Sensory Processing Sensitivity – What it Is; What it Isn’t

Sensory Processing Sensitivity — What it Is – and What  it Isn’t

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (HSP) it is not a syndrome; it is not a disorder; it is not a diagnosis —- Just as having blue or brown eyes is not a syndrome, disorder or diagnosis. It is also NOT Sensory Processing (Integration) Disorder; it is not Hyperacusis; it is not Soft Sound Sensitivity; it is not on the Autism Spectrum.  Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a genetic, innate and neutral trait that can be greatly affected by environmental stimuli — both positive and negative. And yes, it’s true — the more negative the environment, the more likely an HSP might suffer from depression or anxiety. However, the HSP trait in and of itself does not cause depression or anxiety .

One of the major things HSPs must do besides get extremely grounded and knowledgeable about the HSP trait is : Heal from Past Wounds !! For most of us, this took therapy to do properly … It was when my childhood wounds were healed that my HSP Self blossomed, soared and found delight in being sensitive. It was when I learned to set strong boundaries that I began to honor my true sensitive gifts. It was when I learned to “Be in this World, but Not Of It” that I knew what “thriving” was. (Romans 12:2)
It is also worth knowing that the ONLY four things ALL HSPs have in common is : D.O.E.S. 1) Depth of Processing; 2) Overstimulation; 3) Emotional Intensity; 4) Sensory Sensitivity. (This is from Elaine Aron’s book: Psychotherapy and the HSP) The ways in which these four things manifest for each individual is incredible varied – and usually depends much upon one’s family of origin (or culture) and the degree to which one’s sensitivity was accepted, understood, managed or ridiculed.

Is being a Highly Sensitive Person easy? No, definitely not. But truly, Life Is Difficult for most everyone at one time or another. There is a way to be happy and authentic as an HSP … It takes work, support, knowledge, trial and error, to create your own unique HSP Owners Manual. I believe it takes work, support and knowledge for the non-HSP to be happy and authentic as well.

With you on the journey, and with love, js

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20 Responses to Sensory Processing Sensitivity – What it Is; What it Isn’t

  1. Deb says:

    Short, sweet, concise, to the point…I like it! Healing old wounds is part of the key; I would also say learning not to take the treatment of dysfunctional people around you personally is a big part, too. I’ve gotten myself to a pretty good place but still have to remind myself that just because people who say they love you can act incredibly
    insensitively, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who’ll treat you well. You just have’nt to found them yet.

    • Jacquelyn says:

      Hi Deb, Sounds like you have learned quite a bit on your HSP journey ! I agree, it is terribly important to discern who is healthy to be around and who is not, and to set firm boundaries with those who do not honor our differences. Thanks for your thoughts !

    • lisa says:

      I have just found out about HSP and just starting on the road to healing old wounds. This is a really good article and I particularly think Debs comments are very true and something I am struggling with as yet.

      • Jacquelyn says:

        Welcome to the world of highly sensitive people Lisa ! Glad to hear you have started the journey to healing from past wounds … it does
        get so much better after that …..

  2. DearJacuelyn
    I am HSP/SPS and working professionally as a theapist with HSP/SPS in Denmark. HSP has not been the “best words” translated into danish, this makes so much more meeting. I have been giving a lot of speeches about the D.O.E.S, it it so clear and precise, and everybody gets it.
    Thank you.
    I will be joining the conference i Belgium and the day with Elaine in Denmark. I look forward to get the latest updates, so I can bring it on to my clients.

    all the best
    Gitte Barington

    • Jacquelyn says:

      Hello Gitte,
      I understand the media in Denmark has not been too friendly to our HSP trait recently. It is good to know professionals like yourself are helping to get the correct information “out there.” Like every “movement” — and Elaine’s work has definitely created an “international movement” ~~ there is always a backlash. Hopefully, any negativity and misunderstanding won’t last long. It has long been my vision of a world full of empowered HSPs — it is wonderful to know that vision is manifesting around the world. Best HSP wishes to you ! Jacquelyn

  3. Lea Maria Nielsen Bernberg says:

    Dear Jacuelyn
    Thank you so much for this sweet, short and very precise discription.
    Like Gitte said in a comment earlier, there isn’t really a very good understanding for HSP, here in Denmark. And as one, I felt relieved reading this. It gave me hope. So thank you very much! I am only 19 so I have a long journey ahead of me to learn from.

    The kindest thoughts
    Lea Maria Bernberg

  4. Divazoom says:

    I have recently learned about HSP.This is a very good article short and to the point. My question is how to heal old wounds as mentioned in the article. Wht is the besy possible method.O suffer from depression eould healing old wounds help.

    • Jacquelyn says:

      Hello Divazoom….
      Healing from past wounds is usually an individual path …. what works for one, might not work best for another.
      Of course, being a therapist, I would suggest finding someone near you that you could work with. Also, I would
      suggest reading Elaine Aron’s book: The Undervalued Self … it speaks to this issue …. Good luck on your journey.

  5. Lil says:

    Before finding out about the HSP trait I thought there was something wrong with me. ..people either saying i’m too sensitive or too energetic or even weird. I’m glad to find out that I’m 100% ok and it’s just how I’ve been genetically wired. Thanks for your article Jacquelyn

  6. May says:

    What a lovely description. I’m just really coming to terms with the idea of having SPS, and it’s such a relief to read about other people’s experiences, and to know that I have not been imagining all this!

    • Jacquelyn says:

      No, you have not been imagining any of this ! As I always share at the HSP Gathering Retreats: ” Welcome to the world of highly sensitive people. It is indeed a wonderful world…and we can take it upon ourselves to make it even better world by “coming out” as an HSP, and offering our gifts
      and talents to the world around us. As many of you know, one of my visions is imagining a world full of empowered HSPs … …our priestly advisor selves. Won’t you join me?” 🙂

  7. Heather L. says:

    I wonder if this is what I’ve been dealing with. When in a crowded store/mall/gathering, I feel boxed in, emotionally drained and stressed. I get extremely upset/angry, while no one and nothing is attacking/bothering me. I get visibly upset and start yelling for no reason. The anger is what bothers me most. Getting angry over nothing. Most times I need a nap to “re-set” myself after I’ve been in a situation that gets me riled up. Again, no one is bothering me or attacking me, I just feel assaulted by the sounds/situation and get angry.

    • Jacquelyn says:

      Hi Heather, It might be helpful to research Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) as well….. Many HSPs certainly do not enjoy
      crowded stores, malls or gatherings, yet we can tolerate it if we have to. Becoming extremely upset and angry to the point of
      yelling sounds somewhat serious. Often occupational therapists can offer relief to those suffering from SPD …. good luck .

  8. I appreciate perusing your site. Thanks a ton!|

  9. Sandro says:

    Hello and thank you for this supportive and encouraging post.

    It’s encouraging, because I am in an anxious mood lately, started to visit a therapist and learned that I have SPS – it feels comforting to read, that once finding out what’s driving my sensitive gears crazy, it’s possible to enjoy the benefits of high sensitivity!

    May I ask, if you could recommend me any literature about how to deal with anxiety as an HPS?


    • Jacquelyn says:

      Dear Sandro,
      My first choice for any information on highly sensitive people is always Dr. Elaine Aron and her excellent website – …. You can scroll down looking on the right hand side to a box that is labeled “search.” You can enter in a key word and come up with what Elaine has written about the subject. Below is a link from her website on what she has written about HSPs and anxiety … Hopefully you will find a helpful avenues to explore there …
      As we know, anxiety can affect everyone, not just HSPs. I always suggest examining one’s environment for potential causes of anxiety, including attention to one’s unique needs for self-care,which in itself is a topic worth exploration …

  10. Dacia Randolph says:

    Hi from the Central coast of California ( West Coast) .
    I have always suffered from this, I have a twin sister and that made double the trouble.
    Thank you for putting a name to what I have felt.

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