Internal Family Systems | Hypnotherapy
PolyVAGAL INFORMED | Highly sensitive person
offering online sessions
“Spend enough time putting yourself out there in the world – your sensitivity is not something to be feared” Elaine Aron
Could you be a highly sensitive person?
Being highly sensitive is not a disorder, it is a genetic trait. HSP’s may be used to people telling them they are too sensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended or unable to take a joke. This is a misunderstanding of the trait of high sensitivity and something people may say if they do not understand what constitutes being a HSP. Your uniqueness is not a weakness. Here we encourage and nourish all diversity. Being highly sensitive can be a gift to share with the world.
Sensitive people have MANY gifts to share with the world such as:
If you really relate to being a HSP, but feel like you are alone the research tells us otherwise. There are many HSP’s in the world. You are not alone!
According to research approximately 15 – 20% of the population could be described as being a highly sensitive person (HSP). As previously mentioned high sensitivity is not a mental illness or disorder, but a genetic heritable trait, something people are born with. It is also a trait found in over 100 species of animals. Highly sensitive people score highly in sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) associated with perceiving things more intensely than other people. The trait occurs across cultures and is found equally among males and females. There is an overlap with introversion, however up to 30% of HSP’s are extroverts.
High sensitivity has four key components:
Depth of Processing – HSP’s reflect a lot and may take longer than others to make decisions. They notice more and make connections between the information they take in. They think deeply about things and also process things more deeply.
Overstimulation – Highly sensitive people tend to notice a lot more things in their environment and take in more information. They can become more easily overwhelmed by noise, smells, chaotic situations, busy environments and stress. They may need more downtime to recover from highly stimulating situations and environments.
Emotional Responsiveness / Empathy – HSP’s have strong emotional reactions and experience the highs and lows of life more intensely. Areas of their brains associated with empathy are more active than those of less sensitive people. They are often in tune with other peoples emotions which helps them to be very empathetic. This can make them more prone to empathic distress and burnout. Research has found that compassion based training can be very effective to help to prevent this.
Sensitivity to Subtle Stimuli – Highly sensitive people tend to notice subtleties in the environment that other people do not. They may be more sensitive to sounds, taste, smell and touch.
According to Elaine Aron, the leading HSP researcher, highly sensitive people can thrive under the following five conditions:
“Finally, being sensitive to the discomfort, disapproval or anger of others probably made you quick to follow every rule as perfectly as possible, afraid to make a mistake” — Elaine Aron
Are highly sensitive people more susceptible to trauma?
HSP’s have more sensitive and finely tuned nervous systems making us more susceptible to suffering the effects of trauma. While we can thrive and flourish more than non HSP’s would in supportive environments we are more likely to experience PTSD after a traumatic event in non HSP supportive environments. Highly sensitive people are more vulnerable to being traumatised by difficult experiences if we lack safety, nurturing and emotional support. This is especially true during childhood. If a highly sensitive child experiences emotional neglect, abuse, a lack of nurturing and secure attachment, chronic criticism, abandonment, mentally ill, addicted or emotionally absent caregivers or caregivers who couldn’t respond to the child’s sensitivity in a way that made them feel understood, safe and validated then this can greatly contribute to low self esteem, depression, anxiety and complex trauma.
It is possible to thrive as a HSP, but if like so many others you experienced a lack of understanding, emotional validation, nurturing, safety or HSP informed support you may recognise some of the symptoms of complex trauma such as overwhelming intense emotional reactions, low self esteem, self criticism, perfectionism, chronic fear of conflict, social anxiety, depression, generalised anxiety and shame.
Highly sensitive people can thrive and flourish, however many people, especially HSP’s can go a long time without understanding how unhealed complex trauma may be contributing to their symptoms of overwhelm. In my work I have come to understand the connection between high sensitivity, emotional abuse and neglect and complex trauma. Many HSP’s may be suffering the effects of trauma and do not know it.
If you’re reading this and you are a HSP who believes you may be struggling with trauma, this is a huge realisation and there is hope! Now the healing can commence to enable you to go on and to thrive as a highly sensitive person. The first step is to recognise that you have trauma, it wasn’t your fault, you’re not alone and that there is support out there for you. It can be important to work with a therapist who understands the trait of high sensitivity and that can provide the right supportive environment to facilitate healing. Healing from trauma is possible, whilst learning to accept and cherish your sensitivity as a gift to yourself and to the world.
Here is a really helpful and informative podcast to learn more about being a HSP living with and healing complex trauma – Complex Trauma and the Highly Sensitive Person’ by Lourdes Viado
As a HSP therapist I would be honoured to support you on your healing journey. To find out more about how I can support you please visit my homepage and the ‘about me’, ‘training and qualifications’ and ‘how I work sections’ towards the middle and bottom of the page. You can also call or email me for more information and for a free consultation.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron
Complex PTSD from Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker
Sensitivity & HSP Research