Highly sensitive person? HSP?
Is that really a thing? Or is this just another self help scam?
Why haven’t I heard of high sensitivity before?
Why doesn’t my doctor know about it?
And if it’s so common, why don’t I know any other HSPs?
When you first find out that you might be a highly sensitive person, these are just a few of the questions that might be running around your mind. Like, is this legit? Is high sensitivity really a thing?
I think it’s healthy to have a bit of skepticism whenever you are introduced to new concepts, but these kinds of doubts can also hold you back if they are keeping you from embracing your nature and seeking alignment.
So I’d like to offer you a bit of reassurance.
Yes, high sensitivity really is a thing! 😊 About 20 percent of people are born with a nervous system that is more sensitive to stimuli than other people’s nervous systems. Stimulation is anything that wakes up one’s nervous system, so it’s easier to get a “rise” out of an HSP’s nervous system than a non-HSP’s.
HSPs are more sensitive to:
- Sensory stimuli like lights, sounds, smells, and touch.
- Social stimuli like meeting new people or receiving criticism.
- Emotional stimuli like our own and other people’s feelings.
We are also more sensitive to stressors. Our nervous systems release cortisol and turn on the fight-or-flight response from less provocation than non-HSPs’ nervous systems.
There are two ways to “prove” to yourself that high sensitivity really is a thing:
- When you read descriptions of highly sensitive people, it all sounds awfully familiar, right? All of your life, you have felt like you are more sensitive than most other people, right? So there you have it. You are allowed to trust your own experience. 😊
- There has also been scientific research studying this temperament trait. You can find summaries of this research on the websites below:
Why don’t more people know about high sensitivity?
If 20 percent of people are highly sensitive, that’s a lot of people! So why isn’t this common knowledge?
Well, I don’t know for sure, but here are my theories:
- There is an insane amount of information in the world and new scientific discoveries are coming out faster than anybody can keep up with. There are so many things to know, we can each only internalize bits and pieces.
- The research that has been conducted on high sensitivity so far has not been one unified effort. There are several separate strands of research lead by various research teams using various terminology. Instead of referring to “high sensitivity”, research studies on this topic talk about sensory processing sensitivity, biological sensitivity to context, differential susceptibility, or vantage sensitivity.
- In the past (and to this day), people have used a medley of words to describe certain aspects of high sensitivity, without connecting the dots that what they are seeing is a result of an inborn trait with both positives and negatives. So people have been called shy, timid, slow to warm-up, introverted, neurotic, high maintenance, and so on, but most people haven’t caught on to the science behind why people appear this way and are using these terms in a culturally biased way.
- And finally… While this isn’t a universal rule, most of Western medicine is focused on treating symptoms with medications and procedures. Most of Western medicine is not focused on addressing the root causes of mental and physical illness. So when an HSP goes to the doctor due to a stress-related mental or physical problem, most doctors will prescribe medications to treat the symptoms. They have not been trained to look for the underlying causes of illness – ie. the fact that some people are more vulnerable to stress than others. And the fact that if HSPs don’t take special care to control their stress levels, that makes them more vulnerable to disease.
WHERE ARE ALL THE OTHER HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE HIDING?
They are hiding in plain sight! Believe me, once you start looking, you’ll find HSPs everywhere. It’s just that most of us have learned to hide our sensitivity and do our best to blend in with the majority.
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