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Maybe people tell you that you're too sensitive. Perhaps loud noises like sirens or car alarms can wreak havoc on your inner peace. You may get overwhelmed in large crowds, or standing in line at stores. How about when the cashier is rude to you? This could potentially ruin your day, or at least part of it. Most likely, you are an HSP. A Highly Sensitive Person.

A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a neurodivergent individual who is thought to have an increased or deeper central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. Some refer to this as having sensory processing sensitivity, or SPS for short.

While highly sensitive people are sometimes negatively described as being “too sensitive," it is a personality trait that brings both strengths and challenges.

The term highly sensitive person was first coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron in the mid-1990s. Elaine Aron published her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person," in 1996, and interest in the concept has continued to grow since then.

Do you find it difficult to leave your home at times, or even to get out of the car? It's not easy to step out of the safety and comfort to face the harshness of the real world. It is important to remember that there is no official highly sensitive person diagnosis, and being an HSP does not mean that you have a mental illness. High sensitivity is a personality trait that involves increased responsiveness to both positive and negative influences.

High sensitivity applies across a few different categories. There are several traits or characteristics common to HSPs, according to the researchers who identified this personality trait:

  • Avoiding violent movies or TV shows because they feel too intense and leave you feeling unsettled.

  • Being deeply moved by beauty, either expressed in art, nature, or the human spirit, or sometimes even a good commercial.

  • Being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli like noisy crowds, bright lights, or uncomfortable clothing

  • Feeling a need for downtime (not just a preference), especially when you have hectic days; needing to retreat to a dark, quiet room.

  • Having a rich and complex inner life, complete with deep thoughts and strong feelings that go with them.

20% of the population are HSP's, so even if you don't think that you are highly sensitive, it would be good to be aware of these factors in case you encounter someone who is.

What makes a person highly sensitive likely depends on a variety of factors such as evolution, environment, genetics, and early childhood experiences.

High sensitivity exists in at least 100 other species aside from humans. Research suggests that high sensitivity is an evolutionary trait that increases the likelihood of survival because HSPs are on the lookout for potential predators or dangerous situations. Of course, constantly being on guard when there aren't any immediate threats often results in anxiety.

Research also shows that a lack of parental warmth growing up may cause a child to develop high sensitivity and carry this trait into adulthood. The same goes for negative early childhood experiences. If you experienced trauma as a child, you may be more likely to become an HSP as an adult.

Genetics may contribute to high sensitivity. Specifically, the dopamine system may play a role. It affects personality and may make some people more prone than others to becoming highly sensitive. High sensitivity is also hereditary.

There is a higher chance that you will be highly sensitive if high sensitivity runs in your family.

In addition, a person's genes may evolve in response to negative early experiences, making them more susceptible to becoming an HSP.

You still have great value, it's just unique. Being an HSP comes with both advantages and challenges. It is possible to be too easily offended by people who mean no harm or who are trying their best to be kind. It is also possible to overreact to daily stressors or relationship issues, particularly if you become emotionally aggressive as a response.

However, being an HSP doesn’t necessarily mean that you imagine negative motives when they are not there. It is more that you perceive them more easily. Or, you may be affected more deeply by negative experiences, which is not necessarily a weakness.

Some of the ways that being an HSP might impact your life include:

  • You might avoid situations that leave you feeling overwhelmed. Highly sensitive people may be more affected by certain situations such as tension, violence, and conflict, which may lead them to avoid things that make them feel uncomfortable.

  • You might be highly touched by beauty or emotionality. Highly sensitive people tend to feel deeply moved by the beauty they see around them. They may cry while watching particularly heartwarming videos.

  • You may have close relationships with others. HSPs care deeply about their friends and tend to form deep bonds with people. Again, the empathy that a highly sensitive person brings to the table is a powerful tool for being a supportive friend and loved one.

  • You may be grateful for the life you have. Highly sensitive people appreciate a fine wine, a good meal, or a beautiful song on a level that most people can't access. They may feel more existential angst, but they also may feel more gratitude for what they have in life, knowing that it is possibly fleeting and nothing is certain.

A major benefit of being an HSP is the ability to empathize. Empathy is a tool that can promote strong relationships and a deeply fulfilling emotional life. Of course, it's important to differentiate between your feelings and others' feelings.

At VIBES Lifestyle we enjoy curating content that would be very soothing and relaxing for Highly Sensitive People. Please check out our Inspired Living YouTube Channel for ASMR, nature videos and more!


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