Are you often told that you are “too sensitive,” too emotional” or “too needy?” Do you think more deeply about things and worry more than an average person? Do you prefer quiet environments? You are not alone. Actually, according to Elaine N. Aron, who first developed and researched this term in early 1990’s, it is quite common; with as many as one in five people possessing traits of highly sensitive people.
Many times they suffer from anxiety and depression which can turn into severe clinical depression if they don’t get professional help. They often try to please others and feel guilty when they are not able to meet their needs. Research also indicate that highly sensitive account for 15% to 20% of the population, which makes up quite a large percentage of humanity. Yet we’ve often been led to believe that sensitivity is a weakness.
Highly sensitive people also often choose careers that are not your average as they are very sensitive to the environment and they prefer to work alone as to avoid harsh criticism and having to answer a demanding boss. These includes musicians, interpreters (I was one of them once), as well as people being on call, such as medical professionals. They all have one thing in common: they often feel misunderstood, alone, under-appreciated, and over-worked.
What makes highly sensitive people different from the average person and also makes them want to run away and hide?
- They are easily overwhelmed. They get easily overwhelmed by their environment whether this represents other people or loved ones, as well as bright lights, noise, strong smells, loud music, or sirens. They are often light sleepers and they have struggled with insomnia due to worrying about what had happened during the day, for example. They also tend to analyze everything.
- They feel guilty all the time. Highly sensitive people who work in non-traditional jobs many times cannot see family or friends often and they feel guilty about it. They feel more than most people and therefore, it’s not easy for them just to let it go. They feel bad when they miss a family dinner, birthday party, or a social event. Many times they are not able to make plans more than a week in advance and many of them even work on weekends. Consider people who work a graveyard shift or interpreters – no such thing as a weekend. When everyone celebrates, they need to work. They are also very conscientious, hardworking, meticulous, and detail-oriented.
- They need privacy. They are often introverted and need time to think and reflect. Others may misunderstand their behavior as being “snooty” or “antisocial.” Many highly sensitive people have learned from a young age that they need to keep their feelings and thoughts to themselves as they have been told that they were “weird” or “cry babies.” As children, they were often seen as shy. They also prefer to exercise solo. Highly sensitive people tend to avoid team sports as they feel that everyone is watching their every move.
- They feel unappreciated. Musicians are on the top of the list here. Music and art are generally considered an “extra curriculum.” Many times they are not taken seriously as they don’t have a “real job.” Few people know how much work and dedication it takes to become a well-known musician. Not everyone can be the next Beatle. Think about bass players. The average music lover pays very little attention to bass and what it does for the music that they are listening to. Mostly, the lead singer and the guitarist are given the kudos. So they learn to stay in the background not getting the praise that they deserve.
- They are more emotionally reactive as they feel more deeply. Generally speaking, highly sensitive people have more empathy when their friends – or even strangers – are going through challenges. They feel everything on a deeper level and they are usually very intuitive. They make good social workers, teachers, and counselors. However, they need to learn how to take better care of themselves as they are prone to professional burnout. This was one of the first things that I had experienced as a new counselor trying to do more than I could handle which led to frequent colds and illnesses as the immune system gets compromised.
- They are used to hearing that they are too sensitive or take things to personal. This is especially true of the Western culture that is focused on self-actualization and individualization (remember Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”). In the US, we believe the pharmaceutical industry can solve everything even the person’s temperament. If you study Eastern cultures, for example in Thailand and India, highly sensitive men are never teased, like in our North American culture. We teach boys from a young age that to show emotions is not “manly.”
- They are more prone to anxiety and depression (if they had a lot of negative past experiences). In my professional practice, I have worked with hundreds of highly sensitive people. Many of them suffered some kind of trauma or abuse which may have scarred them for life. According to Aron, having a supportive environment can go a long way tom protecting against this as well as working with a compassionate and trained professional. Parents of highly sensitive children especially need to realize that they have special needs that need to be considered, such as explaining things in a non-judgmental way as opposed to punishment.
- They avoid violent movies and TV shows. Watching violence on TV or in the news can really upset them. Many of them choose not to watch the news or violent movies as they feel everything deeply. It may disrupt their sleep as it can lead to violent nightmares.
- They are drawn to narcissists. Since highly sensitive people have high levels of empathy, they often find themselves in relationships with narcissists, who either take advantage of them or prey on what they perceive to be a weaker group. Narcissists typically just care about themselves, their status and image and lack empathy. Just think about The Picture of Dorian Gray – he fell in love with his own reflection.
- It takes them longer to make decisions. They are more aware of details and nuances of the situation and weigh pros and cons and this is especially true if there is no right or wrong answer, such as in choosing a color to paint the room. This is because they are considering every possible outcome and they also don’t want to upset anybody. They tend to overanalyze everything.
Some Uplifting Tips:
- You’re not alone
- Be careful when consuming stimulants
- It’s okay to be an introvert
- Empathy is an amazing quality
- Be selective when it comes to media
Original Source to Full Article, With many thanks to Mateja Petje