Highly Sensitive People & Giftedness
Highly Sensitive People
“Highly sensitive person” or HSP refers to a trait that has been researched for the last 20+ years, primarily by Dr. Elaine Aron, a psychologist at Stanford University.
This trait indicates a tendency for observing before taking action, paying attention to subtleties in the environment and getting easily overwhelmed.
Do you have a rich and intense inner life?
Are you someone who tends to react to the moods of others around you?
Do you need relief from stimulation and just need to withdraw at times?
Are you unusually moved by artistic expression?
Perhaps others have characterized you as “shy,” “overly emotional,” “high-strung” or “thin-skinned.”
The acronym DOES has been used to outline the prominent features of this trait: Depth of processing, Over-arousability, Emotional intensity and Sensory sensitivity.
HSP is not a disorder. The term describes a distinctive pattern of response to situations that is found in 15-20% of the population, and is reported about equally by both men and women. This trait has both positive and prblematic aspects;
The research term for this trait is Sensory Processing Sensitivity, SPS, which has also been studied in other species including insects, birds, dogs and cats, horses and primates.
The terminology in the field can become confusing with so many acronyms, but this trait is not to be confused with autism, Asperger’s or other spectrum conditions. Neither is it exactly like being introverted; although most highly-sensitive people are introverts, many are extroverted, or enjoy and seek out sensation.
Highly-sensitive people can benefit a great deal from the kind of careful listening and attention that therapy provides. Please feel welcome to get in touch with any questions or thoughts on how we might be able to assist you.
However American culture, with its emphasis on democracy and equality, is not as welcoming to people who have unusual intellectual capability with problem-solving, math or language.
Intelligence can actually present a social handicap, and those with high intellectual ability may feel isolated or uncomfortable with their differences. It isn’t easy to feel different, even if the difference is a strength.
Intellect does not prevent suffering or misfortune, and people who are gifted may seek counseling for the same reasons anyone else does: anxious feelings, depressed states, relationship troubles. Difficulties like these may all be compounded when you identify as a capable person who ought to be able to figure things out for yourself; it can be quite painful to realize your limitations when it comes to dealing with emotions that are hard to handle.