The Highly Sensitive Person

The Lovely Stars was a holistic lifestyle blog created by Samantha Roberts, operating from 2014 to 2016. Writing on a wide range of alternative health topics, The Lovely Stars encouraged readers to live naturally, authentically, and creatively.

Originally published May 22, 2015


A recent article published by the Wall Street Journal brought attention to an often overlooked population: Highly Sensitive Persons or HSPs.

HSPs are individuals with an innate, permanent personality trait that veers toward heightened sensory processing sensitivity. This trait has been confirmed genetically, as well as through the use of brain research.

The article goes on to explain:

Today, several hundred research studies, from brain scans to genetic analyses, have been done on topics related to high sensitivity. They have found that high sensitivity may occur on a spectrum, just like many other personality traits. It isn’t the same as introversion, although HSPs find the need to withdraw from social interactions or stimuli when their brains get overwhelmed.

Brain-scan studies of HSPs show differences in their neural activity, compared with non-HSPs: HSPs are more empathic, pay closer attention to their environment and are more attentive to social clues from their close friends and partners.

While being observant and empathic can definitely be beneficial, all of this sensitivity can also lead to overstimulation. Additionally, it can result in the individual feeling easily hurt or offended, or frequently overreacting to situations.

If you are interested in finding out if you are a highly sensitive person, you can take this test. Please note that this test is not a formal diagnosis.

I took the test, and answered affirmatively to 26 out of 27 questions – indicating that yes, I am a highly sensitive individual (the question that I declined was concerned propensity to carefully plan to avoid mistakes; however, I tend to lean much heavier toward cavalier than perfectionist, so I did not mark this item ‘true’).

I had always suspected this, considering that I am often described as shy, I am overwhelmed very easily, and I often prefer the quiet solitude of home. Also, I am known to have an exaggerated startle response, cry easily, am extremely empathic, and get rattled when I have a lot on my plate.

As I’ve discussed before, self knowledge is an integral step toward growth and evolution. How can you expect to thrive if you don’t understand the fundamentals of who are you as a person?

Using this information, I can hope to find ways to better regulate my emotions and responses to my environment.

I become aggravated and overwhelmed easily by overstimulating scenarios, and put a lot of energy into trying to avoid those sorts of situations. Often, those that are closest to me become frustrated by my high level of sensitivity, especially when it presents as being irritated or overwhelmed. By understanding the issue clearly, I can apply practical advice to help me stay calm and centered when I become overstimulated.

Additionally, I can also help my loved ones by directing them toward some advice, like this article from Thought Catalog. Though this is extremely generalized, a few tips that really stood out to me:

  1. Speak softly when standing close to them. Too much noise is really painful for them. While they may have energy for certain loud activities, they can’t always keep up when those around them are loud. Just remember to use your indoor voice!
  2. Sensitives aren’t chronic complainers! The world is really overwhelming. Don’t label them or try to tell them that we’re being a pain in the ass. They are irritated by things easily, and are pretty honest about it.
  3. Sensitives love really intense art. Don’t be shocked if they enjoy painting nude people for hours. It’s a way of healing, not a way of being provocative. Art is spiritual, entertaining, and calming for them. Try to accept it, rather than telling them that their weekly change in hair color is unusual. It’s a way of being, that deserves no stop.
  4. It’s normal for them to disappear for a few days. Sensitives need time to enjoy their own inner lives. They might be really fun to hang out with, and may host a really fun party here and there. Afterwards, they’ll resort to a few days with very little human interaction. It’s fine if they do, and it’s necessary. If they say no to a really fun plan, it just may be that they are enjoying one of their quiet days.
  5. They need to be the one to plan their own day. Some will be more rigid about today’s plan, and other HSP’s will just ‘play by ear.’ do not try to tell them they need to do more everyday, or that they need to slow down their lives and relax.
  6. Sensitive people are very observant, and are not judgmental in the slightest. Let them make observations. This is how they make sense of the world around them. Sometimes it’s easier for them to let go of what others think of them, and to think of those around them. They may love to read articles about certain groups of people online, and it’s necessary for them. They need answers to their curiosity. Especially since they are so in tune with other people’s emotions.
  7. If you live with them try to clean up after your messes. Messy environments are irritating for even non­-sensitive people. So imagine how much they drive the highly sensitive person insane.
  8. If you work with them, don’t try to chat with them while they are really focused on a project. These people focus best when they are in tune with their own thoughts. Instead give a warning that you would like to discuss the project with them at some point in the day.

 


 

Did you find this post useful? Do you have anyone in your life that could benefit from reading about HSPs? If so, be sure to share. Also, I’d love to read about your experiences, so leave me a comment!

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WRITTEN BY:

Samantha Roberts is an artist and writer currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. She is a lover of foggy mornings, yin yoga, Bukowski, and The Cure.

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