Do you find yourself deeply touched by the slightest displays of affection, struggle with small talk and feel unwelcome in loud gatherings? If so, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Highly sensitive people are those who have heightened awareness and high sensitivity that is both physical and emotional.
While it can be difficult to cope with life as an HSP at times, understanding oneself better is key: gaining insight into specific triggers and identifying ways to manage them will go a long way towards improved quality of life for all Highly Sensitive Persons in navigating their everyday challenges. Here is what you should know about being highly sensitive.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are individuals who have an increased awareness of their environment and heightened sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli. They are more perceptive than the average person, picking up on subtleties in their environment that other people may not notice. This heightened sensitivity can be both a blessing and a curse for HSPs as it allows them to feel deeply and empathize with others, but also makes them vulnerable to over-stimulation and stress. It is estimated that 15-20% of the population around the world identify as highly sensitive, meaning more than 1 billion people experience the world in this particular way.
Essentially, highly sensitive people experience life in a more intense way than others. They have heightened senses – they can taste and smell things better than others, they are perceptive observers of things around them and even pick up on subtleties in their environment that other people may not notice. This sensitivity makes them deep thinkers, feelers and observers who tend to look at life from multiple points of view.
How Do You Know If You’re an HSP?
There is no definitive test to determine if you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), but there are certain signs and symptoms that can help you identify if you may be one. Some of the most common signs of being a highly sensitive person include:
- Easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, crowds, or other sensory-heavy environments
- Empathy and compassion for others
- Feeling easily drained by social interactions
- Struggles with small talk
- Difficulty making decisions without consulting others
- Easily affected by the emotions of others
- Deeply touched by displays of kindness or love
If you’re curious whether you’re highly sensitive, Dr Elaine Aron’s website, HSPerson.com, provides a free test that can give you a sense of how sensitive you are.
What Causes High Sensitivity?
High sensitivity is a personality trait that’s been studied by psychologists for decades. It’s estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population experiences heightened levels of empathy and emotional intensity, which can lead to physical and mental stress. So what causes a person to become highly sensitive?
There are a number of genetic factors that could contribute to the development of high sensitivity, including certain hormone imbalances, such as those related to serotonin levels. Studies have also found that there may be an inherited susceptibility to developing high levels of empathy and emotional sensitivity.
It’s well established that genetics doesn’t always determine who develops high sensitivity. In fact, research suggests that environmental factors play an equally important role in its development. People in stressful or physically and emotionally abusive environments are more likely to develop traits related to high sensitivity than those raised in supportive households.
Social experiences during early childhood can also affect how a person emotionally processes situations later on in life. If someone was raised in an environment where their feelings were understood and respected, they’re likely going to learn how to handle their emotions better when compared to someone who grew up being told they were too sensitive or not allowed an outlet for their feelings.
Challenges of Being an HSP
Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) can have its difficulties, as it has been linked to an increased tendency towards anxiety and depression. HSPs often experience an intense inner world of emotions, thoughts, and intuition which can result in feeling overwhelmed or easily triggered by the external environment. Here are some potential difficulties that HSPs may encounter:
Feeling Overwhelmed by Too Much Stimulation
HSPs tend to be easily overstimulated by their environment; this means they can become completely drained after attending crowded events, being around loud noises or busy streets. This is because they are constantly processing and interpreting sensory information more deeply than most people. This heightened awareness makes it difficult for them to take in too much at once, leading them to become sensory overloaded and exhausted.
Difficulty Determining Boundaries With Others
Due to their heightened sensitivity, HSPs may struggle with maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships with others. They are often caring and considerate people who will go out of their way for them even when it’s not beneficial to themselves. They also tend to internalize conflicts, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings but losing sight of what’s best for them.
Highly sensitive people tend to be quick tempered due to all the inner turmoil they experience day-to-day. It can be difficult for them to manage how they respond when faced with something displeasing or upsetting as they may misinterpret emotions or situations as a sign of hostility towards them even if there isn’t any intent behind it. They may become defensive quickly and lash out in ways that aren’t necessarily proportional to the issues at hand; this difficulty controlling their emotional responses can make it seem like they react disproportionately quickly without considering the matter properly first.
Difficulties Dealing With Criticism
Since HSPs see and feel things more intensely than many other people, criticism can really shake up their world – both internally and externally; this tends to evoke a strong sense of shame in those who are highly sensitive as well evoke strong impulses from within that push against further external criticism or judgement from others.. This can cause major stress on the mind which takes a long time for HSPs emotionally process – likely longer than those who aren’t considered highly sensitive
How Counselling Can Help HSPs
Because they have more access to emotions, and feel to a greater degree than most, Highly Sensitive People often benefit more from counselling than the typical person. Counselling can be helpful to manage your heightened sensitivity and its associated emotions. Here are some ways in which counselling can help highly sensitive people:
Reducing Negative Emotions
Counselling is an effective way for HSPs to manage their negative emotions. Through counselling sessions, HSPs will learn to identify, express, and navigate their feelings in healthier ways. This work can also reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression that are common among those who are highly sensitive.
Better Understanding and Making Use of Your Sensitivity
Counselling sessions provide HSPs with the opportunity to explore their heightened sensitivity and receive guidance on how best to make use of it. For example, counselling may help an HSP better understand what triggers their sensitivities so they can adjust their thoughts, behaviors and habits accordingly. Additionally, an HSP might recognize strengths they have gained as a result of being highly sensitive such as empathy or creativity that they can put into actionable plans.
Developing Coping Mechanisms
For many HSPs, developing more effective coping skills is important in managing their emotions and daily stressors. Counselling can provide structure and insight into which coping mechanisms are most beneficial to adopt while finding healthy distractions from stressful situations. This work enables an individual to strengthen the areas where they may not have had much practice beforehand due to avoidance methods due to fear or discomfort.
Another way counselling helps is through encouraging self-awareness for HSPs. When supported through exploratory conversations and activities counselors provide a safe space for examining one’s own thought processes in order gain newfound perspectives about issues such as relationships or core values in life. With regular attention directed towards personal growth one may become better equipped with psychological strategies needed for healthy living as well a sense of direction when confusion is encountered on life’s journey.
Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) can be challenging to navigate. HSPs often experience intense emotions and reactions that can lead to stress and anxiety. Counselling provides an effective way for HSPs to manage their negative emotions, better understand and make use of their sensitivity, develop coping mechanisms, and deepen their self-awareness. With the right support, HSPs can learn how to harness their sensitivities in order to live more fulfilling lives.