High Sensitivity vs. Disorder — Autoimmune, Emotional, Mental, Relational
by Ane Axford on October 9, 2009
Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) seem to be more inclined to get autoimmune disorders (Celiac Disease, Connective Tissue Disorder, see a long list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoimmune_disease), emotional disorders (anxiety and depression), relational disorders (codependency), and possibly even mental disorders (Bipolar, Schizophrenia). My message is that sensitivity is great and that one can thrive with it, not that it induces disorders or is one. So, how do these all match up??? I was hoping you would ask. These disorders all come down to the same thing: beliefs, a.k.a. subconscious programming.
High sensitivity is an inherited trait and just right as it is, like having brown hair, size 15 feet, and a cleft in your chin. Now, if you have size 15 feet, you will be a minority and have a hard time finding shoes. Most of the population is not like you in terms of shoe size. You may become frustrated or self-conscious about your feet. You may even be told that they are ugly by someone important to you, and you may believe it. You may not wear shoes at times. You may squeeze your feet into shoes that are too small. This may lead to a “disorder”, however it is not the foot size that caused it. It is the context around the foot size. If this same person grew up in a community where large feet were the norm, in a wine-making facility smooshing grapes with their feet, or at least accepted and supported, then these issues may not exist. This is a VERY simplified parallel of some of how emotional disorders may develop in HSPs, who are also minorities.
Let’s take this deeper. There are parallels between how our body works and how our less tangible self works. Our skin is literally a boundary that protects our body, along with our skeleton and other important body structures. We get to decide what we let into our bodies and into our lives, into these boundaries. Our bodies require specific nourishment to take care of themselves and thrive. Some of these things are strengthening and exercising muscles, eating nutritious food, appropriate sleep. Bodies can also be harmed by exposure to toxic, harmful substances. Simplified, health means receiving certain things and avoiding certain things. While less sensitive bodies may be able to tolerate more things that are not healthy, highly sensitive bodies cannot. There is a plethora of research about how gluten/wheat is really not healthy for anyone; nor is dairy, high stress, rage, aggression, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, neglect, florescent lighting, inhaling chemicals, loud noise, etc. There are many (most of our population) who can tolerate these things. It doesn’t make them healthy. HSPs often cannot tolerate these things and when they are repetitively exposed to them, they can create a physical disorder.
Being sensitive to gluten is just fine. It is healthy. Repeatedly eating gluten when you are highly sensitive can cause damage to your body and create a disorder. Being sensitive to violence, stress, and rage is healthy. Repeatedly being exposed to it and accepting it into one’s life can create a disorder, especially when highly sensitive. It’s healthy to be sensitive to what others want and need, others’ emotions, and share your amazingly creative, deep skills and empathy. It’s not healthy to only focus on what others’ wants, needs, emotions as a means to feel positive about one’s self, wanted, and important. This creates codependence. It is healthy to think deep thoughts and plan ahead. It’s not healthy to spend all of your time only thinking and planning and repeatedly exposing yourself to anxiety-inducing adrenaline or overwhelming emotions leading to hopelessness and depression.
What happens to the physical immune system is also what can happen to the emotional/relational/mental immune system. An autoimmune disorder develops when the immune system is repeatedly exposed to substances that are not healthy, that the body cannot process. So, it learns to put up extra defenses, it cannot trust you to feed it only healthy things. It is meant to catch the occasional invader, not deal with a constant barrage of harmful substances. It becomes even more sensitive and starts attacking everything or seeing everything as a threat. It becomes weakened from all this effort, so it takes the route of “hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em first” because it has no long range defense anymore. The belief you accepted is that there is something wrong with you, your body acts on this program. It can eventually begin to self-destruct, the immune system literally begins to attack the body at this point. You support the belief/program by continuing to expose it to harmful substances, which also sends the message that you must not be worthy of protection…you don’t respect your boundaries, so you must be worthless. We can see the same thing with those who have no relational boundaries, and accept any type of treatment from others — including abuse. They are often on-edge, timid, withdrawn, waiting for the next attack. They often say “no” to everything because they have said “yes” to everything and gotten so hurt by it. Or, we can look at someone with no emotional boundaries who either gets intensely upset over everything or shuts off all emotion. It plays out on all levels. *Side note: we may not have known that these things were not healthy for us…now we do. Let go of guilt, you are doing the best you can where you are in every moment. Start from here and go where you want to with what you know now.
This has a happy ending. Disorders can be returned to order. It is the belief that one is disordered that leads to a disorder. Therefore the first step is learning about one’s sensitivity and accepting it as just right. This allows one to begin to understand the boundaries they need in place. This includes food boundaries, relationship/interaction boundaries, emotional boundaries, thought boundaries, exercise boundaries, spiritual boundaries, sleep boundaries, work boundaries. You are highly sensitive and you need to listen to your sensitivity to be healthy. You need to protect yourself vigilantly. This is your greatest strength and it can be your greatest weakness if not properly used. Your body tells you whenever ANYTHING is out of alignment. Many of us have stopped listening, and things have only gotten more intense. Listen, right now. Scan your body. What sensations do you notice? A blockage? A tingling? Something in your chest, hands, shoulders, throat? What does it want? What will help it to feel better? Do what it tells you. Be authentic and listen to yourself above all else.
It is healthy to be sensitive. Disorders are not a natural result of sensitivity and they are not the same thing as sensitivity. Disorders develop as a result of the context and highly sensitive people are the most vulnerable. Everything can go REALLY deep when you are highly sensitive and it’s not healthy for everything to enter you. Care for your highly sensitive self and respect your sensitivity. Know that you are just right as you are and you can meet all of your own needs. Understand yourself, connect to your self, and accept yourself completely. Put things in order with clear boundaries, be aligned. You will see that not only can you function with sensitivity, you can thrive. In fact, thriving is THE way to combat disorder. You thrive by being fully you. Your joy, peace, talents, and authentic expression will come out and it will feel fabulous.
If you are struggling with doing this or believe you may be experiencing a disorder, meet with a therapist you connect with as a HSP. Many therapists are HSPs and can understand where you are. Especially, find a skilled clinical hypnotist (www.asch.net). Changing your beliefs of being “wrong” as “too sensitive” can lead to healing on all levels, including physically. I have worked with many people to overcome many disorders — physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, intellectual. I have seen what some may call “miracles”. Through the use of hypnosis, which puts one in direct contact with subconscious programming (what creates the disorder and resulted from one’s context), one can tap into all their body’s functions to support healing (even physically) and living in healthy contexts that support order. In other words, hypnosis can support you in being aligned in ways that simply talking may not. You are always more than welcome to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I provide in-person services to those in NYC and long-distance support through Skype or over the phone.