High Sensitivity

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High Sensitivity
High Sensitivity
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High sensitivity

A certain sensitivity plays an important role in human emotional life and social interaction. Terms such as hyper or high sensitivity shape modern everyday life. But what does it mean? What is certain is that everyone is naturally sensitive to different degrees.


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  • Not recognizable at first glance
  • Increased sensitivity to irritation
  • High sensitivity as a temperament characteristic
  • Challenges and opportunities
  • What can I do myself?
  • Where can I find advice?

Not recognizable at first glance

However, the degree of sensitivity cannot always be recognized at first glance. Not every emotion gets out. Another aspect is the ability to set yourself apart. Like all personality traits, this is individually developed. The stronger the demarcation from “outside”, the fewer impressions need or can be processed. People generally become more sensitive with increasing age and under certain conditions - in the sense of a natural process. In the meantime, research increasingly confirms that stimuli are processed in a special way when people are highly sensitive. The topic is, however, very controversial.

Increased sensitivity to irritation

Some people are affected by stimuli more intensely than others. Introverts, for example, have a lower stimulus threshold. The psychologist Elaine Aron discovered the phenomenon of increased stimulus sensitivity in the 1990s and called it "sensory-processing sensitivity" or colloquially "high sensitivity". Sensory perception seems to be increased, although not every sense has to be equally pronounced. Whether stimuli come from inside or outside does not play a decisive role. Aron also linked the increased sensitivity with an inclination to creativity.

Brain research provides evidence that processes of increased stimulus processing in the brain can be detected in people with high sensitivity. Regions of the neocortex that are responsible for controlling attention and sensory processing seem to be highly active in "highly sensitive" people. The thalamus, which is a “filter” for sensory and thought perceptions, is likely to exhibit a partly adapted activity. To date, however, there is no recognized theory about the causes of high sensitivity. According to recent research, a genetic tendency is assumed, which means that stimuli are processed differently in the nervous system. It is also believed that the hypothalamus, acting as a "feeling manager", reacts differently.

High sensitivity as a temperament characteristic

It is not exactly clear whether high sensitivity occurs first as a psychological phenomenon that leads to physiological changes (e.g. increased alertness due to the release of messenger substances), or vice versa. Current scientific work shows that the so-called behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is more strongly activated. This leads to a higher level of behavioral inhibition, increased arousal and increased perception of stimuli and anxiety. There is no consensus among experts on whether highly sensitive people tend to be gifted.

The tendency is that high sensitivity, as it is understood today, is not a psychological disorder, but can be understood as a temperament characteristic. However, there are also scientific opinions on the subject that attribute the characteristics of highly sensitive people to the personality trait neuroticism (emotional instability, for example, being easily disturbed, being nervous). One thesis does not exclude the other (e.g. highly sensitive temperament and pronounced neuroticism).

Challenges and opportunities

Perceiving stimuli more and more intensely can be quite tough. There is evidence that particularly sensitive people are at increased risk of suffering from depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders, or pain. They also often perceive themselves “differently from others”, which can impair self-esteem. The characteristics of the highly sensitive can, however, also have many advantages for social communities, e.g. early recognition of conflicts or a pronounced ability to empathize. In addition, you can personally benefit greatly from it, for example through enjoyable and intensive exercise. It is helpful to see high sensitivity as neutrally as possible.

What can I do myself?

The toughening process, which is often recommended by people close to you, brings little to nothing. Avoidance could have a rather negative reinforcing effect. But what can you actively do yourself to live well with a highly sensitive tendency?

  • Make sure to optimize the environment accordingly (e.g. noise modulation).
  • Express when something bothers you - even if it does not always meet with understanding. Everyone has different needs, whether they are highly sensitive or not.
  • Treat yourself to some retreat and relaxation.
  • Say "no" often. Of course, this has to be practiced. However, it helps to set yourself apart. Again, do not always count on understanding and try not to take criticism too personally.
  • Variety is good - activity and passivity should be balanced. An example: if you sit a lot during the day, try to move more in the evening. Movement generally reduces stress.
  • You can also imagine an imaginary protection, e.g. as a cover against external influences. However, this should be practiced gradually. A certain degree of permeability should already remain so that you do not "encapsulate" yourself completely.

Where can I find advice?

If you are wondering whether you could be highly sensitive, contact psychologists, psychotherapists or psychiatrists who have practical and, if possible, scientific experience with the topic. Ask about this. Most of the questionnaires that you can fill out yourself on the Internet are not scientifically proven. Pay attention to the quality and seriousness of your reading. There are various publications that have little or no technical support.

Treatment / therapy is only necessary in the event of psychological stress, whereby psychological or psychotherapeutic advice can generally help to cope better with the situation. However, the health insurance carriers only cover the costs for illness-related disorders - for example for psychotherapy.

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