What is High Sensitivity?
Being Highly Sensitive equates to having a highly developed nervous system, and shows through in a number of ways.
Scientifically known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), High Sensitivity is present in approximately 20% of the population as a whole, that’s every fifth child or adult, across the globe. For the record, it’s also present in many species of animals.
Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. is credited with first using the term “highly sensitive” in her original book, “The Highly Sensitive Person” in 1991. Dr. Aron was instrumental in formulating the initial knowledge we have about High Sensitivity, which she and others have subsequently developed further.
Dr. Aron’s acronym best sums up the key aspects of High Sensitivity, some or all of which may be present in a Highly Sensitive Person.
DOES stands for Depth of Processing, Overarousability, Emotional Intensity, and Sensory Sensitivity (Aron, 2010).
Depth of Processing is about deep thoughts and feelings, or contemplation, both of oneself and the world in general. You would take your time over reflection; it could be about you, your family, your career, animal welfare, or a war being waged. You are likely to have a highly artistic and creative side, which is mated with conscientiousness (offset against the awareness of failure and what it could bring).
Overarousability can manifest in many ways and will be a result of too much stimulation for you. This can take many forms from alcohol, caffeine and other drug intake, glaring or fluorescent lights, needing total darkness to fall asleep, noise, strong smells, “itchy” fabric, a crowded area, and the pressure of an exam or a tight work deadline. You may modify your behaviour to avoid these common stimuli and seek more time alone to compensate.
Emotional Intensity will show in deeper, stronger, longer emotions; praise and criticism will affect you more. You will have a high level of empathy, possibly from a relatively early age, coupled with intuition and ability to be aware of others’ emotions. You are likely to be disinterested in violent films and TV programmes.
Sensory Sensitivity there is some overlap with some aspects of overarousability; would you notice I’ve changed a picture in my therapy room from one wall to another, for example?
So how do you check if you are Highly Sensitive?
The easiest way is to take a simple test such as on Dr. Aron’s website:
And to check if your child may be highly sensitive:
High Sensation Seeking HSS
This is also an innate trait, so present from birth, and may or may not be coupled with high sensitivity (either as an introvert or extravert). An internal conflict will be present in HSPs who are also HSSs : described by Dr. Aron as: “one foot is on the brake, the other on the gas”. To check on high sensation seeking, try the test below:
I am a Highly Sensitive Person and dad to a highly sensitive child. I continue to explore the world of the HSP, and have had many hours of personal therapy.
Discovering the trait was a real light bulb moment for me, an enlightenment that changed my life.
It’s normal to be Highly Sensitive.
Let me say that again: It’s normal to be Highly Sensitive.
It’s simply a trait just like other aspects that you have been born with.
You don’t need treatment and you won’t find a “cure”.
You may need help with high sensitivity on a personal level or as a parent, especially in a culture where the HSP can still be incorrectly labeled as shy, aloof, or different. And a Highly Sensitive Child requires a different parenting approach to other children, more so for boys, where the message they often can get is to “toughen up”.
Do please contact me – I am happy to help or refer you on as appropriate.