In the ’90s, two psychologists came up with a label to describe people who “feel” the world and those within it more deeply; HSPs, or highly sensitive people. They suggested that a fifth of the population fitted this description. It isn’t a psychological condition, but a personality trait that can lead to people being more strongly affected by certain stimuli.
Spot the signs
There is no absolute way to diagnose HSP, but those living with it often complain of being affected by bright lights, loud noises and strong aromas, and feel triggered by other people’s behaviour at a rate that makes those who know them suggest that they are oversensitive. In relationships they can require more validation, and also feel at times that their partners are less caring than they are. If you are HSP you may find watching TV a struggle, as you will have very strong reactions to storylines that are upsetting or violent.
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While your personality traits have been formed through a mix of genetics and environmental factors, you can manipulate them to some degree. The blessing and curse of being an HSP is that you tend to pick up on other people’s needs and feelings. That’s great when it comes to building bonds, but can mean you try too hard to please and can burn out. Equally, when you muster the courage to create healthy boundaries and say no, you feel terrible as you sense other people’s disappointment. Simply explaining how the world feels for you will help loved ones understand and enable them to think a little more about the way they convey information to you.
Avoid overcrowded and loud environments, which can overwhelm you. At home use low lighting and listen to relaxation streams to ease your sensitivities. Schedule in regular self-care by doing nice things for yourself to up your positivity, acting as a buffer for when you find yourself in more challenging territory. HSPs are a lovely bunch, they just need a little extra bubble wrap.