Do you have a sensitive side to your personality? Is there someone you know who is? Did you know that sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a quality that characterises a highly sensitive person or personality (HSP)? Elaine Aron (1996), a psychologist who is also an HSP, was the first to coin the term HSP. The Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) was created by her and her husband, and it sparked more research into the feature, including its neurological underpinnings (Aron & Aron, 1997). Carl Jung was the first to highlight the significance of sensitivity, believing that it was more significant than sexuality in a person’s susceptibility to neurosis (Aron, 2004).
When using the HSPS (Aron & Aron, 1997) to test, HSPs are predicted to make up 15–20 per cent of the population, and up to 30 per cent of the population when using the shorter scale (SensitivityResearch.com, 2020). A person is considered to have a highly sensitive personality if they score 14 or higher on the 27-item HSPS (Aron & Aron, 1997). High sensitivity, according to Aron’s (1996) original definition, is inborn, genetic, and binomial, rather than being learned or existing on a spectrum. To put it another way, you either have it or you don’t. HSP and SPS are frequently used interchangeably. Aron (2010) classified the HSP attribute into four groups in further study.
1. Processing depth
HSPs have a deeper understanding of all forms of information, are more introspective, and take longer to make decisions than others (Aron, 2010). Depth of processing occurs both consciously and unconsciously, through the interpretation of information communicated by communication in relationships and gut sensations or hunches.
2. Excessive excitability
In the same setting or location, HSPs notice a lot more than others, including other people’s emotions (even if they aren’t expressed), noise levels, odours, and other characteristics of the surroundings (Aron, 2010). This can be beneficial, but it can also lead to persistent stress and overarousal.
3. Empathy or emotional intensity
In reaction to a variety of pleasurable and painful stimuli, HSPs experience powerful positive and negative emotions (Aron, 2010). This makes them more sensitive to other people’s sentiments and compassionate.
4. Sensitivity to the senses
HSPs pick up on small environmental cues that others ignore. This can assist protect individuals and others in their social group from unforeseen hazards, but it can also cause problems with food, medicine, pain, noise, and light sensitivity (Aron & Aron, 1997).
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