HSPs and Medications


Highly Sensitive People tend to be more sensitive to medications than 80% of the population.  Many medications work differently for our sensitive systems. Until I learned how to advocate for my needs as a sensitive person, I went through the rollercoaster that often meant the side effects could be just as harmful or worse than why I was taking medicine in the first place. Then, the process of going off medications can cause difficult withdrawal and generate its own set of problems. The HSPs I’ve worked with and researched over the years often seem to have similar experiences. We hear the Dr telling us this medication might make you constipated so you can take this medication to resolve that and that medication might make it hard to sleep so take this medication to address that. Before we know it, we have a stomachache, can’t sleep and start to wonder why everything seems so much harder for us than those around us.  

So how do we advocate for what we need? What do we say to our medical providers?

First of all, let’s talk about mindset. I think it is essential to advocate in an empowered way, speaking clearly and directly without any hint of feeling weak or like a burden. You know your health, you know your body the best, and your doctor needs to know about your unique experience. So with that strong, confident energy, here’s a script you can try (you can tailor it to your experiences and unique needs of course):

I wanted to let you know that I tend to be very sensitive to medications. I often experience strong side effects and usually need the lowest possible dose and a slower process of increasing dosages. If there are options to take a medication as needed, rather than daily, that often works best for me because weaning off medications can also cause stronger withdrawal symptoms for me. What this might mean is that we will need to discuss alternatives whenever possible and outweigh the benefits to potential side effects I might experience. I tend to do better with more holistic approaches, homeopathic medications, and natural alternatives whenever possible.  

You have probably noticed that you have particular patients that experience these challenges with medications. That is because 20% of the population has a trait called sensory processing sensitivity, also knowns as the highly sensitive person (HSPs). It is NOT a disorder, but an innate trait, found in over 100 species so far and equal in gender.  I would be happy to tell you more about it. Have you heard of this trait?

Here is where you might get a sense of how willing your doctor is to listen to your needs and get to know your trait and sensitive system. Ultimately, you want to work with a doctor who is willing to learn about your unique system.  Learn all you can about this trait so you can be your best advocate. There are different levels of sensitivity and therefore work with your doctor on what the best type of medications would be for your particular needs. When it comes to medications, in general, It’s important to be under the guidance of a doctor who knows you.

Every time you advocate for your needs you are helping the other 1.4 billion HSPs out there.

As an HSP, advocating for your needs is an essential step toward living better and feeling empowered at the same time. Learn more in my new book, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person.

Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, global HSP consultant, and leader in the field of high sensitivity and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions. Julie teaches an online course for HSPs and is the author of several books.