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HSP and Stress

The article ‘Orchid children’ bloom, wither in response to surroundings, explains how, according to Doctor Ellis, Highly Sensitive Children, or Orchid children, are different  in that are predisposed to be more susceptible to their environments. While this may seem to be a disadvantage, many are starting to understand that these sensitivities mean that these children possess a plasticity that makes them more vulnerable to sorrow and yet also more capable of change. The article suggests that:
this would have enormous implications for those suffering from certain mental ailments. Perhaps along with their difficulties, their genes have granted them a tool for solving them — and beyond that, for reaching new heights of personal fulfillment. It would also have an impact on how we raise and teach kids. Some have already speculated that children with ADHD need something different from the one-size-fits-all American educational model. If it’s true that some kids are uniquely influenced by environment, then maybe what we need is not to try to make them more like other kids — the current approach — but rather to construct the environment that will best help them thrive. This is likely to be difficult, and expensive, and for these reasons it may not catch on. But we might have much to gain, both as individuals and as a society, by seeing a springboard where we once saw a trapdoor.”

A very big first step is to learn about what stresses these children and being the process of creating environments that eliminate a lot of the pain these children experience.

Mari Dionne wrote a wonder essay on what hurts a HSP and defines stress in ways that are very helpful. For a highly sensitive child, as for an adult HSP, stress can take on many forms and comes from many sources.  According to M. Dionne, Stress, real or imagined, can cause a host of symptoms including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. Stress can be caused by personal, physical or environmental factors. Some of us may be more sensitive to the foods we eat, personal hygiene products, toxins, chemicals, medications, or our environments (electromagnetic energy fields, molds, pollens, cleaning products, and synthetic materials). For others, deep emotions that can’t be faced or felt may surface as physical symptoms as an expression of our hidden emotions. Financial problems, a car accident, a divorce, losing a job, a child, or a beloved pet will impact anyone to some degree of stress, even physical stress.  Dionne uses different categories of stress which can be very useful for a parent to understand. I am reblogging it below:

Personal Stress

Personal (emotional) stress is most often self-imposed by negative thought patterns and discontent.  Negative relationships, loud neighbors, hyperactive children (and adults), argumentative personalities, and negative attitudes in general can also quickly exhaust your energy reserves. Other causes of stress are negative thinking, perfectionism, victim mentality, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). These latter two are often related to trauma and abuse. Negative emotions play a huge role in sickness and dis-ease, due to the impact negative emotions have on the immune system.

Energy, whether positive or negative, roams around your body looking for an exit. Without finding one it builds up like hot air in a balloon, creating pressure and powerful symptoms. Giving your energy something to do will help to keep you calm by push it outward in positive activities. We Highly Sensitive People share characteristics with those considered psychic and easily pick up on the vibrations of other people, things and places. It is common to become overloaded and overwhelmed with your own or another’s emotions, pain, and problems. These kinds of sensitivities, often misunderstood, can lead to anxiety attack and avoidance behaviors.

Physical Stress

Up to 50% of all physical stress is actually caused more by physical factors relating to diet and nutrition. Without giving your body proper nutrition, it has no way to defend itself physically or mentally. This can lead to spiritual decline. Eating food that is bad for you, or not eating enough, isn’t healthy. It only serves to raise the levels of your cortisol and other stress hormones, which leads to anxiety, stress syndromes, illness, and disease. When you take steps to manage the physical side of your life through diet and environment over 50% of stress disappears.

Environmental Stress

Loud noise, harsh smells, extreme temperatures, bright and vivid colors, motions, crowds, TVs, stereo systems, computers, computer games, loud appliances, synthetic fabrics, chemicals, toxins, molds, pollens, air pollution, and pet dander and are just a few examples of things that cause you environmental stress.

Another Kind of Stress

There is a kind of stress that many don’t realize or discuss, but it needs mentioning. Under-arousal is also a problem for Highly Sensitive People. Sometimes, in life, it is not the stress of the things that are going on and happening in your life, but the stress of what is not going on or not happening. When you become bored with what you are doing, experiencing, or living, and don’t feel you have an outlet for your energy (sensitive people are extremely creative), it causes tremendous stress. Continually being bored and without stimulation is no less than drudgery. If you are in a relationship, either, at home and at work, that could be defined by the statement above, you need a change. Boredom ends in drudgery and drudgery will make you lose contact with your values and who you are, which will only cause you to become bored, which causes more drudgery. It is a vicious circle leading to burn out and a sense of uselessness, a feeling of lack of purpose, and hopelessness. Boredom and drudgery, when ongoing, causes depression and physical dis-ease.

How the HSPs Nervous System Reacts to Stress

How you react to stress is not just a result of your mental outlook or your genes. It is both. However, the single, most common denominator of all stress symptoms and dis-ease is energy imbalance. There are 11 systems in the human body that can be affected by stress, the circulatory, digestive, endrocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, nervous, respiratory, reproductive, and urinary systems. These systems work together to keep you healthy and well. They are interconnected and depend on one another, and you, in keeping you healthy.


When we resist our own sensitive natures and try to be the person that everyone else wants or expects us to be, it creates tension and pain, both emotionally and physically. You have the right to provide a life for yourself that feels safe and is otherwise rich in the ability to grow, which offers self-esteem, and the option to pursue your greatest passions.

Is it Stress or Something Else?

It has to be stated that it is extremely important you rule out illness or disease if you are having symptoms you don’t understand. However, if your doctor keeps giving you a clean bill of health, and nothing is ever found wrong with you, time after time, you will have to consider that it may be emotional or environmental stress causing your physical symptoms and stress is winning the battle.

Not all symptoms lead to illness, even though all illness will eventually lead to symptoms. This means that even though you may be experiencing symptoms, you may not have an illness at all. This can be important information for those who fear illness is the cause of their stressful symptoms

When a symptom, or group of symptoms, have no apparent cause, they are called a syndrome, meaning there is no cause. Medically speaking, your symptoms or conditions are considered idiopathic, meaning it arose from an unknown cause. For most of us, that term just makes us feel like our doctors are saying we have idiot’s disease. Of course there is a cause!

The next step, is understanding how these systems work and helping them heal.




  1. Pingback: Things that increase sensitivities « The Highly Sensitive Family - October 30, 2011

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