Highly Sensitive Person

Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a personality trait characterized by a high level of sensitivity to external stimuli. A person with a particularly high measure of SPS is considered to be a highly sensitive person.  A highly sensitive person experiences the world differently than others. Due to a biological difference that they’re born with, highly sensitive people have a greater depth of cognitive processing and high emotional reactivity. This can have both positive and negative implications. Highly sensitive people tend to be more empathetic, creative and insightful, but are also more easily overwhelmed and stress prone. They may “feel too deeply” or “feel too much.” If you think you may be a highly sensitive person and are having trouble managing on your own, a qualified mental health professional can help to teach you emotional and sensory immunity strategies. Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s highly sensitive person experts today.

Meet the specialists

Are you an empath? Empaths feel "everything"! Many have developed anxiety in social settings due to feeling overwhelmed around others. I specialize in helping empaths develop boundaries. I do this through the process of therapy, and also through the use of energy work tools.

— Sara Rotger, Marriage & Family Therapist in Montrose, CA

The highly sensitive person can often feel misunderstood or invalidated. I use a caring, insight-oriented approach to guide clients to improving communication and interpersonal interactions with others.

— Priscilla Anzaldua, Therapist in Chicago, IL

Tired of being told you're too sensitive? Join the club. I've managed to make a career out of it, but I know the hazards of living in a too fast, too loud culture with a sensitive nervous system. Half the battle is knowing there's a name for it. The other half is figuring out how to design a life and community that treats these qualities as the strengths they are, rather than as liabilities.

— Ann Stoneson, Licensed Professional Counselor in Austin, TX

My expertise with Highly Sensitive Person (also called sensory processing sensitivity) is based on personal and professional experience. I've completed Dr. Elaine Aron's books and video training. I'm a member of several groups for ongoing consultation and growth in this area.

— Nancy Lee, Licensed Professional Counselor in Aurora, CO

Being an HSP and/or HSS may make you feel out of step with the world. I see it as a superpower; a trait that seeks deep insight, attunement with the world around you, a strong sense of justice and care for the world and creativity in your approach to life. This depth of processing may also lead to feelings of overwhelm, difficulty protecting your energy or managing relationships with others who do not share the trait. Therapy can be an excellent way to harness this superpower!

— Jeanne Higgs, Clinical Social Worker in Houston, TX

I think highly sensitive people are like superhero's with an extra skill not everyone has! However, being a highly sensitive person can be exhausting at times. When you feel everything in the world stronger, it can be overstimulating. Some things we work on in therapy are learning how to balance your emotions, know how to use your strengths in being a highly sensitive person, and find a partner and friends who are a good fit for you and your needs.

— Katrina Zaleski, Psychologist in TEMECULA, CA

Do you sometimes feel like you feel emotions and sensations more intensely than others? Maybe you perceive the emotions of others and struggle to know how to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed? Do you feel misunderstood? Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) is a true gift and who the world needs more of, yet we live in a world that caters to low sensitivity. I have experience helping HSPs learn how to protect their energy and maximize their intuition, living a more authentic life.

— Melanie Taylor, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Philadelphia, PA

Those who describe experiencing the world as a "highly sensitive person" or "empath" generally have a much harder time fitting into the prescribed cultural and social norms. These folks typically have intense emotions, mood swings, sleeping difficulties, and very high anxiety. Learning what types of environments and people are right for them and learning how to communicate their needs is critical to their overall well-being and fullness of living. Discernment skills are also important for the HSP/empath, as they often feel the feelings of others, not knowing what feelings are their own or someone else's. When a highly sensitive person is traumatized, or has been traumatized in childhood (and the memories have gone underground), the results can be very confusing for both the HSP and their caregivers/loved ones. They may hear voices, see visions, and report paranormal activity. I can help navigate this confusing journey and have extensive experience doing so.

— Lisa Wheeler, Licensed Professional Counselor in Austin, TX

According to research by Dr. Elaine Aron, High Sensitivity, otherwise known by its research term of Sensory Processing Sensitivity, is an innate trait dispersed equally among all genders and found in over 100 species. It is a temperament variation found in 15-20% of the population that allows the brain and nervous system to process subtleties and details that others miss. This trait is often confused with Introversion, but actually 30% of HSPs are Extroverts. All Highly Sensitive People (HSP) share four main characteristics (D.O.E.S.): Depth of Processing Overstimulation Emotional Responsiveness/Empathy Sensitive to Subtleties/Sensory Stimuli There is a misperception that Sensitivity is caused by adverse childhood experiences (abuse, neglect) or induced by traumatic experiences. Although these events can increase the likelihood of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues for the Highly Sensitive Person, the trait is innate and something you are born with.

— April Snow, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

You're not overly 'sensitive' or 'too shy', and if cultivated with care, I believe being a HSP can be a real superpower! I support and educate my clients about what it means to be a sensitive individual in a not-so sensitive society. I help HSP's cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves as well as tools for nurturing a meaningful and fulfilling life.

— Sarah-Elizabeth McCann, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

High sensitivity (also called Sensory-Processing Sensitivity) is a well researched genetic trait shared by 15-20% of the population (as well as in at least 100 other animal species too!). Being an HSP does NOT mean that you have a disorder that needs to be fixed – it simply means learning to understand how your nervous system works, as well as the tools and skills for navigating life and relationships more easily and effectively. That’s where therapy can be helpful.

— Danielle Bush, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Santa Rosa, CA

Oooh, guess what? I ALSO wrote about this topic on my blog! In short, HSP qualities can include: Being easily overwhelmed by stimuli Being affected by other people’s moods Being easily startled Needing to withdraw during busy times to a private, quiet place Getting nervous or shaky if someone is observing you or competing with you Check out my blog for a longer explanation AND a link to a quiz!

— Wendy Curtis, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Have you been told you are "too"--too sensitive, too picky, too thin-skinned, think too much, worry too much? Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) have AMAZING gifts to offer the world! I have such a passion for Sensitives, that I created a podcast called Unapologetically Sensitive, where we talk about the strengths you have BECAUSE of your sensitivity. It's not uncommon for HSPs to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, self-critical and not good enough. Let's work together and find your superpowers!

— Patricia Young, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Diego, CA

If you are an HSP, you might notice yourself asking: -Why am I so emotional about things? -Why does life seem so exhausting? -Why is it so difficult for me to enjoy others and have fun? It’s natural to want to withdraw when we are under stress, but being highly sensitive without support can cause you to isolate, or spend more time alone, just because life doesn’t seem “doable” anymore. For HSP's, it could be challenging for you to interact with others and to handle your daily responsibilities.

— Lisa Knudson, Counselor in Asheville, NC

Reed loves using Compassion-Focused Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to teach HSP's/Empaths the skills they need to increase their emotional resilience, self-compassion, and interpersonal relationship health.

— Reed Balentine, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in North Little Rock, AR

As a highly sensitive person myself, I understand how sensitivity has been devalued in our society and creates a feeling of shame for many of us. I support clients in embracing their authentic selves and learning to work with their unique gifts- there is so much value in being a sensitive person! I can support you developing a greater understanding of your emotions and how to use emotional information as a resource for understanding and meeting your emotional needs.

— Megan Miller, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in North Bend, OR

Do you feel everything? The emotions of others? Places? Animals? Can’t watch certain shows or the news because you feel it all? Being a highly sensitive person or empathize can be exhausting and overwhelming. You are drained by others and love helping. Learn vital tools that support you and help you thrive as an empath.

— Margaret Bell, Counselor in Denver, CO

I understand how overstimulation can impact a highly sensitive person in a non-sensitive world.

— Kristen Martinez, Counselor in Seattle, WA

I work with HSPs to help you to recognize your unique tendencies, and to learn to build a life that embraces those sensitivities while setting boundaries and creating a personal support system to help you thrive.

— Angela Albert, Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Highly sensitive people make up most of my practice and my family. As an HSP myself, I have a deep understanding of the benefits and challenges that come with feeling deeply into oneself and one's environment. This is not pathology! This is evolutionary humanity and my goal is to help people lean into their sensitivity not away from it. The world is not suffering from an overabundance of sensitive people!

— Susan Pease Banitt, Clinical Social Worker in Portland, OR

Your life will be improved by the Highly Sensitive Person strategies that you will learn to implement on a daily basis, throughout the day. I believe in brain-based approaches that are effective and goal-setting with an action-stepped approach.

— Dr. Maysoon Park-Huatuco, Counselor in RIDLEY PARK, PA