About High Sensitivity
What does it mean to be Highly Sensitive?
Information about the Highly Sensitive Trait
It is part of our human nature to experience emotional ups and downs in response to the hurtful words and behaviours of others toward us. We’ve all faced conflict, rejection, embarrassment, disappointment or tragedy in some shape or form, and perhaps we felt sad, angry, fearful or extremely stressed out for a while. However, not everyone experiences these emotional ups and downs in the same way. Research has found that up to 20% of the general population, both males and females, are highly sensitive and they experience the emotional ups and downs of life with greater intensity.
The research of Dr Elaine Aron has helped develop our understanding of what it is to be highly sensitive, and it is her work that has inspired the work at SenseWell Psychology.
What does it mean to be “highly sensitive”?
High sensitivity is a normal, innate trait that has been confirmed through many studies that have called the trait “Sensory Processing Sensitivity”. Compared to the general population, a highly sensitive person might seem a little different.
According to Elaine Aron PhD, almost every highly sensitive person will experience these 4 facets:
Depth of Processing – processing emotional situations very deeply, giving careful and thorough analysis to decisions/tasks/situations sometimes to the point of being unable to decide or take action, showing excessive concern, over-thinking, being extremely conscientious, doing life on a deep level, may be considered insightful, valuing deeper meanings, seeking spirituality or philosopical enlightenment, pausing to check for danger before engaging, heightened threat alert etc.
Easily Overstimulated – nervousness, chronic stress, burned out, fatigued easily, trouble sleeping, low tolerance for sensory input, performance impaired due to stress, headaches, highly strung, avoidance of overstimulation, panic, life feels out of balance, need more down time than others to recover after being out or with people etc.
Emotional Intensity – strong emotional responses, highly anxious, concerned about emotional overreaction, reactive, negative feelings overwhelming, strong empathy for others, may have low self-esteem, cry easily, difficulty to settle, deep enjoyment of nature, the arts or the environment etc
Sensitive to Subtle Stimuli – reactive to environmental conditions, notice details and subtle changes in their surroundings, sensitive to a range of stimuli, fussy about food/fabric/comfort, additional stress due to conditions, low tolerance for high levels of input etc.
Extroversion and Sensation Seeking Sensitives
Elaine Aron PhD found in her research that a small minority (30%) of highly sensitive people were extroverted and sensation seeking. It was reported that they require greater downtime than their extroverted friends after being out engaging with high stimulation activities.
The Challenges of Being Highly Sensitive
For the highly sensitive person, living with these kinds of challenges can be intense, exhausting, depressing, uncomfortable or anxiety provoking. If you think that yourself or a member of your family may be highly sensitive, and there are problems in your life, please contact SenseWell for professional help. SenseWell aims to help highly sensitive people move past distress and into a place where life feels manageable and enjoyable.
Is “High Sensitivity” a disorder?
There is no specific “disorder” that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) published by the American Psychiatric Association for being "highly sensitive". This is because high sensitivity in itself is a normal, innate trait, present from birth that can be experienced positively. However, some highly sensitive people experience their trait as distressing and they may find that it interferes with their quality of life. There are also a range of symptoms across some mental disorders that point to or relate to high sensitivity. According to the DSM V description of disorders, if there is clinically significant distress for a person that impairs social, occupational and important areas of function, then it is possible that a person may have developed a mental disorder above their highly sensitive trait. .
It is important to understand that the highly sensitive trait:
• Can occur alongside a mental disorder, or
• Can be overstated as a mental disorder when it is a natural trait, or
• Can be understated as simply a trait when there is actually a mental disorder present.
Choose the right professional:
If you or one of your family members may be highly sensitive and are experiencing distress and problems, and/or if you suspect you may be suffering from a mental disorder, it is important to choose a professional that understands the high sensitivity trait and mental disorders.
Tanya has had therapy training and years of experience in providing psychological services for those suffering with a range of mental disorders including personality disorders, anxiety disorders, depression and a range of somatic problems, and many with the highly sensitive trait etc. The primary forms of therapy offered are person-centred Schema Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy and others.
SenseWell is endorsed as a highly sensitive aware practitioner, listed on Dr Elaine Aron’s Website. SenseWell is devoted to evidence-based best-practice for assisting distressed highly sensitive people or those with mental disorders, and have years of experience working with families in complex and crisis situations where mental illness is involved. Click here to make an appointment.
Disclaimer: the information on this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.