A Highly Sensitive Person or HSP was born with a central nervous system that is more sensitive than other people’s central nervous systems. When these individuals experience social, emotional or physical stimuli, their central nervous systems process it more deeply than people without the trait. They are known to be “highly sensitive.”
When HSPs experience sights, sounds, vibrations, touch and smells, their central nervous systems and their brains allow more of the sensations to enter into their bodies. The central nervous system and the brain ordinarily filter out some of the stimulation, but this does not occur in the body of a HSP. Along with an increased amount of stimulation, the brain also processes this excess stimulation in greater detail.
Because the central nervous system is processing stimuli and information on a deeper level, HSPs are more aware of what is going on around them than other people are. This means that they notice even the tiniest things that other people wouldn’t necessarily know exist. Sensitivity such as this has the effect of causing HSPs to feel overwhelmed. When this occurs, they have trouble processing their emotions, thoughts and feelings because they appear to be too chaotic. This trait is perceived by other people to be “too sensitive.”
Highly sensitive person treatment options
BetterHelp is an online portal that allows you to obtain treatment for sensory processing sensitivity. When you arrive at the website, it will invite you to take a questionnaire. The questionnaire is for the purpose of finding the most appropriate therapist for you. You will answer questions about whether or not you have had therapy before and what you would like to work on with your therapist. The system has an algorithm that takes the answers from these questions and matches you with a great therapist. Once you begin counseling with your therapist, you will be able to start one of the following therapies for HSPs:
Cognitive behavioral therapy
HSPs frequently experience stress and anxiety as they navigate the world. Their sensory sensitivity causes stress and anxiety, but cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT helps them manage it. For example, HSPs experience social anxiety when they are out in public. Rather than use the talk therapy method that psychotherapy is known for, a cognitive behavioral therapist will give you the tools that will make it possible for you to anticipate when you will experience social anxiety. Then, your therapist gives you the means to cope while you are in the situation.
HSPs become overstimulated by their senses. For example, they find it difficult to tolerate some smells and sounds. Your therapist will help you avoid being overstimulated by any particular thing. This has the effect of offending others, so your therapist will make sure to teach you how to avoid these situations without causing friction between you and your friends.
Dialectical behavior therapy
Feeling overwhelmed is a major complaint that HSPs have, but dialectical behavior therapy has been proven to work well for HSPs. This therapy focuses on emotions and feelings and works to calm those overwhelming feelings with distraction techniques. This therapy helps HSPs accept themselves as they are and helps them also accept whatever is going on in the present moment.
Mindfulness has been proven to reduce anxiety for HSPs. Mindfulness teaches HSPs to pay attention to the present moment, but they are instructed not to react to what they are experiencing. One practice is to focus on a body part. While doing this, you must not be judgmental about the sensations you are perceiving. You must only be aware of your lungs inhaling and exhaling, your heart beating and any other bodily function. Being able to be aware of your bodily functions makes it possible for you to regulate your emotions. Part of being aware of your body and its sensations is being able to accept your thoughts and feelings about them.
Meditation is a great exercise for HSPs after they have been overly stimulated. One example of a meditation exercise is “mindfulness meditation.” It requires you to observe the sensations you are experiencing without reacting emotionally. You begin by sitting in a backless chair so that you can be in tune with your thoughts without judging them. You begin to feel as though you are invisible and in the present moment. In this state, your brain will be relaxed rather than focused on any one object.
Medication to “treat” a HSP is a contentious issue for some people because being a HSP is not a disease that needs to be treated. It is a personality trait. Therefore, some people are not in favor of taking medications that change them into different people.
Besides the fact that medication isn’t needed to “cure” HSPs, there is also the fact that HSPs react to medications differently because of their personality trait. Sights and sounds can be overly stimulating for HSPs, but medications can have the same effect. For example, a dose of Xanax that would relax someone without the highly sensitive trait would cause the highly sensitive to be unable to function. As you can imagine, a HSP would also be overly affected by the side effects of a medication.
HSPs are chronically overstimulated, and this often leads them to experience depression. HSPs cannot always remove themselves from an environment that is causing them to be overly stimulated. They feel as if they cannot control their surroundings, and it leads them to feel helpless and hopeless. This also leads to depression.
If you are a HSP and are experiencing depression, you may wish to begin taking antidepressants. It may work for you if you take a lower dose of the medication than other patients would be prescribed. Medications will have advantages and disadvantages, so deciding whether or not to take them is a decision that only you can make for yourself.
Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is important for everyone, but it is even more important for HSPs. You have to keep in mind that the things that are considered relaxing to other people may not have the same effect on you. For example, going out on a long bicycle ride may leave you feeling exhausted afterward. The activity may seem rather innocuous, but it may not be for you. For example, when you go to a movie, your brain is working much harder to process all of the information that is coming from the screen. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as well.
For a HSP, taking care of yourself means that you take some time to exist in silence. This allows your overworked brain to calmly process all of the information that came in throughout the day. Your nervous system also has time to relax. This means that you must be quiet, and your activity level must be at a minimum.
The first important thing to remember is that you need to get enough rest. Plan to be in bed for at least eight hours. Some people may even do well with nine hours of sleep. The next day, plan to rest for at least two hours at some point in your day.
You also need to immerse yourself in activities that replenish your soul. The activities listed above are not necessarily the right ones for you, but just being outside in nature or spending some time with your animals might do the trick. You can also begin to create art, listen to relaxing music or practice relaxing dance moves.
A trait of HSPs is to take an inordinate amount of time making decisions throughout the day. You can reduce this excessive planning by writing a daily schedule. With a daily schedule, you can avoid deciding your next move and jump right into the next things that need to be done. These actions will help you preserve your energy and make you a much more relaxed person.
Conclusion: Finding therapy for a highly sensitive person
“Highly Sensitive Person” is a relatively new diagnosis that may not necessarily be known by every medical professional. This may be especially true for more rural areas because there aren’t as many mental health centers and clinics. Finding treatment may be difficult for you, but if you take your search to the internet, your job will be much easier. BetterHelp is one option for you, and you will be able to afford it. So, begin your search for your therapist today.