A couple years ago I was visiting a friend and she said something to me that made me think! She said “Jen you notice everything around you, you are constantly turning your head when you hear the slightest noise, when I talk it is almost like you can feel me talk because the look on your face is so intense and expresses my emotions that I am feeling, and you are always adjusting your hair and you clothes like they bother you.” I looked at her and said. “I thought everyone was like that!” That day I found out that everyone is not like that and started to do some research.
As I was browsing the internet looking for answers I came across several articles about “The Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) and as I read through the articles it was like reading the story of my life.
Dr. Aron’s research suggests that approximately 15-20% of the population fit the description of being “Highly Sensitive.” HSPs– by her definition– are people whose brains and central nervous systems are “wired” in such a way that they are more acutely aware of, and attuned to, themselves, other people, and their environment. As a result, a highly sensitive person is more easily stimulated and aroused by their surroundings, from which it follows that they also get more readily “over aroused” than most people. This is an inborn trait which interestingly enough researchers have also observed in animal populations ranging from deer to octopi.
So what does it feel like to be highly sensitive?
HSPs are often very sensitive to pain, and often respond to much lower doses of medications than most people. We are bothered by bright lights, strong smells, and loud noises and it is very hard to ignore these things. For example, I simply cannot concentrate if there is too much talking going on. HSP tend to take on the emotions of those around them because they are so perceptive and intuitive. This often can wear a HSP down quickly. We get overwhelmed easily and need to retreat often. We need more sleep and more quiet than most. The thought of a crowded mall does not appeal, nor does a huge, loud party. Many people who are HSP are introverts, but 30% of HSP are extroverts. We do not tolerate hunger well, and some of us can literally feel the pain of others. Do you identify with any of these traits?
The highly sensitive person and chronic illness connection
After I did all the research and discovered I was highly sensitive I was curious if others with chronic illness were highly sensitive so I put a post up on FibroTV and to my surprise in 30 mins we had over 70 comments of people relating to the article I posted. Some of them knowing already that they were highly sensitive and others who never heard of it and related to the article. HSP are nearly always in the “Fight or Flight” mode. This is the adrenaline packed state that people go into when danger is perceived. This constant level of hyper stimulation, stress and being overwhelmed can lead the HSP into a state that leaves them wide open to a host of physical and stress related illnesses, as well as depression and addiction. Anxiety can be a huge issue, as can a low self esteem. So if you feel you are HSP it is very wise to learn as much as you can about it so it does not effect your health negatively.
The positives of being a highly sensitive person
So far everything I have talked about is the negatives of being HSP but there are many positives to having this trait as well. HSP are the Mother Teresa’s of the world, and the artists, and the empathic listeners. Without HSP’s there would be little activism towards change for the better. We are the ones that sympathize and feel others pain so we tend to be the ones to make positive changes in the world! Many HSP are intuitive which is a very special gift! Once you learn more about being HSP you can focus on using your traits as a gift instead of it taking over you life!
Although this blog post is just touching on the subject of being a highly sensitive person. I hope it opens the doors for others that might have never been introduced to the subject before to get more information on it. Although I believe a high percentage of people with Chronic illness are highly sensitive not everyone of us are. Those that are and do not know what it is will experience more symptoms and pain if there is no awareness of it. Take time to learn about your special trait so that you might better manage your Chronic illness symptoms.