What is HSP?

There has been a lot of hype about personality types A, B, C, and D, but there is little awareness of another personality type/ temperament. This personality type is called HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person, and 20% of our population are born with this trait. HSP was researched by Dr. Elaine Aaron in 1991 (San Francisco, CA). HSP is essentially a finely tuned nervous system that causes individuals to become easily overwhelmed by their sensory environment. Dr. Aaron found an outstanding number of people are often being misdiagnosed by mental health professionals and suffering without little knowledge their temperament. Many feel they are different, depressed, or strange when they compare themselves to the rest of the population. Dr. Aaron found that some HSP’s are being improperly diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, depression, autism, or a personality disorder. Yes, HSP’s can suffer with some of these diagnosis, but most are simply experiencing some of the difficulties of their temperament. Before we get into these difficulties, let’s discuss what the HSP trait is and the many strengths of this innate trait.

A Highly Sensitive Person sounds like a person whose feelings are easily hurt, but this is not an accurate description of this trait. There is more to this trait than sensitive feelings. They are often identified as shy or timid as a child by their teachers and/or parents. However, HSP’s are not shy, because they have developed social skills and are not socially inapt. They are viewed as being shy because they proceed with caution and are conscientious people. These characteristics are positive traits, because HSP’s think before they act and are considerate of others.

In addition, Highly Sensitive People tend to be quiet in social setting because they think deeply, they are reflective, and they consider all aspects before responding. Others often interpret their silence as lacking intelligence or interest in the topic. Therefore, HSP’s are often misjudged by others and experience social judgment. HSP’s can be viewed by Western Society as weak, unintelligent, fearful, and other less appealing adjectives. This type of social judgment can lead to self-esteem issues, experiences of rejection, and impacts our sense of self.

Highly Sensitive People are often inaccurately diagnosed mildly autistic, because their nervous systems are overstimulated by sensory information. HSP’s often have a keener sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, or sound than non-HSP’s. Therefore, they are easily bothered by loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or itchy fabrics. However, this characteristic does not mean they are people with autism. The difference is HSP’s have appropriate social skills, have more than one interest, and have an intense imagination.

Highly Sensitive People are easily overstimulated, therefore, they need more down time than most people. After a long or chaotic day, HSP’s will withdraw and need alone time away from people and sensory stimuli. They tend to avoid situations that are too stimulating, such as crowds, violent movies, and other intense or violent situations.

There is little public awareness of the HSP trait and perfectly healthy people may unnecessarily be treated with medication, given an inaccurate diagnosis, or live life without honoring and understanding the strengths of their personality trait. HSP’s have many strengths, some of them include a tendency to be thoughtful, insightful, great predictors, open-minded, curious, imaginative, and passionate about injustice in the world.