Having a highly sensitive personality (HSP) is quite common. Still, it might be difficult to understand for people that are not HSP. How and when do you tell people that you are highly sensitive? And how do you deal with this as a bystander? Laura (20) explains.
Who did you tell about you being HSP?
It is not necessarily that I tell others about it. It is more that, when it comes to mind, for example when I respond to something and people ask me: why do you react like that? Then I say that I am highly sensitive. A few colleagues of mine know it for example. This is because after a lot of interaction I get very tired. A colleague of mine wondered why I was so enthusiastic at the start of the swimming lesson and got so quiet at the end of the lesson. Then I explained it, and she understood it immediately. A friend of hers also appeared to be HSP. My family knows it, and I’m sure a couple of friends know too, but I do not know exactly who. If it comes up, I tell them, but I do not emphasize it.
How do your friends deal with it?
I think they have forgotten about it. It is a fairly positive group of friends and therefore it doesn’t really come up. Maybe they can still remember it, but they won’t notice it.
What about dating?
A date is a whole experience for me, also because of this. I can not do it that well, that’s why I am currently not dating. I feel completely overwhelmed during the process of dating. People suddenly want something from me, I have to make dates, they want to touch me (I do not like being touched) and they want my attention all the time, and I struggle with that… These negative feelings take over the positive feeling that I really like the person. I still like them, but because I am so stressed out about other things, I always cut it off. So my date life is not really successful. My parents say it too, go on a date! It is very annoying, because I really want to, but I can not do it because I want to escape from the situation. That is just a shame, because I think it would be nice to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and then it doesn’t work out, because I am so stressed about all the stupid, small things. At the moment I do not have any problems with being single, but it would be nice to find a partner some time in the coming years.
How do you deal with that on a date?
Sometimes I tell them about it during a date. Often I also indicate that I do not like to be touched. A hug is fine, but I do not like it if they hold my hand. I then tell them: I am interested, but I do not want this yet. That also takes away some of the pressure. But to understand and stick to it, that is another thing… For example, I once told someone who really did not understand it. Then it will not work out.
How do you deal with studying and working?
I am very visual. For example, I draw a lot of things, I write a lot. I am a huge fan of to-do lists, otherwise I will lose overview. I divide all major assignments into small pieces. It is nice to keep track of what I have already done. I plan everything, make checklists, draw things out .. Then you just have everything at a glance. It is important that you do not lose overview. If you have a to-do list, you can just finish it from top to bottom and you’ll get there. I also often set alarms to remind myself of things. Everything is in my Google calendar, all stupid, little things. Since there is so much happening in my mind, I quickly forget things. So writing down everything usually works well.
I can imagine that sometimes you are afraid that you will not be taken seriously. How do you think about this?
With HSP, a lot of people think that I cry faster and that I get afraid more easily. That’s right, but it is only part of the problem. The second part is: if I have a deadline, it is so overwhelming. Then I have a tunnel vision on that one job that has to be finished tomorrow. All the other important things are then pushed away. It is not necessarily that I do not feel understood, but misunderstood. That they do not understand that if something happens at home, that this can have effect on how I perform in daily life. That link is usually not made.
I now have the idea that there is more awareness about HSP. I hear about it more often, on Facebook for example. When I was diagnosed in 2013, I had never heard about it before. But two years ago I suddenly saw an article about HSP. I thought it was nice to get some more insights about it. Of course you also have gradations in it, to what extent you are highly sensitive. In general, HSP means that you just process your stimuli a little differently. One is more sensitive to stimuli than the other.
Do you have any tips for family, friends or partner?
Do not take it personally if the person reacts intensely to you. We do not mean it that way.
Tips for the work environment?
Inform yourself. HSP is more than that it seems to be. It is not just responding a bit more intense to things, but also its aftermath. For example, an employer must know that after a day of work, I get extremely tired and do not want to talk to anyone anymore. If an employee indicates that he is HSP, or you suspect that an employee suffers from this, you could inform yourself about it. Also ask the person, if you suspect it.
If you are HSP yourself, then tell your manager about it..It is better if they know it and that nothing happens, then that you collapse at a certain moment and that they do not know why this happens.