art and entertainment. You’re more passionate about the world around you.

Being more sensitive and passionate, the meaning to things is also more important to you. You seek out things of significance and tend to bypass those that do not have value. Deep and intellectual conversations may drive you. Being fake or partaking in unimportant interactions isn’t very meaningful to you.

HSP is not uncommon, but it is often misunderstood by others. While there are factors that could be roadblocks to daily functioning, there are so many positive traits that make you who you are. If you are dealing with HSP and struggling, use my contact information to schedule a consultation.


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