What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a personality or brain trait coined by Psychologist and researcher, Elain Aron who is an HSP herself. The HSP trait is neither negative nor positive. Being HSP has some gifts and it has some considerations for living in a world that is typically not designed for people with this trait. About 15-20 percent of people are HSPs and this trait has even been found in over 100 species of animals. HSPs are sometimes confused with being introverted as HSPs often need time alone to recharge and reset, however about 30% of HSPs are extroverts and in most cases are also high sensation seeking (HSS). These HSP types like unique experiences. Some HSPs get just as anxious from being understimulated as they do from being overstimulated and finding the happy medium can be challenging.
The HSP brain type has been studied via Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). In this case, this means taking 3D pictures of the brain while the HSP people and non HSP people are given a task to focus on. They discovered that people with the trait tend to have brains that pick up on more information and therefore have more information to process through. This led them to understanding why HSPs need more time to process information, they are actually processing more! fMRI studies have also been done where HSPs and non-HSPs are shown emotional images and researchers found that HSPs had increased brain activity compared to non-HSPs when processing the emotions of others .
Common HSP Traits:
Being HSP is normal and innate and is not often understood by the majority. There are many HSPs out there that don’t even know about the trait. Depending on whether the culture you grew up in valued sensitivity, you might feel valued and cherished or you might have low self esteem as a result of being judged about “being sensitive,” so you might not feel like it’s ok to be who you are.
The Highly Sensitive Person is not a formal diagnosis. It’s a trait that is a spectrum that some identify with and others do not. Knowing that you have particular HSP traits can help you better navigate the world knowing that it’s normal and you have specific needs and considerations in order to navigate life.
Would you like to learn more about being an HSP? Contact Empathic Heart Counselling here to book a complementary 15min consultation where you can ask questions and see if one of our counsellors would be a good fit for you!