Highly Sensitive Personality (HSP)  has been receiving increased attention in the media lately. Not surprising, since only 20 years ago the first article was published on this subject. Nevertheless, about 1 in 5 people appears to be highly sensitive. People with HSP are more sensitive to stimuli. They experience them more and worse than others, and they therefore need more time to process these stimuli and to recover from them. But what is it like to be highly sensitive? Laura (20) explains.

Can you tell us something about yourself first?

I am Laura, 20 years old. I study English to become a teacher. Also, I teach swimming lessons and I enjoy dancing, reading and listening to music.

What does being highly sensitive mean for you?

HSP to me is that I generally feel emotions more intensely. For me, this means that events can hit me harder than others. For example, if I watch a sad movie, I get a full mental breakdown. This is with sadness, but also with happiness. A small thing can make me very happy. I also get angry quite quickly, and I often get very grumpy about the smallest things. In general it means that everything you feel, I feel 10 times worse. It works both ways, both positive and negative. If someone dies that I do not know, it feels like my cousin has died. If I feel stressed, I can reason in my head: it is only one assignment, it is easy… but I still feel the stress very intensely.

How do you deal with that?

I went to a therapist about 5 years ago. He also told me that I am HSP. I have been taught a few techniques. For example, I struggle with crowded places, with many human interactions. I have learned how to distance myself from a room, and that helps. I know that if I feel sad or grumpy, I just have to watch a comedy, or do something fun, dance or go outside. These techniques learned me to at least feel better. That is also the positive side of HSP, it does not cost me much effort to at least superficially feel more happy again. You are still thinking about the annoying things that have happened, but at least you can laugh again. That helps.

How old were you when you found out?

I was 15 when I was diagnosed. But I’ve always been like this. As a child I had problems sleeping, I was very rebellious, I started screaming about the smallest things … When my mother heard about it, she immediately thought: this makes sense. Some things suddenly fell into place. I think I was highly sensitive all my life, but it got worse in my teenage years. As every teenager becomes emotional, I just became extra.

Was it comforting to hear: this is it?

Yes, it was. I sometimes wondered, why do I react so extremely on this? It is not that bad. For example, if my mother got angry about a very small thing, I reacted super-intensely. Then every time I sat in my room, and I thought, why? Why do I think this is a logical response? And when I heard that I was HSP, I suddenly understood. For my parents it was also good to hear, they could now recognize that there was a reason behind it and that it was not their fault.

Do you know other people who are highly sensitive?

No. It may of course be so than someone does not tell you, but not as far as I know.

Do you have any tips for people who are HSP?

Try to make sure that you minimize everything that goes on in your mind, for example by writing things down, setting alarms. The less you have to think about, and that’s a lot, the more you can focus on small tasks. And just go on with your own life, instead of worrying about other things all the time. And whatever emotion you feel, just feel it. I have had many times that I wanted to block my emotions, but if you block emotions, you will get a much bigger outburst later on. If you have to cry or scream, just do it. Then the stress gets out and you can go back to normal, whatever that means for you. Finding an outlet can also help with this, for example taking a walk, dancing, writing it down … Find out what you like, what calms you down and gets you focused again. Then you have something that you can always fall back on.

Laura well tell more about HSP soon. Keep on posted!

*Laura is not her real name.

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Anouk Neerincx

Hi! My name is Anouk, coach at NiceDay! I would like to help you enjoying your day to the fullest. I like playing and listening to music, animals, traveling and books.

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