HSP (The Highly Sensitive Person)
Hi, I found this website in a search for stress management techniques. So I thought I would share. I have summarized (with excerpts from different websites) below for those who do not wish to search for it.
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who comprise about a fifth of the population, may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.
Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.
You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate.
In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “don’t be so sensitive” so that they feel abnormal.
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@filipek, I would like to learn this too. I just posted this in the “vibes” discussion so I will just copy and paste what I said there. I’m dating someone who is really intense and also really expressive so when something bad is going on I feel it like a dagger and it gives me really bad anxiety. Haven’t figured out how to deal with this because one should be able to count on their significant other to listen to them even when it’s not necessarily positive. But too much negativity and I will lose composure completely.
@dick, it seems you have a similar coping mechanism, in the sense that I rarely feel my own emotions, to mine. It is actually quite common. I mistook it for being some kind of psychosis for a while, but have since learned to appreciate it for the benefits that can come from it. However, I do have a question. How do you control your autonomic response? I don’t consciously feel threatened, but I suppose sub-consciously I must because my body starts going nuts (i.e sweaty palms/armpits/ cortisol release, etc.). It makes me feel uncomfortable to be alive sometimes because of this, and the only way to fix it from a biological standpoint is to “eliminate the threat” (which is not productive of course, especially with friends) or remove myself from everyone, or anything, that is causing it.
@aalexcastroo, I did a fair amount of psychedelics when I was younger. I wish I could’ve written down what was going on in my head…It seemed like things would become crystal clear but then I could never remember what I figured out later. What do you mean by lack of self-definition? This reminds me of how I seem to be able to agree with nearly anyone (provided they aren’t a bigot or abusive or otherwise horrible.) There aren’t many absolutes to me and many more possibilities for right answers. I think some people see this as a fault, kind of like I don’t stand for anything (which isn’t the case, I just don’t really care much about what some people want to argue about.) On a different note, I am curious about others HSP’s experiences with alcohol, specifically in social situations. Does it help or does it make it worse for you?
http://www.hsperson.com/ is the website I started on, but there are many more if you just google “highly sensitive people”.
@dick. I am talking about hyper-awareness of ones surroundings, emotional states of people around (so much that I tend to not “feel” much as a coping mechanism), and social subtleties that cause me to be slightly paranoid because of the conclusions I can sometimes make based on these observations (even if it is just in my head).
@tangledupinplaid21, My favorite part in seeing the beauty of things is being able to instantly know when someone is feeling down. I can cheer them up by hugging them or talking to them about what’s bothering them.
all of these HSP’s ought to take up writing, when I write it’s like all the shit in my head regarding experience just gets cleaned out. It’s a great release.
@tangledupinplaid21, I’ve often wondered if i’m bipolar too. Maybe? but this topic is making me rethink some things….
@otingocniman, I for sure have this. It’s not an illness or disease, it’s just how our bodies are wired. It’s definitely a negative trait to have in our society, and I think many people who are extremely sensitive to external stimuli end up becoming reclusive. While being highly observant and watchful, we also base most of our actions off of fear. We tend to think of more possibilities, outcomes, and consequences. Where as most people would just do something, we think about all the reasons why we should and shouldn’t do it. So essentially,in this society, we are constantly in the fight or flight response even if nothing in particular is going on around us. This can cause profound anxiety, depression, and over stimulation at things that other people would consider small events. If you don’t understand what’s going on and learn to turn these ‘negative’ characteristics into positive, beneficial qualities, it can turn you into a shell of yourself. It doesn’t have to be that way though.
reading these posts have been so amazing. i feel most of you know what i am going through and we are in the world the same. i started doing reiki, with a very intuitive healer, and i have also had an emotional cord cutting after i had a very painful relationship. I also have started group therapy to talk about my feelings, as i have felt ashamed about being so sensitive. Sometimes I am paralyzed as a result of all of my feelings and the other persons feelings at once, and i cant speak. It has felt very embarassing, and i have shamed myself because of this. I am so happy that i feel free to talk openly about my experiences. Thank-you so much for posting.
@Lesley, I relate a lot to what you said! You put something I’ve always kinda known/suspected into words for me. I lose interest when people around me are arguing/debating almost instantly because most of the time I see it as pointless since like you said, there aren’t many absolutes.
With alcohol it helps me be more social with people I don’t know very well, but I think it makes me less sensitive if I pass a certain threshold. I’m really observant of the people around me but when I am drinking I tend to be less so. Also, it sounds kinda messed up but I find it harder to fake interest in topics that I really don’t care about when I’m drinking. I find that difficult anyway but can usually retain “politeness” otherwise.
@aalexcastroo, I also want to hear more about those tricks!
@BrittanyRenee, negativity is painful for me as well but with a lot of practice and awareness, I’m getting better at dealing with it.
@dick, sorry mate, I misread your post
@otingocniman, controlling your autonomous nervous system is difficult, but focus on your breathing, take deep breaths and start meditating if you have not already. Meditation is the key to almost everything.
@apples30, thank you for sharing the book, I will definitely buy it. Yes, communication is so extremely important. We live in a society where it is rude or inappropriate to say certain things, which leads us to a bottling up of our emotions. Very BAD development in my opinion. In every relationship the key to everything is communication! Sometimes we think certain things are so obvious and that the other person ‘definitely knows what you feel and how his or her behaviour affects you’. Well let me take away this illusion: it is not like that at all! Sometimes it is the opposite: what we think or feel about a certain situation can be totally different from what another person feels and therefore it is so important to simply TALK about certain things!
It is extremely difficult especially when you have not learned to develop these kind of skills during your childhood.
For example, I learned to put away all my (negative) emotions as deep as possible because I was always afraid that my parents will be mad at me whenever I will talk about ‘negative’ things. Anyway, that is another (long) story, but my point is: communicate! Speak what is on your heart/mind and eventually it will lead you to a happier existence.
@michaelfindel, I think we are anxious because we are highly sensitive.
@lalamakays, I really admire how you deal with this, because I always suppressed these kind of feelings and was never open for it. Furthermore I think women in general are more sensitive than man and with HSP’s the contrast might be even bigger.
@otingocniman, you talk about an extremely efficient nervous system and while reading this I was wondering if we as HSP’s also have a faster metabolism? What I mean by that is that I can eat whatever I want, but I will not gain weight, at least not in a negative way. Do you think there is correlation between HSP and this?
@heartbeat, I think the first step is to become conscious of the fact that the feelings you are feeling are not your feelings. When you become conscious of this, you will be able to make a better distinction between your own and other people their feelings, and maybe in this way you will process it better and it will not bother you so much.
@mikeyw829, Yes, the problem is that you think other people perceive the world as you perceive it. But on the other hand, since you are HS, you can put it in a positive perspective as well, because you have more empathic ‘skills’ than the average person.
@daveb, I think you are right about the classifications and in general we cannot deduct everything in our lives to the fact that we are HSP. Other factors are important as well, and it is possible that some experience symptoms of depression of anxieties etc. But like with all these kind of things, it is hard (even impossible) to draw causal conclussions.
@anjelica, yeah, that relationship didn’t end up working out. We broke up a year ago. Now I’m dating someone a lot more like me, sensitive and artsy. :) It saves a lot of time explaining things. I felt like my ex and I spoke different languages a lot of the time.
It’s funny to me that so many people have jumped in with the HSP self diagnosis. I get the sensations (fear, anxiety, doubt), but I don’t give them my time. If there is negativity in the air I’m generally gutted, but then I quickly realize that it’s not my problem, it’s theirs…unless it is my problem of course. Numb isn’t a bad way to describe it, because I am numb enough until i have had time to digest the significance of the emotion. If I didn’t I think I’d be another victim of HSP.
I know this type of person exists, cus it’s me. I have actually been trying to fight it somewhat, as I feel it has not serviced me well in life. There’s something to be said for being true to yourself, but being too sensitive just seems to have developed fear and anxiety in me.
I struggle with this, because I do feel that a lot of the time I make more observations than others. But most of the time I let these observations affect me so much, that I start to just avoid those scenarios all together (i.e. I avoid trying new things, going new places, etc). Is it really just being highly sensitive? Or is it being weak?
“we also base most of our actions off of fear. We tend to think of more possibilities, outcomes, and consequences. Where as most people would just do something, we think about all the reasons why we should and shouldn’t do it. ”
i recenetly came to terms with this. i do this all the time, whether its walking out my front door, spending any money at all, or even sending a text message. Recognizing this really helped me. Because I know that I could just operate off the belief that whoever is on the receiving end of my actions doesnt think, “how could she do such a thing, if the consequences could have been this, that, or whatever” I just do whatever I fear, whatever is nagging away at me inside to do. And sometimes my fears were real and sometimes they weren’t. But at least the nagging voice is gone, that intuition telling me where to go. And I think that core part of me is stronger and wiser than I have given it credit for in the past, that my neuroticism has given it credit for.
@filipek, thank-you for your response. i have always struggled with assuming i know what is going on with another person due to my intuition and empathetic nature. however, i understand now that i still need to communicate and investigate my feelings because my feelings remained unresolved, i could be wrong, or i could be right and i still need to talk about. as you say this stems from when i was growing up and the messages that i received at home and school. thank-you!
immobilizing … thats what id say . you feel a dirty butterfly feeling. but its not a nice one . its like an empty hole in your stomach and your body numbs out . its terrbile. i know how everyone feels here for sure… but extra sensitive. means extra empathic and sympathetic as well. we care more or feel more for everything in general. maybe our 20% should shed some light to the 80% that we arent extra sensitive but that maybe theyre under sensitive ?
there’s a purpose for everything :)
we could also be here for the purpose of learning to feel even more, maybe because we felt very little in the last life ?
@otingocniman, yeah..i’ve been wondering about this lately…seems when I’m around people who are drunk I will start to feel nauseous and sick like I’m drunk and it’ll take me a whole day to recoup…and side note: I don’t drink. What is it?
I have visited that HSP website that you originally refer to and I found it very interesting that HSP’s are also very sensitive to things like drugs and being touched. My whole life I have wondered why I cannot wear hairbands or regular bras without being extremely irritated and getting a massive headache. Even pants that are too tight. Coffee sends me into overdrive and I have ALWAYS seen visuals off of only one hit of acid, which other people have told me it takes them more than that to have actual hallucinations. Anyone else experience these physical HSP symptoms as well? And I think the reason why so many of us hopped on this diagnosis is that it’s the reason why many of us came to this website and found a place of refuge here. Because we are not like the rest. I’m an artist and I showed the piece I’ve been working on, which is very emotionally intense, to a fellow artist that I know. This artist, Jonathan looked at the piece and then looked at me and it was like he look into my soul and totally understood. He asked me if I smoked a lot of pot and we got into a discussion as to the emotional purposes we do such things. He showed me artwork from hundreds of years ago where the artist paints about topics like consicousness and the realities that aren’t so easily seen. I was amazed that he had connected the dots to my interest in such things just by looking at that once poece. And I said, “wow I cant believe you came up with this to show me, I am so intersted in all this. And he said “that’s why you are doing what you are doing. That’s why other people do things like sail.” We are from a very wealthy yachting town. Artists are cut from a different cloth. I hated being who I was for a long time, I didn’t understand why it took me forever to wrack up reasons to do something so simple, when others seemed to do it without even giving it a second thought. I’m the one who needs the cursor to be off the youtube screen or else its all I focus on. I find it really difficult to play music for a room of people because I am so aware of everyones reaction to it and when I can tell someone doesn’t like it, I totally freak out inwardly and suggest that someone else take over the DJ booth. I hated being this way for so long. It led to me to such terrible places. So much substance abuse to try to avoid my feelings. But the substances sometimes only served to emphasize those emotions. I cannot outwardly keep my shit together when something is bothering me. I will be sitting in math class or at Easter dinner and something incredibly painful or powerful will strike me and I have no control over the tears that start rolling. However, I have been told that I am a very talented artist and I appreciate the fact that I am interested in subjects that this website discusses. In class or in a social situaion, I am always laughing the loudest, even at the smallest little crack of a joke. I am laughing my ass off in Zumba class while others sternly attempt to follow the leaders instructions. I feel music down to my very bones. I feel so much, all the time, that I have no idea how to relate to the idea of feeling emotionally numb to anything. I feel like I have no skin sometimes and my soul is just on display, unarmored, and that anyone can touch it at any time and send me into a sensory overload of sensations, chills, ultimate bliss, or downright terror. But I know that my heightened nervous system has led to one hell of a life so far, both in positive and negative ways. But I doubt I will ever look back on any time in my life as boring, my brain turns my reality into a movie every day.
I feel like I am one of these types of people as well. Sometimes it feels like i absorb the emotions of others in the room and I can sense how other people are feeling. When i used to smoke a lot of pot this feeling would be amplified. I would even ask other people if they felt the way I thought they did out of curiosity, and I was almost always correct. Like many of you said, this unfortunately leads to increased levels of anxiety and other negative emotions. I also point out subtleties that few other people notice, and I’ve been called out on it many times before.
I’ve found that meditation helps keep me centered when my emotions being to run amok in my head. It’s all about maintaining a calm center when you’re this way.
I’m not sure but this might apply to me I would like to hear from an outside source who may have an opinion on my situation…
I’m 17 years old, very outgoing, lots of friends, a higher thinking level than most of my peers, and very normal reactions to anger or unreasonable reactions from other people.
Maybe i should mention that i’ve used physcadelics and other drugs such as Marijuana, Mushrooms, LSD, DMT and others i’d rather not say.
The one problem i’m having is the over-analyzing of everything that happens throughout my day. This usually includes over-thinking about what someone said to me, or most of the time what i said to someone and what they are going to take away from it. On paper it sounds like i’m self-critical or worried too much about others opinions… But i’m not.. Its almost like I naturally want to filter out what I really think or how I really want to act, but the other side of the coin is me wanting to be very honest.
It could be my school environment because it is made up of not the brightest people and most of the conversations I’m forced to keep up with are lacking in intelligent thinking. And thats what i enjoy. I enjoy talking politics, history and theory, but that is lacking in my everyday life. I only get a chance to talk to some great friends on the weekends.
I usually just brush this off as normal high-school problems and a simple step in growing up.. But this HSP thread has made me think maybe it is that.. Any thoughts?