Exceptionally sensitive people
Sensitive people are not all alike – there are many different types of sensitive people. Not only are HSPs a different biologically but with their intuitive personalities are also among the most colorful people in the world.
Identifying different types of highly sensitive people is difficult because there are so many ways to be sensitive. The sheer quantity of sensitivities and range of manifestations of those sensitivities can be – well – overwhelming to a sensitive person and everyone else. Although sensitive people share a common trait and sensitive nervous system, they can be hard to pigeonhole because their sensitivity can show up in many different ways.
Unrecognized Sensitive People
Elaine Aron’s groundbreaking work, The Highly Sensitive Person, How to Thrive When The World Overwhelms You was only published in 1999.
Because the highly sensitive characteristic is not widely known and mainstream medicine and psychology may not be adequately familiar with the highly sensitive person, it is possible that a sensitive person may react to his/her symptoms, seek help and be diagnosed with a condition that does not quite fit their situation. It may take time for them to understand their sensitivity before they are able to get the help they need to understanding themselves and their needs.
It is easy for a highly sensitive person to not be aware that they are different and special kind of person. The highly sensitive person can suffer from many challenges.
They can include:
- biochemical problems related to excessive stress
- stress disorders because overstimulation and excessive stress on a long-term basis can compromise the immune system
- any number of psychological diagnoses related to the manifestation of their sensitivity
As a psychiatrist and an empath, I often get asked, “What is the difference between empaths and highly sensitive people or exceptionally sensitive people?” Following are the similarities and areas of overlap. (I also devote a section of The Empath’s Survival Guide to this important distinction.)
Empaths share all the traits of what Dr. Elaine Aron has called “Highly Sensitive People,” or HSPs. These include: a low threshold for stimulation; the need for alone time; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; and an aversion to large groups. It also takes highly sensitive people longer to wind down after a busy day, since their ability to transition from high stimulation to being quiet is slower. Highly sensitive people are typically introverts, while empaths can be introverts or extroverts (although most are introverts). Empaths share a highly sensitive person’s love of nature and quiet environments, their desire to help others, and their rich inner life.
However, empaths take the experience of the highly sensitive person much further: We can sense subtle energy (called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions) and actually absorb it from other people and different environments into our own bodies. Highly sensitive people don’t typically do that. This capacity allows us to experience the energy around us, including emotions and physical sensations, in extremely deep ways. And so we energetically internalize the feelings and pain of others — and often have trouble distinguishing someone else’s discomfort from our own. Also, some empaths have profound spiritual and intuitive experiences — with animals, nature, or their inner guides — which aren’t usually associated with highly sensitive people.
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