Let me share a quick personal story …
Ever since I was a child I remember that feeling of “not fitting in”. I just felt “different “. Later on, during my teenage years, this feeling got stronger.
When I was already an adult and living here by myself in the UK, I often felt overwhelmed by crowded places, loud noises, people. I found myself needing to withdraw by returning home or going to any place where I could have some privacy and relief from the associated stimuli. I was particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine and certain types of food.
On a daily basis, I constantly felt emotionally “on the edge”, with extreme anxiety and stress, but without knowing the reason why I was experiencing all of these sensations. Changes in my life shook me up… it was very difficult…
On the other hand, I had a rich inner life, I was conscientious, very intuitive and aware of other people’s feelings and emotions. I seemed “to know” what other people around me were experiencing – I could easy connect with them on an emotional and energetic level and I loved providing comfort and reassurance to them. At the same time I felt, somehow, like a sponge, “absorbing” their emotions and often felt drained and exhausted, and afterwards I had to retreat and allow myself time to recharge.
It was only one great day when, by chance, I was forwarded an email from a friend of mine (who was also Highly Sensitive, although I did not know at the time) which talked about “HSP” (Highly Sensitive People), that I finally got the answer. What I discovered brought me so much relief and joy…! According to Psychologist Elaine Aron, PH.D, who began researching high sensitivity in 1991 and wrote in her book The Highly Sensitive Person that about 15 to 20 percent of the population is characterized as highly sensitive (HS). This trait’s scientific term is Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS), and people with strong SPS are thought to process sensory data more deeply due to the nature of their central nervous system. This is a personality trait (not a disorder!), having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity.
These people are born highly sensitive and they are deeply reflective, sensitive to the subtle and easily overwhelmed. These qualities can make for smart, imaginative, empathetic, extremely detail-orientated, conscientious and creative people, but when children’s high sensitivity is not being understood and embraced, this may also result in fussiness or acting up for example.
Does all or part of the above resonate with you and/or your child?
If you worry that your child may have a disorder such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome, he/she may simply be highly sensitive. Raised with proper understanding and care, highly sensitive children can grow up to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.