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According to Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, 15-20% of people are highly sensitive people (HSPs). That is a huge number: as many as 1 billion people or more on the planet!

There are different words to describe highly sensitive people. In her book, Psychotherapy And The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Aron says that “highly sensitive”, “sensitive: and “sensory processing sensitivity” are interchangeable words and terms for the highly sensitive trait and they are used in that way on this site.

HSPs are different in many ways:

  • they often see what others miss
  • their deep processing skills help them see a need for change, or a tipping
    point before others do. HSPs can be process oriented.
  • HSPs are holistic thinkers. They have a big picture perspective and therefore
    uniquely constructive solutions to problems.
  • HSPs are also people who notice patterns and therefore how to change them,
    contributing in important ways to the evolution of the human race.

In our highly complex world, highly sensitive people are not only important but increasingly necessary if we want a world that works. They have the ability and experience of sorting through all sorts of conflicting and complex information – a skill that our complex world needs.

HSPs are also people who notice patterns and therefore how to change them, contributing in important ways to the evolution of the human race.

The Perspective Of Highly Sensitive People

HSP sensitivity makes them empathetic toward others. As a result, highly sensitive people have a natural transpersonal perspective and a preference for collaborative processes over adversarial ones.

Highly sensitive people are natural visionaries, peacemakers, creatives and humanitarians. One of an HSP’s greatest needs is to treasure their health so that they may play their important role in human life.

HSP Biology

The highly sensitive trait is thought to be transferred through the parents genes which give a person a nervous system that takes in all the stimulus around them. The sensory processing challenges that highly sensitive people face can create chronic overstimulation and serious health problems for HSPs.

The highly sensitive person can find themselves overwhelmed or uncomfortable around:

  • bright lights
  • noise
  • uncomfortable fabrics
  • touch
  • electromagnetic devices
  • crowds
  • noisy, frenetic social situations
  • modern entertainment especially entertainment with violence.

Implications Of Highly Sensitive Biology

Since daily life requires more mental and physical processing for an HSP than others and because HSPs pick up more stimuli than others, HSPs must be mindful about the mental workload that they take on. Furthermore, because highly sensitive people are more right brained than left brained (holistic rather than compartmentalized) in their mental processing they work much harder to process the inputs of our left-brained world.

The hyperstimulated culture of the modern consumer society is difficult for HSPs because it magnifies the amount of physical and mental  processing for an HSP’s mental and physical system.

Highly sensitive people have to develop an approach to all forms of stimulus that lets them function in an optimal way. Otherwise the highly sensitive person can become ill and dysfunctional.

Highly Sensitive People And Stress

In 1999, the groundbreaking work of Elaine Aron raised awareness of the highly sensitive person as a different type of person.

Unfortunately many people do not yet self identify as an HSP, since knowledge about HSPs is still new.

As a result, many highly sensitive people suffer for many years if not all of their lives, trying to fit into a culture that does not recognize them or provide the support or treatment they need.

Long term unacknowledged needs for HSPs can lead to additional stress and contribute to immune and other
disorders.

What this difference in arousability means is that you notice levels of
stimulation that go unobserved by others. This is true whether we are talking
about subtle sounds, sights, or physical sensations like pain… Elaine Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person

Other Sensitives

Dr. Aron’s work is foundational for understanding the highly sensitive person. Others are researching different aspects of sensitivity as well.

Dr. Michael Smith in his Empath’s Toolkit estimates that roughly 25% of highly sensitive people are empaths: people who are always on to the energy of others as he describes it. David Richey is one of the researchers in this area of sensitivity. He developed a lengthy questionnaire to understand the anomalously sensitive person, his name for the empath characteristics he investigated as detailed in his book, The H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P. Understanding the Anomalously Sensitive Person. David’s research is focused on empath and psychic experiences of sensitive people. His work explores the brain and biochemical anomalies of the anomalously sensitive as well as some of the unique talents and the complex biology of these sensitives. His important research has also detailed some genetic and stress disorders that can affect some sensitive people.

HSP Health Challenge

A thorough understanding of what it means to be a sensitive person along with a good plan for handling the demands of a sensitive, overtaxed nervous system is the beginning of quality of life for the highly sensitive person.