There is nothing wrong or abnormal about being born with a highly sensitive nervous system.
According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, about 15-20 percent of the population are highly sensitive. I am in the 1% that is extremely sensitive. Highly sensitive people feel everything (inside and outside of their body) more intensely. This kind of sensitivity may come with
PSYCHOMOTOR OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system
SENSUAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing
INTELLECTUAL OVEREXCITABILITY: need to seek understanding and truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize
IMAGINATIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams
EMOTIONAL OVEREXCITABILITY: heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings, and strong affective expression
There are many advantages to having a highly sensitive nervous system. I think it’s almost like have a super human power.
OTHER STRENGTHS OF HIGH SENSITIVITY
- You are detail-oriented
- You are quick to see patterns and connections
- You are able to understand and appreciate nonverbal expressions, art, and nature more deeply
- You read people and their hidden emotions well
- You can sort things into finer distinctions – “Like those machines that grade fruit by size – we sort into ten sizes while others sort into two or three.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)
- You are curious and smart
- You have strong intuition – “Your intuition is right often enough that HSPs tend to be visionaries, highly intuitive artists, or inventors, as well as more conscientious, cautious, and wise people.” (The Highly Sensitive Person)
Although it can be quite advantageous to have a highly sensitive nervous system, it is definitely not easy. Highly sensitive people experience everything so intensely that they are more likely to become overwhelmed with sensory overload, the pain of understimulation (boredom), stress, worries, and emotional pain. These things can make highly sensitive people so uncomfortable that they may be pushed by a strong urge to either escape or fix everything that bothers them.
Escaping or fixing is not always the best solution.
Read more on how high sensitivity can turn into obsessive-compulsive personality disorder in the “Cause” section of my “What is OCPD?” page.
SO NOW WHAT?
ADVICE FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE:
Understand that hurt, loss, and imperfections are all normal parts of life. The more you allow yourself to feel the discomfort that comes with those things, the more your tolerance for pain will grow and you will become less and less overwhelmed by the world around you. Allow yourself to feel more.
ADVICE FOR PARTNERS/FRIENDS/LOVED ONES OF HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE:
Even though you might not fully understand how your HSP friend feels because what he or she feels is outside your range of emotions, try your best to show that you care. Telling your HSP friend, verbally or non-verbally, that he or she is overreacting, exaggerating, or being a drama queen will only make him or her feel more frustrated, alone, and unheard. Try to be the voice of positivity in your HSP friend’s life and encourage him or her to feel more.