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HSP: what it’s like to be a “highly sensitive person”

HSP: what it’s like to be a “highly sensitive person”

Lately we often hear about PAS, or being “A highly sensitive person“. What does this mean? What is the science behind this condition that is increasingly fashionable, however better understand our ability to process feelings? Being a highly sensitive person is a personality condition that has been of great interest to psychologists in the last period.

A host of celebrities, including Alanis Morissette, Kanye West, Nicole Kidman, and Lorde, have come out as HSPs in recent years, and the term is increasingly used in the pages of lifestyle magazines and self-help blogs. Being very sensitive is often presented as a key factor in depression. The truth is slightly more complicated: being a lot and insensitive can bring both advantages and disadvantages, it all depends on the context in which we find ourselves.

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Highly sensitive person, what is this psychological condition?

By making the most of our self-awareness, we can learn how to make the most of the right mechanisms and make the most of our personality. The idea of ​​a sensitive person can evoke the diagnosis of hysteria or neurasthenia of the 19th century, when the so-called “rest cures” were prescribed. Interest in this condition was first seen in the 1990s, through research by some psychologists. The purpose of this study was to capture sensory processing sensitivity someone’s excitability in the face of physical, social and emotional stimuli. It didn’t matter if the arousal was good or bad, what mattered was understand how the central nervous system reacted to stimulation.

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To do this, the researchers designed a series of questions that can be answered. The questionnaire is known as the HSP scale and the richest 20% were considered HSPs. Subsequent research revealed that people’s scores correlate with measures of introversion, but the differences are large enough that the two traits can be considered distinct. Not all people who are sensitive are equally introverted. People with HSP report being more perceptive in many different domains. They might find it easier to spot faint sounds that no one else can hear, for example, but they also report of be more in tune with the needs of others.

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Better understand our ability to process feelings

The high sensitivity of sensory processing also manifests itself in different thinking styles. It is also related to the time it takes to make decisions, more reflection, and enjoy deep conversation over small talk. More sensitive individuals appear to exhibit greater reactivity in the sensory cortices associated with perceptual processingas well as in regions such as the insula and amygdala which are involved in emotion. They also show increased activity in the prefrontal cortex and other areas such as planning and abstract thinking. Like other personality traits, sensitivity to sensory processing appears to be the product of nature and education.

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By comparing the scores of people who shared the same genetic blueprint and those who did not, he found that about half of the variance between individuals could be explained by their genes. It is not yet clear what those genes may be. A potential candidate is the serotonin transporter, which regulates the levels of the neurotransmitter around our synapses. The gene’s link to sensory processing sensitivity appears to be relatively weak and its importance may have been exaggerated.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay