The Highly Sensitive Person

Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP, is a term coined by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron’s theory, HSPs are a subset of the population who are high in a personality trait known as sensory-processing sensitivity, or SPS. Those with high levels of SPS display increased emotional sensitivity, stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli—pain, hunger, light, and noise—and a complex inner life. Overall, about 15 to 20 percent of the population are thought to be highly sensitive.

HSPs may come across as shy, aloof or moody and suffer from low self esteem. They are thought to be more disturbed than others by violence, tension, or feelings of being overwhelmed. They may, as a result, make concerted efforts to avoid situations in which such things are likely to occur. On the more positive end of the trait, high sensitivity is thought to be linked to higher levels of intelligence, intuition, creativity, richer personal relationships, and a greater appreciation for beauty.

Am I a highly sensitive person?

If you react strongly to criticism, become physically and emotionally overstimulated more easily than others do, and have a rich inner life, you may score highly in sensory processing sensitivity. You may also feel as if you have a higher capacity for empathy and are quite sensitive to others’ moods.

 

Is high sensitivity a disorder?

According to Aron’s conception of high sensitivity, it isn’t a mental health disorder; rather, it is defined, like other aspects of personality, as a trait that exists in each person to varying degrees.

 

Is there a treatment for high sensitivity?

There is no specific treatment recommended for high sensitivity, as it is conceptualized as a personality trait rather than a disorder. However, since the trait often comes with emotional or interpersonal challenges—and may co-occur with anxiety and depression—HSPs may find talk therapy useful for their overall well-being.

 

How can I cope with stress as a highly sensitive person?

Self-care is critical for HSPs, particularly when faced with stressful situations. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and planning for decompression time can all be useful strategies. Talking to a therapist cope with heightened emotional responses to stress can also help an HSP 

 

Like all personality traits, there are pros and cons to being highly sensitive. With proper support and recognition of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, HSPs can set up environments in which they can thrive.

For further information:

www.sensitivityresearch.com

www.hspperson.com

UKCP Registered Psychotherapist in Training

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© 2018 by Blair William.