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Highly Sensitive People

If you are very responsive to both the positive and the negative aspects of life, usually both physically and emotionally, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP. Dr. Elaine Aron has done fascinating work in the area of HSPs. 
According to her self-test, if 14 or more of these traits apply to you, you may be an HSP:
  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

  • I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

  • Other people's moods affect me.

  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

  • I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

  • I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.

  • I have a rich, complex inner life.

  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

  • I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

  • My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

  • I am conscientious.

  • I startle easily.

  • I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

  • When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

  • I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

  • I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

  • I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

  • Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me,disrupting my concentration or mood.

  • Changes in my life shake me up.

  • I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

  • I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

  • I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

  • When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

  • When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

Dr. Whiten enjoys working with HSPs, who are very unique and often respond very well to caring and focused therapy. She has also written a lot about them here.
Dr. Whiten is an HSP herself (which helps her be highly attuned to her clients in session!).  HSPs may find it particularly painful to interact with difficult people or undergo stressful life changes. As children, experiencing dysfunctional family life likely left a stronger mark on them than it did on their less sensitive siblings or other less sensitive children in similar situations.  
If others have always called you "too sensitive," Dr. Whiten can work with you to explore how this trait can in fact have a very positive impact on your life, if you are able to recognize it, advocate for yourself, and explore your full potential. Furthermore, learning strategies for interacting with the non-HSPs in your life (often partners, parents, children, coworkers) can be invaluable in helping you maximize the satisfaction you get from these relationships while being true to yourself.
Autism Spectrum Disorder and High Sensitivity

Many individuals struggle with feeling like outsiders during social interactions, and have felt this way from childhood.  As adults, they can memorize social rules and conventions, but these never feel natural.  They tend to be Highly Sensitive as well. In intimate relationships, these people struggle with emotional expression, tact, and being romantic.  They tend to be anxious, routine-based, and can come off cold, volatile, or selfish.  Some of these individuals may have undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder.  If you struggle with feeling okay in daily social interactions, find it hard to maintain a fulfilling intimate relationship, and become very anxious when you deviate from your routine, please come in and discuss these issues with me.  There are ways to work with your natural personality and temperament while allowing you to become more flexible and feel more at home in the world.

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