Do You Suspect That You Might Be A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
Have you been told throughout your life that you’re overly sensitive or too emotional? Do you often feel misunderstood by others? Are you prone to anxiety, depression, or overwhelm? Have you ever considered that you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP)?
If you are an HSP, you may wonder why you experience things so intensely. Perhaps you get overstimulated easily and find that you need to avoid certain situations or being exposed to upsetting subjects—such as the news—for self-protection. As an HSP, you might lack trust in yourself because the way you experience life is so different from what other people describe. As a result, you may feel out of step with the rest of the world.
The Common Signs And Symptoms Of An HSP
As someone with HSP traits, you may experience ruminating thoughts that lead to anxiety, depression, or an overstimulated nervous system. If you often feel overwhelmed, you may struggle with being productive or have developed perfectionistic behaviors. You might also experience discord in relationships when you’re labeled as being too sensitive.
As a highly empathetic person, it may be difficult for you to process current events or differentiate between your own and others’ feelings. In addition to heightened emotional sensitivity, you may also have an acute sense of sight, sound, or touch that makes it easier for you to be overly stimulated by pain, hunger, light, or noise. At certain moments, the intensity of sensations you experience can be too much to handle.
If the description of an HSP personality resonates with you, therapy can help you navigate your experience. By fostering self-compassion and acceptance, you can learn helpful ways to manage overstimulation as well as appreciate the gifts that life as an HSP offers.
The HSP Trait Is More Common Than We Might Realize
Being a highly sensitive person is neither a diagnosis nor a mental disorder—it’s a personality trait some of us are born with. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, “the HSP trait makes people more aware of subtleties around them. Because they tend to process information more deeply than others, an HSP has more empathy and can be overstimulated more easily.” Overall, it is estimated that “approximately 15-20 percent of the population are thought to be highly sensitive.”
Highly sensitive people commonly feel misunderstood by the rest of the world. Rather than accepting our sensitivities, others often perceive the way we experience life as a problem. It’s not uncommon for HSPs to be labeled as “emotional” or “overly dramatic.” This can make us feel like we’re inherently flawed or not like other people. Rather than accept who we are, we might try to suppress our HSP traits to fit in.
Being HSP Is Often Overlooked Or Misdiagnosed
It’s common for HSPs to be misdiagnosed with other cognitive issues because we share some of the same traits and symptoms. What’s more, even though an HSP may have tried therapy to address their symptoms of anxiety and depression, unless the counselor was specifically trained in working with the HSP population, the underlying cause was likely not detected. Without this understanding, treatment for a highly sensitive person can only go so far. Since the HSP trait is innate and cannot be changed, the normal coping skills offered in therapy are often unhelpful.
Fortunately, working with a therapist who has a deep understanding of what it is to be an HSP, counseling can be much more productive and beneficial. With supportive guidance, you can learn about your unique gifts and view your sensitivities through a compassionate lens.
Therapy Can Have Many Benefits For An HSP
Even though you may have been labeled as overly sensitive through life and been made to feel something’s wrong with you, being an HSP is an intrinsic part of who you are. You cannot change who you are, even if you tried, nor should you want to. Rather than trying to fit in, therapy tailored for an HSP can help you gain self-awareness about your traits so that you can embrace who you are with self-compassion and acceptance.
Therapy gives you a safe place to be yourself without judgment or criticism. Oftentimes, the message you’ve received throughout your life about being an HSP has only been negative. As a therapist with expertise in working with highly sensitive individuals, I can help you acknowledge and accept being an HSP as a positive trait.
What To Expect In Sessions
The therapeutic relationship we establish will be an important foundation for meaningful therapy. I will go wherever you want to take me while validating your experience and acknowledging how you experience the world. Along with learning effective strategies to address any symptoms of anxiety and depression, therapy will help you acknowledge and better understand your HSP tendencies. Self-awareness will allow you to accept yourself so you can positively integrate your unique traits into your life.
As a counselor who is also a fellow HSP, I aim to help you recognize how this trait appears in daily life and make accommodations for yourself when necessary. Perhaps you need to structure more downtime between activities, maintain better sleep hygiene, or learn how to recognize when you’re overstimulated. Setting boundaries around things that rub against your HSP traits can help you avoid overstimulation as well as triggering anxiety and depression.
We will also explore how your HSP characteristics have contributed to feeling misunderstood throughout your life. You will learn to name and acknowledge these feelings. If the people who surrounded you growing up—your parents, family members, teachers, and peers—didn’t acknowledge your sensitivities, our work together will help you process how that has impacted your sense of self.
Self-Acceptance Will Help You Honor Your Gifts
When you’re an HSP, exercising mindfulness and fostering self-compassion and acceptance is an important part of feeling better. Rather than life being a continuous quest to fit into a world that is different than you, I will reinforce that you no longer need to judge yourself against others’ standards. And most importantly, we will highlight the positive gifts being an HSP offers, such as being more creative, compassionate, self-aware, and intuitive.
Understanding your innate traits and accepting them in yourself leads to a sense of increased self-worth and may ease the symptoms you may be experiencing. Accepting your HSP trait helps you be a more impactful, empathic presence in your life and your relationships. Therapy for highly sensitive people can help you live more joyfully and authentically.
Perhaps You’re Considering HSP Therapy But Still Have Some Concerns…
When I tried therapy before, I felt misunderstood.
You probably were misunderstood. Not all therapists recognize the HSP trait or know how to structure counseling for a highly sensitive person. If a counselor isn’t aware of the signs, HSP often gets overlooked as a root cause of anxiety and overwhelm. However, as an HSP myself, I have walked in your shoes. Not only am I a therapist who has been practicing since 2003, but I also have firsthand knowledge of how it feels to be an HSP and am keenly aware of what your unique struggles are. Together, we can find ways to make life less overwhelming for you.
I’m afraid that as an HSP, counseling will make me feel more anxious or depressed.
Without an understanding of how the HSP personality trait can influence your symptoms of anxiety or depression, you may unknowingly put yourself in overstimulating situations that exacerbate your symptoms or develop unrealistic expectations of what you can handle. Rather than increasing anxious or depressive thoughts, therapy aims to diminish your symptoms as quickly as possible. By integrating self-understanding and self-acceptance into each session, you’ll learn more about yourself than you’ve ever known. Most importantly, therapy will be personable and connected, and may involve the use of humor and some funny analogies.
As a highly sensitive person, seeking treatment seems too expensive and time-consuming.
As an HSP, you might not be accustomed to prioritizing self-care. It’s common for an HSP to avoid therapy, using the excuse that it’s too expensive or will take too much time. As a therapist who is also an HSP, I know this far too well. However, I aim to make therapy as affordable as possible by accepting some forms of insurance. Additionally, I can prepare a superbill you can submit to your provider to see if you are eligible for partial reimbursement.
If You’re A Highly Sensitive Person, Counseling Can Help
Understanding how to navigate the world as an HSP can make you more comfortable in your own skin. If you have questions about HSP therapy, I can help answer you during your free 15-minute consultation. Call me at 727-480-2427.
“Your work isn’t to change who you are; it’s to find people who are able to give you the connection you need. Because despite what you feel, you are not too much. You are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic. You are compassionate and kind. And with or without anyone’s acknowledgement or affection, you are enough.”
– Daniell Koepke