I found this presentation: Health, Healthcare, & the Highly Sensitive Person: Issues & Solutions – for patients, families, & providers by Gail Ruth, RN MSN, which 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:
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 beings are highly sensitive. The same percentage holds true across genders, across cultures, in the entire animal kingdom: fruitflies, fish, dogs, cats, horses, primates, etc.
Sensitivity is a spectrum
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.
According to Mari Dionne,a AADP Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner of Natural Healing, specialized in natural therapies and remedies for Highly Sensitive People, Highly Sensitive Person have energy vibrations that tend to resonate and fall in sync with the people and the things of world around them. Much like sponge soaking up water. This is why most sensitive people prefer moonlight to sunlight, night to day, and dark colors to bright, soft music to loud, and creative artistic expression to physical expression, such as sports, thrill seeking, etc.
Highly sensitive people’s emotions tend to be expressed and experienced in a more physical way. HSP under stress(over-arousal or underarousal) are more apt to experience stressful symptoms and syndromes, such as tension headache, fatigue, chronic pain, irritable bowel, insomnia, and panic disorder. This can make them withdraw from normal daily activities and adapt a lifestyle that is less stressful and more hidden, quiet, and controlled. However, this leads to under-arousal, which can backfire into episodes of panic, isolation, attracting negative people or beliefs, or neglecting one’s body.
- 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:
- 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
All people operate best at their optimal level of nervous system arousal.
Too little arousal:
- lack of motivation
- difficulty engaging in anything
Too much arousal:
- 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:
- 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.