Understanding the Trait of High Sensitivity

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What is a highly sensitive person? Here’s a quick definition for those of you new to learning about the trait.

Back in the 1990s, psychologist Elaine Aron, a pioneer in researching this unique innate trait that at least 20 percent of the population had, named those with this trait the highly sensitive person (HSP), but in the scientific world, it is known as sensory processing sensitivity. It is NOT a disorder. This trait evolved as a survival strategy of the population and offered greater sensitivity and responsiveness to environmental and social stimuli. People with this trait had specially developed abilities that helped them be good at finding food, mates, and a safe place for the tribe to live.

They have researched and found this trait in over a hundred species so far, and it is found equally across genders. 70 percent of highly sensitive people (HSPs) are introverts. Aron presented a good way to summarize the HSP trait with the acronym DOES, which stands for depth of processing, overstimulation, emotionally responsive, and sensitivity to subtle stimuli.  

One of the more difficult aspects of this trait is that we can often feel overwhelmed and overstimulated. I think of it like having a supercomputer brain where we are downloading and processing more information than 80 percent of the population. There are different levels of sensitivity that people experience, so thinking about things in terms of the physical senses might mean that we need to adjust lighting, we may be more impacted by smells, noises, textures, or tastes, and we also tend to be more drained by crowds.

There are certain challenges associated with being a highly sensitive person. For example, we may experience more overstimulation, depletion, and often feel misunderstood and different than others, especially because we are the minority and experience the world in a different way. We also tend to have increased awareness and are more intuitive, more empathetic, and feel things more deeply. 

Thoroughly learning about this trait will change your life. I have had thousands of HSPs reach out to me to let me know how learning about the trait has made them feel understood, validated, and finally able to accept themselves. How wonderful! What I know for sure, is that the world is a better place with HSPs!  My mission is to help you reduce the challenges of your sensitivity so you can access all the many gifts! 

I invite you and your family and friends to explore all the areas of my website to continue learning and growing: 

  1. So you don’t miss anything, subscribe to my weekly HSP Newsletter

  2. Learn and grow in this HSP Course

  3. Explore my full HSP website

  4. Read these recommended HSP Books

  5. Read all my HSP Blog posts

  6. Listen to my HSP Podcasts 

  7. Watch my HSP Videos

~Julie Bjelland (pronounced Bee-Yell-And) is a Psychotherapist, Author, and Global HSP Consultant, 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 and is on a mission to get more empowered HSPs living their best lives in the world. Julie teaches an online HSP brain-training course and is the author of several books. She has also been invited to join the faculty of The Shift Network, to create a new course for HSPs and is a Sensitivity Expert for Dr. Rick Hanson. Julie advocates for acceptance of all forms of diversity, including the LGBTQ community and believes everyone should be able to live freely and authentically. She shares her home with her partner, two children and a houseful of pets and plants. www.juliebjelland.com