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Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? (Or Do You Know One?)

Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? (Or Do You Know One?)

Being highly sensitive is a neurological experience that often goes unrecognized, yet it profoundly shapes the lives of those who manage it day to day. This blog explores the intricacies of high sensitivity, its neurological underpinnings, and the unique experiences of highly sensitive individuals.

Understanding High Sensitivity

High sensitivity, or sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), is a trait found in 15-20% of the population. It's characterized by deeper cognitive processing of sensory input, heightened emotional reactivity, increased empathy, and a greater awareness of subtleties in the environment. This is not a disorder, however, it's a variation in the human brain that influences behavior and perception.

The Neurological Basis

Recent research suggests that high sensitivity is linked to specific brain activities. Highly sensitive individuals often have more active mirror neurons, which are responsible for empathy and understanding others' emotions. Functional MRI studies show that they have increased brain activity in areas related to attention, vigilance, and the processing of sensory information. This heightened neural processing is what makes seemingly ordinary situations overwhelming for sensitive people.

Life as a Highly Sensitive Person

Being highly sensitive affects various aspects of life:

Overstimulation: In a world that's often loud and chaotic, HSPs can easily become overstimulated. They need more downtime to recover from sensory overload.
"I always wondered why when I'd go to the mall as a child I'd get extremely tired extremely fast. I'd often leave with a headache and an extreme desire for sensory deprivation. Later in life I came to be even less tolerant of these busy places. I preferred outlet shopping because it seemed easier to get noise breaks. My sense of smell was so sensitive that I could not walk through department stores without getting a headache. I was often sensitive to light (especially fluorescent). It wasn't until my son was in kindergarten expressing similar traits that sensory processing sensitivity peaked my awareness and attention."

Emotional Intensity: Highly sensitive people (HSPs) experience emotions more deeply. This can be both a blessing and a challenge, as intense emotions can lead to rich experiences but also overwhelm.
"I never was much of a news watcher. I found that (especially the local) news never really reported things that were positive. This was traumatic in a deep way for me. There was one story I remember that was particularly horrid that after watching took me days to emotionally recover from. It was from then on that I stopped watching the news altogether and began focusing on headlines rather than full narratives."

Work Environment: A highly stimulating work environment can be challenging. HSPs often thrive in quieter, less hectic spaces where they can focus without constant sensory input.
As a resident family physician, we had to rotate through every specialty to gain proficiency in certain skills related said specialty that would be relevant as a family doctor. One of the most difficult specialties for me was emergency medicine. The ER was always so loud and chaotic, and I would have immense anxiety every time I had to go there. Even after the rotation when I rotated through inpatient hospital medicine and when I was on ER call, I dreaded each time the pager would go off. On the flip side, I loved the outpatient specialties where things were structured and there was typically a quiet place I could stow away during down time between patients.

Some of the advantages that highly sensitive processors possess, however are high levels empathy in relationships and appreciation of subtleties in things and in people. This makes them excellent listeners and observers. Their insights and creativity can be a great asset in their careers and in navigating challenges. Their empathy also makes them attentive friends and partners. However, if overdone, highly sensitive processors can end up over-absorbing the emotions of others which ends up being draining for them. 

Managing High Sensitivity Processing

Self-awareness and self-care are at the center of managing this condition. Recognizing triggers for overstimulation and learning personal limits is vital. It's important for those who experience HSP to creating environments that support their well being, and to make opportunities for breaks and decompression when in high stimulating environments.

Certain learning tools like NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), and self-hypnosis can help one understand their brain, regulate their nervous system, and communicate clearly and effectively their needs to others. Some NLP techniques like anchoring can help with sensory overload bring emotional regulation when overstimulated. Other techniques such as hypnosis can help train the nervous system over time to withstand more the activities that might normally overstimulate or overwhelm.

For coaches who manage HSP clients, having NLP certification gives a plethora of additional tools to help you clients.


High sensitivity is a neurological trait that comes with its own set of challenges and advantages. Recognizing and embracing this trait can lead to a fulfilling life, where deep empathy, creativity, and insight are not just valued but celebrated. As we grow in our understanding of neurological diversity, acknowledging and accommodating the needs of highly sensitive individuals becomes not just a matter of compassion but a contribution to a more inclusive society.

Learn more about NLP, and join our NLP training. Listen, communicate in a way that leaves people feeling seen, heard, valued, respected, and loved. Go to www.mindremappingacademy.com , fill out an application and Schedule a NLP Training interest Today. 

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Wednesday, 28 February 2024