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Book, Children, HSChildren, HSP Issues, Overwhelmed, Sensitivities

Highly Sensitive Children

Highly Sensitive Children
Highly sensitive people have a nervous system that is more sensitive to subtleties. This means that regular sensory information is processed and analyzed to a greater extent, which contributes to creativity, intuition, sensing implications and attention to detail, but which may also cause quick over-stimulation and over-arousal (Aron, 1996)[1].

These individuals could be said to possess strong “mind sight” as they sense energy and information flow in their body, in other people, in the environment and between elements.   In a sense, they perceive in High Definition, with more detail, depth and clarity. They have intense thinking, emotions and reactions (sensitivities) to stimuli (chemical, sensorial, emotional, social, etc). Finally, they also possess a strong empathic sense. According to T. Howley, HSP are sensorially intense. HSPs are usually very conscientious, gifted with great intelligence, intuition and imagination, but underperform when being watched. HSPs tend to socialize less with others, preferring to process experiences quietly by themselves. This withdrawing from others is perhaps due to their heightened empathy. While empathy is a universal human ability, it is heightened in the case of Highly sensitive people, as Susan Meindl explains in the article “Highly Sensitive People and Emotional Contagion”:

“ Emotional contagion in its most positive form is the basis of the human virtue of empathy. We need to be emotionally in tune with others in order to understand them, get along with them and to function effectively in the human social world.

Highly sensitive people’s finely detailed observational abilities make them more responsive than most to the nuances of other people’s feelings. This sometimes leads them to shy away from crowds since the mass of emotional messages is just too confusing. But even one-on-one relating can be emotionally challenging to a person who reads and responds strongly other’s subtle emotional cues.

Since HSP’s own emotional responses are intense, quick to arise and hard to shake off, they often find themselves getting caught up uncomfortably in other people’s feelings. Being attuned to the rawness of other people’s emotions and even taking them on through emotional contagion can be an unpleasant and aversive experience.”[2]

Metaphorically, while “non-sensitives” people or “neuro-typicals” can not hear one tree falling in the forest, HSPs can hear the cries of all of the trees falling in the forest, constantly. While all HSPs have heightened sensory awareness, each HSPs has particular sensitivities and each has a unique balance of various sensory inputs. Not only do these people “hear” every single tree, they empathize with them as well.

This can make childhood difficult, if not painful, as they may pick up others’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, and moods without knowing where the stimuli is coming from nor how to process the extra information. Until they have reach an age where they can self-regulate, become aware of these capacities and comfortable with their sensitivities, their ability to unconsciously or semi-consciously process environmental subtleties means that highly sensitive children react very strongly to under-arousal or over-arousal. According to Susan Meindl[3], a Montreal based psychologist, stimulation comes in on all sensory channels: sights, sounds, smells, vibrations, touch. HSP’s typically respond strongly and quickly reach their natural level of tolerance in loud, bright or chaotic environments.   Meindl identifies five kinds of over-stimulation HSP struggle with: (1) Chronic environmental overstimulation; (2) Internal bodily stimulation; (3) A rich and stimulating inner life; (4) Interpersonal over-stimulation and (5) Chemically related over-stimulation & depressive responses. A vicious circle, the intersection of these factors may create a “perfect storm” for some HSPs.

One last elements comes into play in how children react to stimuli, their body temperament,

Previous: The Gifted, Next Introvert and extroverted Temperaments


[1] Aron, E.N. (2006). “The Clinical Implications of Jungs Concept of Sensitiveness”. Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice 8: 11–43.

[2] Meindl , Susan (2011)Highly Sensitive People and Emotional Contagion. Ezine Articles. Retrieved from: http://EzineArticles.com/6750494

[3] Meindl, Susan (2011). Highly Sensitive People and Depression: Overstimulation May Lead to Depression. Ezines Articles. Retrieved from:http://ezinearticles.com/?Highly-Sensitive-People-and-Depression:-Overstimulation-May-Lead-to-Depression.&id=6464996


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