What is a Highly Sensitive Person or Child?
DEPTH OF PROCESSING
Dr. Elaine Aron began researching high sensitivity in 1991 and became the first person to identify the inborn trait of “high sensitivity” and how it affects those who possess it. Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is the scientific term for the trait found in 15 – 20% of the population. Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are extremely empathetic and tend to be good listeners, but they may get easily overwhelmed by things such as bright lights, strong smells, or coarse fabrics, need to withdraw during busy days, and make it a high priority to arrange their lives to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
They are also used to being told that they are “too sensitive.” Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs) share the same characteristics as highly sensitive adults and as a result, face unique challenges as they grow up. Because of this, many parents with HSCs feel overwhelmed and unprepared to parent their sensitive child.
The inborn qualities of HSCs can make for smart, conscientious, creative children, but with misguided parenting or education, they can become or timid, or begin acting out. Few parents and teachers understand where this behavior comes from–and as a result, HSCs are often mislabeled as overly inhibited, fearful, or “fussy,” or “problem children.” But raised with proper understanding and care, they are no more prone to these problems than non-sensitive children and grow up to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.
Tara McDonnell, LCSW, RPT is an HSP-Knowledgeable Therapist.
Dr. Aron created the following acronym to help explain the four main traits present in a highly sensitive individual: D.O.E.S
DEPTH OF PROCESSING
Depth of processing is the underlying trait. Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) show signs of deeper thinking and research has shown more brain activity in the insula, the area that integrates knowledge of inner and outer states and emotions, bodily position and outer events to produce what we are aware of.
Being easily overstimulated is a natural side effect of depth of processing. HSPs tend to notice and think about things more than others, especially new stimuli. They also pay special attention to faces and other social cues.
EMOTIONALLY REACTIVE -
Emotional reactivity is also closely related to depth of processing and HSPs may react intensely to making an error or noticing the distress of others. They also show high empathy in social situations, possibly because there is increased activity in their mirror neuron system.
AWARE OF SUBTLE STIMULI
HSPs are very aware of subtle stimuli like sounds, smells and other details such as a tone of voice or glance. As a result, they may be particularly sensitive to caffeine and medications.
"In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want too much, and forget about the joy of just being."