The Benefits Of Being A Hypersensitive Person

Perhaps you frequently cry both tears of joy and sadness, feel empathy for characters you see in films or television shows, or find yourself more attuned to the feelings of other people. If so, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP) who is more emotive and expressive than others, reports Verywell Mind. HSPs are people who are believed to have nervous system sensitivity to emotional, physical, and social stimuli that is deeper than that of peers. Approximately 20% of the population is considered to be highly sensitive, so if you're an HSP then you aren't alone.

The term HSP was initially coined in 1996 by psychologists Arthur Aron and Elaine Aron, whose book "The Highly Sensitive Person" first detailed how a percentage of the population responds to emotionally-driven situations, notes Verywell Mind. The terminology for increased sensitivity to social, environmental, and emotional experiences has focused on avoiding negative connotations, says Neuroscience News. The term hypersensitive has been popularly used, but it's often associated (partly erroneously) with abnormally frequent intense emotions or with another condition called hyperaesthesia, which is related to sensory overload. For this reason, some people prefer the terms "heightened sensitivity" and "highly sensitive".

Advocacy has also included raising awareness of the harmful effects that comments like "You're too sensitive" and "Don't be so sensitive" have on people who experience heightened sensitivity. In dismantling these dismissive statements, HSPs should be seen for their positive attributes.

Highly sensitive people are empathetic and can recognize danger

Empathy is the ability to comprehend the experiences of others, particularly on an emotional level, and plays a vital role in promoting prosocial behaviors and creating interpersonal connections, according to Verywell Mind. While there are some conditions, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), that can keep someone from expressing empathy, most people experience empathetic responses to the situations and emotional states of people in their lives.

For HSPs, empathy is the equivalent of a superpower. People with heightened sensitivity have a greater depth of information processing, a heightened awareness of subtle changes in their environment, enhanced emotional reactivity, and deeper empathy (per Neuroscience News). According to Medical News Today, they may be more likely to pick up on the emotions, motives, and inclinations of others.

The premise of HSPs being remarkably in touch with changes around them is called environmental sensitivity, or sensory processing sensitivity. The stronger reaction of HSPs to their environment may make them more attuned to the needs and feelings of the people with whom they interact. It may also make them quicker to recognize signs of danger, notes Medical News Today. For these reasons, experts believe that sensory processing sensitivity is an evolved and adaptive trait.

Per Neuroscience News, heightened sensitivity to one's environment has been referred to as a meta-trait that can account for psychological experiences including shyness, behavioral inhibition, reactive temperaments, and introversion.

HSPs are more responsive to experiences

Since the mid-1990s, research has continued on the positive effects of how environmental factors can impact HSPs, reports Neuroscience News. According to a 2015 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, HSPs were more likely to be responsive to support offered during a depression-prevention program, and they were found to exhibit considerably more noticeable positive changes than participants without heightened sensitivity. A 2018 study published in Clinical Psychological Science discovered that children with higher environmental sensitivity responded better to an anti-bullying program.

HSPs have profound capacities for learning, reflective thinking, awareness, and socialization. A possible link between HSPs and how they treat others is the strength of their attunement to others and depth of empathy. The hyper-attunement of HSPs isn't just anecdotal. A 2017 study used brain imaging to determine that when exposed to both positive and negative stimuli, people with heightened sensitivity have increased activity in areas of the brain that control emotions.

Because of the empathy and attunement of HSPs, they are likely to have close relationships and deeply care about their friends and loved ones, says Verywell Mind. HSPs often form close bonds with others, particularly given that their capacity for empathy can make them very supportive friends. HSPs may respond to positive stimuli, exhibit greater gratitude for their lives, and take exceptional pleasure in simple joys like a delicious meal or a melodic song in ways that transcend the experiences of non-HSPs.