highly sensitive person
At first glance, you would think that means that I just get super emotional and cry easily, or that I lose my shit on the regular over stuff you think is no big deal.
Which if you know me personally, that’s pretty accurate. Movies, injustice, anything involving my kids, happy or sad or heart-wrenching, I get emotional. Those videos of veterans coming home and surprising their kids? A sobbing mess. The movie “The Notebook” left me unable to get out of bed for 2 days. “Overly Dramatic” “Too much” “Bleeding Heart” have all been used to describe me.
Some things that some people feel aren’t something to get upset about, and I should “just let it roll off my back” or “let it go” can really affect me. I get overwhelmed and have to make an effort to refocus.
A survivor of sexual abuse, I experienced the sudden death of my mother at 19, and have been diagnosed with PTSD, Depression, and, ADHD. I have been in cognitive therapy and on medication for all of these, and that combination works for me, and has for years now.
Being a Highly Sensitive Person is something different, and I am currently studying it, and developing my own strategies to live comfortably and function effectively in my work and relationships. It is not a disorder, it is a trait.
I wanted to share, because I am incorporating it into my coaching practice, I feel like there are probably more of us out there, and I would love to help people come up with coping skills that work for their lives. Now mind you, you may have some of these tendencies, but on a scale. Finding ways to harness these traits for POSITIVE impact on your life is possible!
The following is paraphrased From the Book The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person, by Amanda Cassil PhD:
The HSP trait is a combination of 4 principles:
An Increased Depth of Processing. HSPs take in information from the world around them thoroughly (as evidenced by measured brain activity). Although this sounds highly valuable, and it can be, it can lead to overstimulation and mental exhaustion if left unmanaged.
Ease of Overstimulation. If an HSP does not develop healthy coping strategies, overstimulation can result in chronic stress, anxiety, and avoidance behaviors. When well-managed, high stimulation can thoroughly enhance the enjoyable parts of life: fine food, delicate scents, the beauty of nature, and highly sensitive people generally thrive in fields that require deep processing, like art and science.
Emotional Intensity. HSPs have an increased response to both positive and negative emotional experiences. Being moved to tears by joy, gratitude, or relief. HSPs can also be more upset by violent images or themes on news media, or in movies, social injustice, or rudeness. HSPs are also highly aware of the subtle or unconscious cues in others’, are highly intuitive and empathetic.
Sensory Sensitivity and Environmental Subtleties This aspect is often viewed as being a “neat freak”. Some people might also assume those who are highly sensitive have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which is NOT the same. One is a psychiatric disorder and needs intervention from a mental health practitioner to diagnose and treat; one is a trait.
Sensory sensitivity can make you highly perceptive of subtle changes in your environment that some people may not even notice.
In my particular case, I can’t relax if there are dishes in the sink and I can see them. As a highly sensitive person, my workspace needs to be neat, organized, and free of clutter, wrappers, extra pens, etc.
I like to have ambient noise or soft music around me while I work. If I am watching a video, and someone in the same room has something else on, I can’t focus on what I am watching. My brain hears both, and it becomes overwhelming. I have to leave the room, and go watch elsewhere, wear headphones, or ask the other person to watch their You Tube video somewhere else.
I love candles. Around a certain time of the evening, I like the room to be dim, candles lit, or at least more softly lit in general. Bright lights at 9pm is jarring to me. Being at home with all the drapes drawn on a sunny day makes me very uncomfortable. It just doesn’t feel good to me. But if I go over to someone’s home, and that’s how they like it, I can’t just avoid going over there! I just can’t have it that way in my own space.
There are as many different manifestations of this as there are people. If any of this sounds like something you notice is affecting you or your relationships, let’s schedule a discovery session. I would love to hear from you, and hold space.
If anything is getting in the way of your happiness or growth, or you don’t like the way you are reacting to things, and would like to develop healthy coping tools, then it is something to be looked at and worked through.