Depth of processing is a valuable characteristic for a sensitive person. When HSPs receive information, they take all that, although it may be daunting, places the sensitive person in touch with nature and life. It is a trait that encourages sensitive people’s ability to be visionaries and seers.

The ability to process information more thoroughly is at the root of high sensitivity. Highly sensitive people (HSP) simply absorb information, connect and equate what they find with their experience. If we decide to take the decision without understanding why, we call it intuition. The highly sensitive are strong in their intuition. Jadzia Jagiellowicz’s research found that the highly sensitive use more parts of the brain correlated with “deeper” information processing, especially on tasks involving the detection of subtleties. A study also found that HSPs have more activity in a part of the brain called the insula, a part that makes us aware of our inner states and feelings, body position, and outer events from moment to moment. This part is also called the seat of consciousness.. If we are all aware of what’s going on inside and outside, that’s exactly what one would expect.

There is also a downside: highly sensitive people may feel overwhelmed by so much information. Deep processing has a major impact on a HSP’s decision style. They often cannot move forward until they feel satisfied that they thought through all the possible calculations, consequences, and context of their decision: “What will this mean? What might that mean?” The sheer volume of questions can overwhelm them. Not only do sensitive people try to process everything they receive; they also try to view information in a more holistic point of view to develop a better understanding of the information they receive. HSPs find themselves often in the role of therapist for others in pain. They liked to be needed, and they become satisfied on how much they can help with attentive listening and empathy. It’s a means of being at the same time conscientious and productive. 

Depth of processing is an important and beneficial skill of highly sensitive people. This trait slows us down that is not always appreciated and acknowledged, but it is worth respecting.

Highly sensitive people are quickly overwhelmed by over-stimulation (including external stimulation) or have learned their lesson to escape more stressful circumstances than others do. They may notice every detail in a situation. A study by Friederike Gerstenberg compared sensitive and non-sensitive people on a task of deciding whether a T turned in different ways was hidden among many Ls turned on a computer screen in different ways. After doing the task, HSPs were faster and more precise, but also more stressed than others. If the situation involves many things to remember, becomes noisy, or is long (as in a two-hour commute), they may wear it out earlier from having to do and see so much.

Nevertheless, high sensitivity is not about being disturbed by elevated stimuli levels, although this happens naturally when too much surrounds us. Be careful not to mix being an HSP with another problematic condition: sensory discomfort can be a sign of disorder called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) due to sensory processing problems rather than having unusually good sensory processing sensitivity.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is the quality that makes a person highly sensitive (HSP). It is a genetic characteristic with which some people have from birth. The nervous system of the person is extremely sensitive to any stimulus — including external stimuli from the world and other individuals, as well as internal stimulation such as feelings and intense thinking about a situation. They pay more attention to subtle facial expressions.

An HSP, or someone with SPS, actually absorbs, or experiences more intensely, more information than the average person. SPS means you feel more deeply than other people, which can be both a blessing and difficult at times. As a result: you do things other people don’t do. Because your nervous system constantly absorbs so much information, you can get over-stimulated and exhausted, especially in high-stimulus settings. As a result, SPS is regarded as a normal, neutral feature. People with SPS are healthy HSPs. You have a slightly different experience of the world than people without that characteristic.

On the other hand, individuals with sensory processing disorder process information in a way that becomes mixed up. Being an HSP with SPS is healthy and advantageous and makes the person more unique.

HSPs have more active mirror neurons responsible for other empathy and more activity in emotionally sensitive areas than non-HSPs. HSPs feel more emotions and often absorb other people’s emotions. They exhibit intense empathy, often sensing those around them’s emotions and needs (which can cause them to slip into a “fix it” mode that can be off-putting). HSPs are considered to have a strong connection to art, music, theatre, nature, animals, stories, and books.

There is evidence that HSPs respond more to both positive and negative interactions, but a series of studies performed by Jadzia Jagiellowicz showed that HSPs responded more than non-HSPs to positive pictures. If they had a good childhood, this was even more real. Throughout her brain studies, this response to positive images was observed in “higher” areas of thinking and perception, in some of the same areas as those found in the deep-processing brain studies. The greater response to positive images strengthened even more by a successful childhood is in accordance with Michael Pluess and Jay Belsky’s new concept of “vantage responsiveness” that they have built in order to emphasize the unique potentiality to positive circumstances and treatments of sensitive people.

E is Also for Empathy

In a study by Bianca Acevedo, sensitive individuals demonstrated increased activation in the insula, but also decreased activity in their mirror neuron system, especially when looking at the happy faces of loved ones. Their brains show more engagement in areas that indicate responsiveness even more than in areas that require empathy. Overall, though, brain activity showing empathy in HSPs was higher than non-HSPs when looking at facial photos showing strong emotions of any kind. This research is important because HSPs are often considered as people-pleasers or codependents. Given their normal brain activity around happiness and sadness, they will want to comfort those around them who are depressed. Sadly, this innate instinct is not always understood, so unscrupulous people can take advantage of it. HSPs also need to be aware that their energy and energy draining situations need to be managed. So there are limitations to what can be achieved by a sensitive person. It is a wise decision often to let others solve their own problems.

An HSP goes to a party. They notice that recently something has been washed in this room– they smell a strong hint of pungent detergent that’s really disturbing, combined with the fragrance of that person’s cologne! Their pupils feel really uncomfortable with the fluorescent lights. They might find that a person gives off a standoffish vibe: maybe that person had a fight with someone. They see another person not feeling comfortable standing up. They observe that they want to sit down–they seem to be quite tired. Disappointed with some of the people in the room, an HSP may go and stand next to someone else that looks pretty friendly but not too loud. However, a non-HSP might see all the people at the party and then they may have no problem mingling and starting a conversation with a person or two.

In endless ways, from the simple pleasures of eating and tasting different food to responding strategically on the basis of our consciousness to nonverbal signals (that others have no idea they are giving off) about their current mood or reliability, an HSP’s knowledge about subtleties is useful. An HSP’s nervous system is more sensitive coming in via our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing. HSPs pick up on subtle details that others miss (like little changes in our surroundings, or non-verbal cues from other people, etc.).  They are also more impacted by sensory input like strong smells, bright lights, loud noises (intense startle responses are common), itchy fabrics, hot or cold temperatures, and hunger. On the other hand, of course, when an HSP is stressed out, they may be the least mindful of anything, subtle or disgusting, except their need for a rest.

The term for high sensitivity is “sensory sensitivity processing,” when the central nervous system is more sensitive to physical, social, and emotional stimuli. Most studies about HSPs show that highly sensitive people can sense the most subtle details.HSPs process sensory information more thoughtfully rather than feeling any physical effects on their bodies. The brain areas that are more involved as experienced by sensitive people are those that make sensory information more complex. Not so much the areas that by their shape recognize alphabet letters or even read words, but the areas that capture the subtle meaning of words. 

However, many consider this sensitivity to be a gift towards enjoying the finer things in life from the sounds of birds to the first rays of morning sunlight. Rather than it being a negative, all aspects of a HSP can be considered gifts in this fast-paced world.

Highly sensitive people are intelligent, receptive and can quickly be overwhelmed. High sensitivity is a marvelous trait, but with a few difficulties. One issue is setting boundaries.

What Are Good Boundaries?

Boundaries are solid and productive. They do not create walls, which shut people out and are not so fluid at the expense of each other. Good borders create positive reciprocity. Every person and situation are unique, and the boundaries must work for every person. Nonetheless, they include a willingness to work constructively on solving problems and a determination to see what happens in both sides. Healthy boundaries often respect all people.

3 Ways Highly Sensitive People Can Set Boundaries

1. Be More Open

We observe what others need before they say anything because of the great ability to empathize and the capability to understand subtle social signals. We may expect that others are equally aware of our needs.  But not everyone has our own gift of intuition, so it is useful to remember that we might need to approach things more directly.  Instead of hinting or suggesting something or saying “no” next time, talk openly.

2. Communicate at Your Time

It is difficult to handle everything we see and hear fully at the same pace as the non-HSPs.  Even though your colleagues and your friends expect you to respond to emails and text messages throughout the day, you must set limits to prevent it from burning out. In order to give yourself time to decompress throughout the day, you must establish boundaries for your communication with others. 

3. Agree on Your Own Terms

Boundaries doesn’t always mean “no.” If you want to respond to a request but are too fatigued or exhausted at this moment, say “yes” on your own terms. You can offer it to someone a couple of available times and/or inform someone for some quiet time to think about it. Pause before you answer your question means that your brain has time to process the request and increases the probability that your response suits your needs.

It may be hard to determine goals and prioritize as a highly sensitive person, but these disciplines of self-care is necessary to reduce fatigue, fear, and exhaustion.  Setting limits on communication to help you manage your levels of energy and communicate more deeply with the important people will make you become clearer about your desires to say “yes” to your own terms.

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Having a highly sensitive partner is a rare gift, but if you know how to make them feel at home with you. Here are some useful ways to help your partner become more open and understood by you.

1. Be patient for their response.

Highly sensitive people have vibrant inner worlds with many thoughts going on in their mind.  When you are waiting for a decision from them, do your best to be patient. Their minds are busy, and they may need some time than most.

2. Give them space for quiet time, alone time, or less stimulating time.

Assure your highly sensitive partner that you would be happy to prioritize their sensitivity.

You can soothe your stressed partner after a busy week by asking whether they want to meditate or go to bed early. Let them know that you understand their needs and that you want to share their unique world experience. If a highly sensitive person feels and hopes that they are safe with you, they let you into their soul’s richness and beauty.

3. Redecorate your home in a calmer way.

You can redecorate your home environment for your partner, knowing that your environment can easily overwhelm your partner. Put pillows and blankets draped gently on sofas and beds. Install dimmer switches for your lights. If you can, invest in soundproofing your walls if you live in a boisterous neighborhood or have loud neighbors.

The less stimulating the environment is, the better your partner feels. They can let down their guard and be there with you.

4. Be with them for when they feel overstimulated.

In some situations, your very sensitive partner may become over-stimulated to the point that verbal communication is difficult.

You and your partner can work together to create a signal, which may be massively beneficial. It might be a secret sign of peace, or your partner puts their hands on their ears. Whichever signal you choose, make sure that it makes sense to the both of you and that the signal is accepted when it is used.

You can also be present with them in a quiet room during a noisy party or even leave early when they become tired and overwhelmed.

Because HSPs don’t feel like they fit in the real world (due to modern life not being welcoming to the highly sensitive), you become much more appreciated in your efforts to better understand and respect them.

Highly Sensitive Persons Colorado Therapy

Are you or do you know someone who is highly sensitive? High sensitivity can be characterized as an immediate response to external (social, environmental) or inner (intrapersonal) stimuli, physically, mentally and emotionally. An introvert, an extrovert or somewhere in between may be a highly sensitive person.

Fifteen to twenty percent of the population are highly sensitive and process stimuli profoundly from sight to sound to emotion. The HSP responsiveness to sensory processing means that reality is “changed” more than other experiences. The nervous systems are no less sensitive than introversion, depression, anxiety or even autism, and process information more deeply because of a biological difference.

Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person

So, what’s it like to be an HSP? While many people may occasionally experience some of these signs, a highly sensitive person is likely to “feel too much” and “feel too deep.”

  • They feel things profoundly and observe people well but may shield their feelings from others because they have learned to withdraw into ourselves. They struggle with sleep and anxiety, and they may feel angry or upset about social injustice in society.
  • In group situations, such as work meetings or parties, we can feel overwhelmed because of the number of stimuli, including loud noises and strong scents. This does not mean that relationships are not respected.
  •  If they watch or read negative media content, they may get upset. They hate programming with “shock” value (i.e. shows that are extremely frightening or violent). They feel unhappy after reading social media posts.
  • They may seek reassurance when they start new relationships, such as friendships or romantic partnerships, because they are hypersensitive to any perceived signs of rejection.
  •  On the other hand, they talk about negative emotions because of the amount of “drama” in their lives. They find it hard to accept feedback, even if it is offered in a fair and constructive manner. They feel like people will judge them, no matter what, despite a lack of strong evidence otherwise.

Although a highly sensitive person has many positive qualities, others can be overstimulated with more signs in the list.

For many sensitive people, emotional and sensory immunity techniques can be used to soothe and relieve overstimulation to control oversensitivity. Efficient communication skills are required to cultivate positive and constructive relationships for those who live or work with extremely sensitive individuals.

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If you consider yourself to be very emotionally aware, a deep thinker, and very sensitive to your environment, it is possible you may be a Highly Sensitive Person.

Click here to take the official Highly Sensitive Person assessment.

Created by leading researcher Dr. Elaine Aron.

 As defined by Dr. Elaine Aron, a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP is a person who is born biologically more sensitive than most to their environment.  They naturally tend to process information that they receive from their senses and social interactions more deeply.  However, while this can provide great insights, it also means that the person can be more easily overstimulated and overwhelmed.  This biological trait is a great gift but can appear to be a curse for those who do not understand how to work with this trait.

I specialize in helping HSPs learn how to make the most of their gifts and better manage overstimulation.  As an HSP myself, I understand how being highly sensitive can affect every aspect of your life from your career to your personal relationships.  I have helped many HSPs learn the skills they need to find peace in a busy world of high stimulation and high demands.

Learn how to…

  • Use your sensitivity as a gift and take pride in being a HSP
  • Cope with strong emotions and better understand their purpose
  • Reduce overstimulation and adjust your environment to fit you better
  • Increase your self-esteem and strengthen your sense of self
  • Handle conflict without automatically switching into anxiety, guilt, anger, or withdraw
  • Maintain healthy boundaries with others and express your needs
  • Receive guidance from your own intuition

If you would like to learn more, please get in touch.