Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
Do You Experience:
- Feeling more overwhelmed or easily feeling overwhelmed
- Sensitive to pain, sounds, and/or smells.
- Sensitive to caffeine
- Passionate or moved by music or the arts
- Increased startle response
- Takes longer to make a decision
- Increase in performance anxiety ( feeling nervous or shaky when observed or when competing)
- Irritability when over aroused
- Affected by others emotions
- Hard time handling change, stress, and crowded events
The reason these signs are present really comes down to differences in the brain. HSP or sensory processing sensitivity continues to be researched and we continue to learn more about this trait. Brain scans show more activation in certain parts of the brain including more activation of cerebral cortex, a more active brain mirror neuron system, and a brain that is more often in theta state (which increases sensitivity to to subtle vibrations and environmental stimulation). These brain changes really create a body/mind that is heightened to stimuli, which can be difficult in modern day society.
People that interact with sensitive people should really be aware of the symptoms and signs of someone that may be becoming over aroused to help create an environment that supports sensitive people. Its really great to have an awareness of this trait and to also learn the strengths of sensitive people and to create an environment that supports their strengths. For friends and family members including spouses its helpful to help support lifestyle changes that a sensitive person may have to make. Research has shown the sensitive people may need around 3 hours per day of alone/ quiet time, which is sometimes a challenge to work into a schedule and for family to accept.
A medical note to add, HSP’s tend to be affected by medication more than the average person and the trait should be discussed with any prescribing physician. HSP’s often need lower dosing due to being more sensitive to the medication and often experience more of the side effects.
I learned about HSP due to my own journey after learning that I am a highly sensitive person. The signs of HSP can be present as early as infancy, I was just consulting today with someone who has a baby that may be an HSP. HSP is present in 15-20% of the general population and can make up about 50% of the people that therapists treat. Researchers have found that there is a genetic variant present for HSP’s ( ADRA2b) which really speaks to the need for knowledgeable practitioners because historically HSP’s were expected to toughen up or misdiagnosed.
© 2018 Jessica Cline