On Being Highly Sensitive

Nonshin Nanjiba

20 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

I get hurt easily! And I struggle to process things that other people tend to handle very well. So, I started to look for answers. Why do I feel this way? Why I always feel overwhelmed? Well, turns out, it’s not my fault, nor can I control it.

Who are highly sensitive people (HSP): The highly sensitive persons have the personality trait called “Sensory processing sensitivity”. Yes, that’s quite a mouthful. It involves an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli. Well, it’s not a disorder. It’s just a personality trait which is innate, and people are born with it and it cannot be changed!

Research shows that about 20% of the human population is highly sensitive. That’s a large portion, right? Yet, we are not recognizing them in our society! They are still considered as a minority portion of the population. Sensitivity was first examined by Dr. Elaine Aronin 1991 in her book called “The Highly Sensitive Person”.

Dr Aron discussed how a culture can affect an HSP. A culture where sensitivity is not valued, HSPs tend to have a low self-esteem. They are told not to be sensitive as if they are abnormal, making them have a sense of failure. They feel sad too often, but it’s not in their control.

Here, we need to understand that being an introvert and being an HSP is two different things. This is because 70% of the HSPs are introverts and the 30% of them are extroverts. Now, when you are thinking whether you are an HSP or not, you do not necessarily be a 100% HSP. When I took my tests, not all the situations were relatable to me but I could relate to more than 80% of them.

What are the things that an HSP faces? Being an HSP is not easy. Like I said earlier, it’s a scientific personality trait and it cannot be changed. Their mental system is more reactive and sensitive than that of a non-sensitive person. An HSP feels deeply and tend to be more emotionally reactive. They are very intuitive and go very inside to figure things out. They are empathetic and care a lot for people who are having a hard time. They care beyond reason and empathize without limits. Some of the HSPs are uncomfortable with an audience watching their every move.

The HSPs have a vivid inner world where all their emotions are magnified. Another thing that the HSPs struggle with is, it takes them longer period of time to take decisions, it’s hard for them, even though there’s no right or wrong one! Simply a restaurant menu can be difficult for them. So, while taking life decisions, they become very anxious or depressed.

Moreover, the HSPs are very serious about their commitments and they take their relationships very seriously. The highly sensitive persons are prone to anxiety or depression, especially if they have past bad experiences. Their mental system is always alerting them of potential dangers due to the past experiences, in order to protect them from being hurt.

The HSPs also often have difficulty letting go of negative thoughts and emotions. They tend to feel too much and feel too deep. Again, not in their control! According to experts, the HSPs should avoid watching violent or horror films. It gets too stressful for them to handle. They can also be sensitive to loud noises and pain. There can be more things an HSP can struggle with; I mentioned the ones I mostly could relate.

How to deal with an HSP: Hey, I understand, dealing with an HSP can be a plateful. It’s hard; it’s not easy at all. But that’s the 20% of us, and their suffering is real. We need to promote more acceptances towards HSPs. Nurturing one’s sensitivity is the key to helping them go comfortable with activities they are not naturally inclined to do because it will help feeling them safer to take risks.

Thus, next time you feel like saying a sensitive person, that-

You’re too sensitive!

Stop taking everything to your heart!

You should really toughen up!

Take a pause and think. Do you really want to do that? It’s like saying a blonde that, ‘hey your hair is too golden’. It makes the same difference when you say such things to an HSP! And for them, it’s painful.

No two HSPs are alike. Every HSP has their unique sensitive fingerprint. Thus, we need to accept and appreciate these people. The world needs more empathetic people, people who just cannot stop caring. We need people that can deeply and easily connect with others.

We need these soft spoken, cooperative and full of integrity HSPs in the world. Just help them handle things that are tough to them. Next time you talk to an HSP, please be gentle! Their heart is too soft, and you probably won’t even know when you end up hurting them. Because it’s hard for them, remember? Instead you may share the good spirits by letting them be how they are; and encouraging them to share their sensitive gifts to the world, love.


The writer is a final year law student at University of Dhaka and legal intern at The Legal Care.