Who is a Highly Sensitive Person?
A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), or sometimes called having a Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), has a set of innate, genetic traits. HSPs comprise about 15-20% of the population. An HSP’s nervous system is wired differently. They experience stimuli (sights, sounds, touch, smells, and tastes) and emotions at a deep and intense level. Therefore, they are overwhelmed easily, have difficulty making decisions, detail-oriented, very observant, intuitive and generally self-aware. They tend to be “caretaker” types. Meaning, they can be very aware of the emotions and needs of others, but sometimes neglect themselves in putting others first.
High Sensitivity is not a weakness, but more of a trait that has both strengths and challenges. HSPs tend to take in a lot of information all at once, so it can feel overstimulating as they are processing so much at one time. But this same challenge can also be used to their advantage, since they pick up on nuances and notice subtleties that others might miss.
Our culture and society is usually not conducive to living as an HSP. But, by using their strengths to their advantage, having regular self-care and learning methods for emotional and physical regulation, HSPs can thrive. Having a psychotherapist that is familiar with and knowledgeable about these traits can help a person better understand themselves and identify what works best for managing their sensitivities.
Elaine Aron, a researcher and expert on HSPs, in her book Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, uses the acronym DOES. This acronym represents the various traits of an HSP, which have been described more above:
D-Depth of Processing
S-Sensory Stimuli/Sensitive to Subtleties
More info on evidence of the DOES traits: http://hsperson.com/faq/evidence-for-does/
Does this seem like it could fit for you, or maybe you’re not sure? Take the self-test to find out: http://hsperson.com/test/
If this sounds like you, and you want to learn more about the traits and yourself, how to harness these strengths and manage the challenges, contact me today to set up a consultation appointment!
I am currently in collaboration with Dr. Lourdes Viado in creating resources that are beneficial for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) who have experienced trauma. Lourdes is and another therapist who also specializes in HSPs with trauma and host of the Women In-Depth podcast (where we have our series of episodes about HSPs with Complex Trauma). We have developed a questionnaire in order to best understand what’s most helpful in developing resources for this specific population.
If this applies to you, and you’re interested in learning more about this topic, we would love to have you complete this survey. Your responses are anonymous unless you choose to provide that information. Please feel free to share the link with others.
Link to survey: https://forms.gle/bmWQrDNFJ8frXT6W9