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HSP Issues

Crash Course on Highly Sensitives


I found a presentation that does an awesome job at explaining HSPs and their main issues when encountering the health system.

The following notes summarize and work from the material found in the presentation:

Health, Healthcare, & the Highly Sensitive Person:
Issues & Solutions – for patients, families, & providers
by Gail Ruth, RN MSN

A highly sensitive person (HSP) has a physiological trait of high sensitivity. In other words, he/she has a
sensory-processing sensitivity.

15-20% of people are highly sensitive. (One out of every 5 to 7 people)
The same percentage holds true across genders, across cultures, in the entire animal kingdom: fruitflies,
fish, dogs, cats, horses, primates, etc.

The Spectrum of Sensitivity
15-20% of population are HSP. 20-25% or so of the population are moderately sensitive. Almost half the population is not sensitive to some degree.

High Sensitivity in Action
For HSP’s, stimuli is received and processed in extra detail and with extra intensity,
Stimuli includes:

  • Anything coming in through the five senses.
  • Anything coming in through the “sixth sense”.
  • intuition and other uncommon awarenesses.
  • Even stimuli that comes in below conscious awareness.

Sources of Stimuli  Includes in different shades of intensity:
Anything in the immediate environment:

  • Textures
  • Temperatures
  • Odors
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Sound
  • Color
  • Vibration
  • EMF and other energies not usually sensed
  • Spiritual energies
  • Other people’s emotions
  • Aesthetics or lack thereof
  • Information perceived intuitively

Sources of Stimuli May Include:
Anything in one’s own self:

  • One’s thoughts
  • One’s own emotions
  • Bodily sensations
  • One’s deep subconscious states

Optimal Arousal
All people operate best at their optimal level of nervous system arousal.

Too little arousal:

  • boredom
  • lack of motivation
  • difficulty engaging in anything

Too much arousal:

  • stressed
  • frazzled
  • not effective
  • not pleasant

The opposite ends of the sensitivity spectrum are utterly alien to each other:
What engages a not sensitive person might blow an HSP’s fuse.
And an optimal level of stimulation for an HSP would turn a not sensitive person into sludge.

For example, a boisterous social event may just be the perfect finish to a
not sensitive person’s Saturday errands.
For a highly sensitive person, a day of errands will leave them in overload and needing quiet recovery time.

The Highly Sensitive Body
A highly sensitive person by definition has a sensitive body that is more reactive to:

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Food additives

These might take an extra toll on a highly sensitive person’s health.

Highly sensitive bodies need…

  • more quiet
  • more sleep
  • more down time
  • a slower pace…

…than is considered “normal” in Western cultures.

HSP’s who have not adapted their lives to their trait may be in constant overload, and therefore
at increased risk for stress-related illness and disease.

Medical Implications of Being Highly Sensitive

  • HSP’s are extra sensitive to pain.
  • HSP’s are extra sensitive to what’s happening in their body.
  • HSP’s recover extra slowly from illness and medical procedures. This is normal for an HSP.
  • HSP’s are extra sensitive to medications:
    • their therapeutic effects/their side effects
    • This sometimes makes it more difficult to treat their medical conditions
    • The same is true for many herbal and natural medicines.
  • At their best, HSP’s can be:
    • more attuned to and aware of their body
    • more intuitive about their body
    • more intuitive about what treatments might be good for them
    • They often intuitively know when something isn’t right or when something might not be helpful for them.

    Issues with medical providers:

    • who have been trained in a “power over” culture.
    • who might discount the HSP’s experiences.
    • who might be rushed because of productivity demands.
    • who might not “believe in” the trait of high sensitivity.
    • who might be burned out and won’t listen.
    • who might get frustrated with the HSP.
  • When in overload, the ability to communicate effectively is jeopardized.HSP’s have a lower pain tolerance.
    They tend to respond therapeutically to subclinical doses of medications.
    They might have more side effects from medications.
    All this is physiological, not psychological, and normal for HSPs.

The trait of high sensitivity does not need to be medicated. Chronic anxiety or depression are not a feature of the trait, but may be the result of traumatic experiences or troubled childhoods.

Advice for Patients
Be gentle with yourself and accept you are not at your optimal functioning in healthcare environments.
Believe in yourself even if your provider doesn’t.

Be aware that even a routine but unpleasant office visit might have caused trauma.
Know that medicating overarousal deadens more than just the overarousal.It also flattens your positive traits. Keep this in mind if you and your doctor are discussing medicating your sensitivity.

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