All About Highly Sensitive People

Since 1991, Elaine Aron has studied the personality trait of high sensitivity.

What does high sensitivity mean?

High Sensitivity or Sensory-Processing Sensitivity can be described as having a greater awareness of yourself, people you come in contact with and the world around you.

As a person with Sensory-Processing Sensitivity, you are more likely to be aware of:

  • the emotions of loved ones
  • tensions
  • deadlines
  • improved understanding of consequences
  • loud noises
  • bright lights
  • understanding problems on an intricate level
  • a greater sense of responsibility

Roughly 15-20% of women and men are hypothesized to have the high sensitivity trait. While the highly sensitive person trait is different for everyone, it can be summed up into having a brain which processes input more deeply and thoroughly than the average person.


“A Highly Sensitive Person’s brain processes input more deeply than the average person.”


According to research completed by Dr. Elaine Aron, our brains function a bit differently. We process things on a more complex level.

She established a wonderful acronym to explain these processes: DOES

Depth of Processing

Overstimulation

Emotional Reactivity

Sensing the Subtle

The brilliance of these phrases lie in their simplicity.

Depth of Processing. Depth of Processing describes the level to which we relate absolutely everything. Whether a highly sensitive person notices it or not, every situation encountered, every problem faced with or question asked is being connected to past experiences by your brain. This often results is much more complex and well thought out responses and actions that those without the sensory processing sensitivity trait.

Overstimulation. As a highly sensitive person myself, this is the one that made me aware I was different. My brain feels overloaded very often in new situations or stressful situations. It has brought me to a firm belief in the art of practice. The more times you do something, the more comfortable you are with it. Public speaking is a great example of this.

Emotional Reactivity. This category bares explaining. Whether you are highly sensitive or not. Think of one of the happiest moments of your life. Being with your family, your significant other, a day at the beach, the fair, on an island, something that makes you feel overwhelmed with happiness and joy. Well, a Highly Sensitive Person can feel that intense level of happiness over small things, such as getting a good grade, finding that perfect dress, or watching a really great movie. As a HSP, we feel strong levels of joy and sadness. Levels which can sometimes be very difficult to explain or articulate for others. It might sound extravagant or the description of a mental unstable person, but you are alright! A HSP simply feels more in every sense of the word. Some highly sensitives are also empaths because of the strong connections they can feel from others.

Sensing the Subtle. When I was very young, I thought all people noticed everything the way I did. It really hit me in middle school. My classmates couldn’t anticipate the ending of books, tv shows, fights with their peers. They couldn’t see the other person’s side or anticipate how social situations would unfold the way that I did. This is one description of how strongly I, as a HSP, notice subtleties. It is different for everyone. I have very poor hearing. I’m really not sure why. I kind of just mime things to people at concerts or bars because there’s absolutely no way I’ll be able to hear their voice.

I hope using my experiences in the descriptions yielded a greater understanding of the core processing differences held by Highly Sensitive People. A more in-depth, easy to read, description of can be found in this article by Elaine Aron. Elaine Aron has done a lot of work to describe Highly Sensitive People. While I only touched on a very brief summary here, research is one of my passions and I do plan to summarize some of her research for you in the future.

Being highly sensitive has been a whirlwind of a life experience for me. I am always learning more about the trait, how it makes me different from others, and how to deal with it in everyday life.

I full heartedly believe the more you understand yourself, the more you can become. I am very excited to share what I have learned with you all and expand the highly sensitive community. With knowledge, comes the power as they say.

Happy Learning!