Sensory-Processing Sensitivity is a real thing

    I notice very subtle scents, tastes or sounds where others do not. Strong smells overwhelm me or give me headaches.

    I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, loud sounds, coarse fabrics, or highly stimulating environments, where others are not.

    Other people’s moods affect me strongly.

    While others take life changes in stride, similar changes in my life or routine throw me for a loop.

    I need to withdraw during busy days into bed or a darkened room where I can have relief from stimulation.

    Seeing violent images disturbs me greatly, so I deliberately avoid graphic movies or media.

If you agreed with most of these statements, you may be what Elaine Aron, Ph.D. calls an “HSP” – a Highly Sensitive Person. A Highly Sensitive Person is not merely introverted (in fact, 30% are extroverts), he is acutely aware of subtleties in his surroundings, is more easily overwhelmed in highly stimulating environments, and in general has an uncommonly sensitive nervous system.

Elaine Aron, Ph.D. has been researching high sensitivity since 1991. Sensory-Processing Sensitivity, or SPS, affects 15 to 20 percent of the population – too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well-understood by the majority. In a culture where sensitivity is under-valued, Highly Sensitive People (HSP) tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “you are hyper sensitive”, or,”you take things too personally.” HSPs may appear “inhibited” because they are so aware of all the possibilities in a given situation and weigh options based on past experiences. But in a culture that prefers confident, “bold” extroverts, and treats shyness and sensitivity as something to overcome, HSPs are often stigmatized as “timid”.

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