This might seem a strange way to title an article, and I suppose it is really, but nonetheless, I bet there are quite a few of you reading this and thinking “well, actually, yes, I think I am!”
So, before we proceed any further, I just want to clear up that by ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ (HSP) I am referring to a personality type identified by Dr Elaine Aron in her groundbreaking research which began in 1991 and continues today. Whilst generally ‘being sensitive’ or being thought of as sensitive by others might be a clue to whether you are a HSP or not, it is actually a fairly rigorous questionnaire which will clarify someone’s true status.
Generally speaking, a HSP will be more aware of subtleties in their environment and in the moods and needs of others. They will be more bothered by high levels of stimulation such as crowds, loud noises, chaos or a lack of control of their surroundings. They are usually very thoughtful and observant and often need time alone to process their thoughts and feelings. About 70% of HSP are introverts. Interestingly this of course means that 30% are extroverts, a personality trait which would not commonly be associated with being ‘sensitive’. This shows that we mustn’t be quick to judge someone else or indeed ourselves as highly sensitive or not before looking into it properly.
Does this sound like you so far?
On average, for every 5 people who read this, one of you will be highly sensitive, so it is perhaps far more common that people think.
Now, whether you think you are a HSP or not, you might now wonder why I am talking about this at all. The reason is, that I work with mental health matters daily in my client base, and I am seeing some very common themes. I have noticed for a while now that a clear majority of my clients are HSP, and given that only 20% of the population are, this has led me to think that HSP may need more support to thrive in the modern world than non-HSP.
I subsequently discovered that Dr Aron herself found in 2010 that over 50% of people seeking support with mental health are HSP. Based on my experience in 2021, I would say it could be a lot higher than this right now.
Why are HSP more likely to seek therapy in general?
Well, firstly it is important to point out that being a HSP is not a negative thing at all, it is simply a personality type, and many people who learn how to harness their sensitivity and to thrive despite it can see it as somewhat of a super-power. Greater empathy, thoughtfulness and sensitivity to others can certainly be great character traits.
The reason that the majority of people seeking help with mental health are HSP may simply be because the world isn’t structured to be a perfect fit for the minority in any category. We are only just, as a society, ensuring that disabled access to schools and workplaces exists as standard in the UK, and we are among the world leaders in this area, so it is hardly a surprise that the world isn’t structured to suit the HSP minority, and nor will it ever be.
Unfair as this seems, it is ultimately down to the individuals to accept this fact and to empower themselves with the knowledge and support they need to enable them to thrive in a non-HSP world, which they undoubtedly can with the right support.
The first stage in this empowerment is to take the questionnaire on Dr Aron’s website if you think you may be a HSP (Highly Sensitive Test). If you are a HSP then do not worry at all, just have a read of her website and buy her book all about it here: The Highly Sensitive Person. You can also test your children here: Highly Sensitive Child Test, and buy a book all about the Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) to support them if necessary too: The Highly Sensitive Child. I am not on commission by the way (!), I am just seeing so many HSP in my clinics that I know this article will help many people to help themselves.
Understanding yourself more will bring immediate relief to your life alongside learning the tools and techniques required to thrive in the world.
Why are more HSP than usual seeking help right now?
The reason I think I am seeing so many HSP right now is that HSP usually require structure, routine and familiarity to feel fully comfortable each day, and much of this has been stripped away in the last 18 months.
Restrictions on our lives, fear of illness and death, inability to see friends or family or to take holidays abroad has taken its toll disproportionately on the highly sensitive brain, which craves ‘normality’ and structure more than other brains. There are many children much more unsettled than there were before the pandemic, refusing to go to school or struggling to feel how they used to feel at school due to the upheaval they have experienced. These children are more likely to be HSC and need to be nurtured in the right way to feel safe again.
The good news is that there are many easily accessible tools and strategies to implement once you understand yourself more, which can very quickly lead to you or your HS children feeling much better.
That being said, every person is unique and HSP / HSC can vary greatly in their sensitivities and consequently in their individual needs, there is no blanket approach, so is is essential to educate yourself properly in this area if you think you may be highly sensitive or indeed know someone who may be who you intend to help.
If you have any questions about HSP or HSC at all then please get in touch with me or alternatively join the many HSP communities available to you online.
Remember, the first stage in helping yourself is empowerment through knowledge; ignorance is not bliss.
It has been a tough 18 months for all of us, particularly the HSP, so the time to do act is now.