HSP ~ Highly Sensitive Person (BODY)
(15-20% of population)
HSPs have a heightened awareness in one or more of their five SENSES.
has a seemingly super-human ability in one or more of the five senses
tends to experience sensory overload (like a sea anemone)
often wince and recoil to otherwise *normal* levels of stimuli
HSPs super power is that their nervous systems are highly developed. They may be able to smell food going rotten a couple days before it goes bad. They may see colors within the human energy field (auras). They may hear subtleties of sound imperceptible to average ears. In rare cases, HSPs may have the super power of synesthesia, which is the ability to merge senses and use two or more senses in conjunction with each other. For example, a person with synesthesia may know what specific sounds smell like, or what each color tastes like.
11 Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
We are very picky about how our clothes fit. A scratchy tag, a too-tight seam, or fabric that clings just wrong may completely ruin an article of clothing we might otherwise love. Hence we always must try something on before buying.
We jump or recoil when anyone or anything touches us, sometimes even when we expect the touch.
We smell bad things before other people notice them: food going bad, rotten garbage, etc.
Some pleasant smells (i.e. perfume or flowers) overpower so much that we cannot tolerate them
White noise is either extremely soothing or frustratingly irritating.
We often experience ringing in our ears, sometimes diagnosed as tinnitus.
Wearing sunglasses indoors is often very soothing. (or tinted glasses)
We squint when exposed to florescent lighting or other harsh lighting makes us squint. We often prefer not enough light over too much light.
We are extremely picky eaters because we can taste the tiniest amount of something we don't like.
We can taste something just by looking and/or smelling it, before it touches our tongue.
Our sleep is easily disturbed by any kind of sound, movement, or change in light.
How HSPs SENSE
We hear things other people can't hear
When I was about ten years old, my mom took me to a new eye doctor. The moment we entered the lobby, I started complaining of the really loud high pitched noise. The sound was the building security system. No one else could hear it.I felt it deep inside my skull. At the time, I didn't understand what a migraine was, but I certainly knew what one felt like, thousands of spikes piercing all parts of my brain. It was like all my brain neurons instantly frayed, sending electrical zaps all down my spine.
Synesthesia - our senses work together
The longer we waited, the worst it got. Within just a few minutes, I could taste the high pitched sound on the middle of my tongue as if I had licked a 9-volt battery. I felt the noise like extra large acupuncture needles being twisted into extra sensitive nerve spots. And, I could see the sound as the multiple floaters in my eyes changed colors like a kaleidoscope.
Our Sensitivity Gets Stronger As We Age
Nearly 40 years later, I visited an eye doctor again. Different office. Different security system. There weren't any sounds to bother me. Or so I thought. . . Until the eye doctor dilated my eyes. WOWZER! Sensory overload! It was like my nervous system unzipped and turned the whole of me inside out! At first, it was just my eyesight. Which made sense. My eyes were dilated, so they opened up to everything. I mean EVERYTHING. Even my peripheral vision zoomed into hyper-focus. I squeezed my eyes shut, but even floaties in my eyes were on hyper-focus and disturbing. Then, my hearing heightened. While I have a normal ringing in my ears, this ringing got louder, and tinnier, and higher pitched. Then, my skin began to crawl. Even the tiniest change in the air felt like a cold gust of wind causing goose bumps. Every single thing I could see, hear, smell or touch physically HURT. I spent the next five hours wrapped up in a weighted blanket in a darkened room until the dilation wore off.
The Outside World Can FEEL Dangerous
Just a few more examples of average everyday excursions where my sensitivities have ruined what should be a mundane or otherwise pleasurable experience.
Sitting at a restaurant outdoor patio, the table next to us was filled with happy laughing women. One of them had exceptionally loud laughter that pierced my ears. I winced and jumped with every laugh. After a few minutes, every other sound became amplified as well. We had to leave before we got our food.
Walking through an old KMart just a couple months before it closed for good, the florescent lighting hummed and flickered. I winced with every flicker because every flicker had a tiny moment of too bright flash. Within minutes everything else about the store irritated me. The disheveled shelves. The smell of the homeless man laying on the floor watching tv. The incessant hum of the flickering lights. I had to leave before getting what I came for.
Ordering at the counter of a wine bar, the mic for the acoustic musician was too loud. I couldn't hear myself think. Every time her voice hit a certain note, my brain reset like a computer rebooting itself. I couldn't concentrate enough to place a simple order.
Every time I walk into a store and a clerk offers to help me, I can tell in the tone of their voice if they are having a good day or if they are annoyed by their job. If they are annoyed to be there, I walk out without buying what I came for.
I cannot ride on any form of public transit (especially an airplane) without noise canceling headphones because someone chewing gum too loudly could turn me into a homicidal maniac.
This is both a gift and a curse. I consider my ability to hear subtleties in voice and tone and other sound my SUPER POWER, it is also a huge inconvenience to my life (as highlighted in my stories above). I've built a career around my ability to see auras and chakras and things other people can't see, and it turns me away from every day experiences.
The Nervous System of HSPs
By definition, HSPs are people who have a heightened ability in one or more of the five senses. While some HSPs have only one or two senses heightened, some have all five. In essence, this all means that our nervous systems are both highly skilled, and easily triggered. Below are a few scientific terms to explain our "condition."
Sensitivity to normal every day sounds
Sensitivity to certain decibels or tones, usually connected with hearing loss
Certain sounds (i.e. chewing, mouth sounds, sniffing, tapping, etc) are so irritating that they trigger an anger or rage response
Sensitivity to light that triggers intense headaches, temporary partial loss of vision, increased visual floaties
One sense triggers another sense - such as when hearing a sound someone also sees a color
Increased sense of smell, usually connected to certain medical conditions. For example, migraine headaches can cause hyperosmia
Smelling something that isn't there, sometimes called olefactory hallucination. Your brain 'remembers' the smell and you actually smell it even though it's not there. For HSPs this could be that a memory triggers a scent
Heightened irritation by certain textures on the skin or in the mouth. For example, refusing to wear socks with seams because the seams are irritating. Or, refusing to eat slimy foods
Heightened ability to taste and differentiate specific flavors, particularly bitter.
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