“Might you be highly sensitive and not know it?”
What does it mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person?
Being Highly Sensitive equates to having a highly developed nervous system, and can show in several 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. It’s also present in over 100 species of animals.
Dr Elaine N. Aron, PhD is credited with first using the term “highly sensitive” when starting her research in 1991, though Carl Jung, as far back as 1913, observed “particularly sensitive people” and their strengths and weaknesses. Dr Aron and went on to publish her book “The Highly Sensitive Person” in 1997 and 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, 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 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 intakes, 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. Overarousability is highly individual and no two HSPs are alike.
Empathy and Emotional responsiveness; you will have a high level of empathy, possibly from a relatively early age, coupled with intuition and the ability to be aware of others’ emotions. This high level of empathy may contribute significantly to draining your energy, and HSPs also have a wider possible range of emotional responses; some may present at the same time such as sadness/joy, anger/elation, or anxiety/anticipation. As a result, self-care is paramount for HSPs for effective functioning throughout life. Emotional Intensity will show in deeper, stronger, longer emotions; praise and criticism will affect you more. 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? Again, this aspect is highly individual.
So how do you check if you are a Highly Sensitive Person?
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:
Sensitivity Research also offers more recent tests for adults and children.
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.
I have continued to further my knowledge in this subject: in June 2018, I went to an international gathering attended by people from all over the world, which included a talk by Dr Elaine Aron via Zoom on the latest research. Following attending a course at the NCHS in Hampshire, I’ve been an HSP mentor since Oct 18.
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 an HSP can still be incorrectly labelled 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”.
High Sensation Seeking
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 (Sensitive Sensation Seekers): described by Dr Aron as: “one foot is on the brake, the other on the gas”. There are four main aspects, though you don’t need to be “high” in all of them: thrill and adventure seeking; experience & novelty seeking; disinhibition – outside societal norms; boredom susceptibility.
To check on high sensation seeking, try the test below:
I am a Highly Sensitive Person and High Sensation Seeker as well as a dad to a highly sensitive, high sensation seeking child. I continue to explore the world of the HSP and have had many hours of personal therapy.
Do please contact me – I am always happy to hear from you and to help you or refer you on as appropriate.
Face-to-face London 50 minutes £85;
Face-to-face Stroud 60 minutes £60
Online / Telephone 60 minutes £50;
Fees to be paid in advance by bank transfer.
I firmly believe that counselling should be accessible to all.
I offer some concessionary places for those on lower-income; please enquire for availability and cost.
David Wilson Counselling
Face-to-face – London & Stroud
Tel: 07421 046591 +44 7421 046591
Email [email protected]
Highly Sensitive Person
Albanian Shqip shumë i ndjeshëm
Basque Euskara Oso pertsona sentikorra
Belorussian Беларус чалавек вельмі адчувальны
Bosnian Bosanski Vrlo osjetljiva osoba
Bulgarian Български Много чувствителен човек
Catalan Català Persona altament sensible
Croatian Hrvatski Vrlo osjetljiva osoba
Czech Čeština Vysoce citlivá osoba
Danish Dansk Højt følsomme person
Dutch Nederlands Hoog Sensitief Persoon
Estonian Eesti Väga tundlik isik
Finnish Suomi Erittäin herkkä henkilö
French Français Une personne très sensible
German Deutsch Hochsensible Person
Greek Έλληνα Πολύ ευαίσθητο άτομο
Hebrew עברית אדם רגיש מאוד
Hungarian Magyar Nagyon érzékeny személy
Icelandic Íslenska Mjög viđkvaem manneskja
Italian Italiano persona molto sensibile
Latvian Latviešu Ļoti jūtīga persona
Luxembourgish Lëtzebuergesch Héich Sensibel Persoun
Lithuanian Lietuviška Labai jautrus žmogus
Macedonian Македонски Многу чувствителен човек
Maltese Persuna sensittiva ħafna
Norwegian Norsk Veldig følsom person
Polish Polski Wysoko wrażliwa osoba
Portugese Português Pessoa altamente sensível
Romanian Română Persoană foarte sensibilă
Russian Русский очень чувствительный человек
Serbian Српски веома осетљива особа
Slovak slovenský Vysoko citlivý človek
Slovenian Slovenščina Zelo občutljiva oseba
Spanish Español Persona altamente sensible
Swedish Svenska Högt känslig person
Turkish Türkçe çok hassas biri
Ukrainian Українська високочутлива людина
Welsh Cymraeg Person hynod sensitif
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