Highly Sensitive People (HSP) 101
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Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) tend to feel things deeply, overthink topics, get overwhelmed easily, are highly empathetic, and notice small changes in expressions and environment. HSPs are more common than you might think.
This personality trait affects around 20% of the world’s population. Men and women are affected equally. Being an HSP is genetic and the good news is we can learn to adapt to our surroundings. Dr. Elaine Aron spearheaded this concept of being an HSP in the 1990s and explains it with the following acronym DOES.
- Depth of Processing
- Empathy (high)
- Sensitive to Subtleties
If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person you may:
- Pick up on tiny differences or changes
- Find that you’re more in tune with your emotions
- Prefer deep conversations
- Notice that you’re more affected by stress than others around you
- Consider yourself creative
- Have trouble with burnout
- Experience empathy for others deeply
- Need more downtime or extra time to transition out of situations
- Feel criticism intensely
How to Thrive as an HSP
- Learn how to recognize your emotions and know they’re temporary
- Manage stress by exercising regularly, sleeping well, and confiding in trusted friends or a therapist about your concerns
- Let friends, co-workers, and family members know that you become over-stimulated in loud environments
- Direct kindness toward yourself instead of self-criticism
- Get fresh air and change the scenery around you
As a fellow HSP, I lived most of my life not knowing why I was so sensitive to the world around me, thinking something was wrong with me. Then I learned about this trait a few years ago and it’s helped my understanding of my environment, interactions with others, and allowed me to set better boundaries for myself. A few personal things I do as an HSP to set boundaries are not going to certain places or being in situations that will be too intense for me, like a loud punk rock concert. If I do experience overstimulation, I make sure I breathe through it, journal about it, and process it, later on, that evening before I go to sleep.
Check out this learning program guidebook made specifically for highly sensitive people!
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From Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1996). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(2), 345–368. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1995
Acevedo, B., Aron, E., Pospos, S., & Jessen, D. (2018). The functional highly sensitive brain: A review of the brain circuits underlying sensory processing sensitivity and seemingly related disorders. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1744), 20170161. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0161
Acevedo, B. P., Aron, E. N., Aron, A., Sangster, M. D., Collins, N., & Brown, L. L. (2014). The highly sensitive brain: An fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others’ emotions. Brain and Behavior, 4(4), 580–594. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.242