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

That's me! In case you're not sure if you are an HSP, here are some signs: very conscientious, quickly overwhelmed, easily startled, avoid violent TV/movies, deeply moved by art/music, rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time, sensitive to smells, loud noise, course fabric, or caffeine, try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things, are a deep thinker or process stuff on a deeper level, notice subtleties in your environment,

— Patti Sabla, Therapist in , HI

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, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

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

Since discovering this trait I have been able to share with many others what it means to be wired this way and how it impacts the way we exist in the world. Arming yourself with this information to understand yourself in a different way can be life changing! I am currently working on getting certified through Dr. Elaine Aron.

— Hollie Bearden, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Kihei, HI

I specialize in helping HSPs (also termed Sensory Processing Sensitivity) better understand, value and thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person. 15-20% of us have the innate trait of high sensitivity, it's not a diagnosis it's a common personality temperament.

— Louisa Lombard, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Los Angeles, CA

Through ten years of working with clients from all walks of life, it became obvious that a special population of people are highly sensitive. I began reading and learning about HSPs, which also lead me to learn about those with the "empath" gifts. While many people in this category have been given diagnoses for their sensitivity - I view these sensitivities as a gift and teach my clients to better understand and use sensitivity as a strength!

— Meghan Farr, Clinical Social Worker in Fishers, IN

Highly sensitive people are gifted with a double-edged sword. While they hold a unique superpower to understand the feelings and inner experiences of those around them, they can be drained by their gifts. I love helping highly sensitive people to establish healthy personal boundaries so that they can develop stronger sense of self.

— Katie Burnett, Counselor in Kansas City, MO

I help people who identify with "being really sensitive." I provide scientific evidenced based methods to help sensitive individuals better understand why they are having physical, mental or emotional responses to places and people. Places can be your surrounding be that at home, school or work. The responses can be expressed outwardly or inward such as thoughts or feelings that can effect mood and self image.

— Alicia L Goodman, Licensed Professional Counselor in Phoenix, AZ

As a highly sensitive person myself, I know firsthand how difficult big feelings are. They can be overwhelming; they can make day-to-day tasks incredibly challenging. They may cause difficulty in your personal relationships as people think you're too much. Instead of seeing this as a bad thing, what if we shifted our perspective to see it as an exquisite sensitivity, a superpower? Let's build your internal resources to ride the waves of the feelings so that you can use this gift.

— Hannah Lingafelt, Therapist in Asheville, NC

It’s likely that the emotional pain of feeling helpless and alone is amplified if you are Highly Sensitive - HSPs tend to feel both joy and pain more intensely than people who are not Highly Sensitive. Being a Highly Sensitive Person has contributed to your success already. Therapy will pay attention to these successes when looking at how you are also suffering.

— Bronwyn Shiffer, Clinical Social Worker in Madison, WI

Boundary definition is vital in improving our own health and creating balance in relationships. I assist people in attuning to your own needs and recognizing when you are holding emotions and stresses that are not actually your own. I can safely hold space for people who are used to being the one everyone else goes to with problems but feel you have no one to turn to for support. I understand how it can be exhausting work to stay strong all the time and offer ways to shift from that.

— Shana Wright Wood, Associate Professional Counselor in Atlanta, GA

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

Self-identify as HSP; member of HSP and HST (therapist) groups; certification in HST (therapy) underway.

— Amy Singer, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

Do you often notice things that others miss? Or feel things deeply and have strong emotions? Maybe you get caught up in worrisome thoughts or feel overwhelmed easily by stress or social situations and need alone time to decompress? If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Find out on my website by downloading the free guide: Sensitive & Strong - A Survival Guide for Highly Sensitive People.

— Becky Howie, Licensed Professional Counselor in Boulder, CO

Sometimes its difficult to distinguish HSP from mild autism spectrum disorder, the result is often the same: the world feels like it was designed for other people, not you. Relationships (work, social, family) are exhausting, overwhelming, or somehow pass you by. You're always in recovery or protection mode. We will work together to own your strengths and uncover ways you can show up as your full self in a life you enjoy living.

— Sally Hildreth, Associate Professional Counselor in Atlanta, GA

As a sensitive, myself, I have learned to work with my energy system to balance and restore it, recognize its warning flags, and keep my energies humming. Energy medicine techniques, clearing non-self energy, releasing energetic impacts from others, learning to discern what is yours from what belongs to another, and developing healthy emotional and energetic boundaries are specialties of mine. Rather than seeing your sensitivity as a problem. you can learn to recognize it as a valuable tool.

— Lisa Love, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Brunswick, ME

Highly Sensitive People make up about 15-20% of the general population and possess a unique sensory processing trait that allows them to pick up more on subtleties in the environment. As such, they may become overwhelmed very easily, absorb other people’s emotions, or have difficulty navigating mainstream culture’s expectations. It’s important to work with a therapist who is knowledgeable about this trait and can provide a strengths-based approach as opposed to pathologizing one’s inherent sensitivity. I have undergone specific training to be listed on the hsperson.com website as an HSP-Knowledgable Therapist.

— Arianna Smith, Licensed Professional Counselor in Littleton, CO

I am currently in training to be an HSP-Knowledgeable Professional through Dr. Elaine Aron.

— Maria Liguori, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Larchmont, NY

Are you stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Do you feel ungrounded in your relationships? Do you find it hard to manage your life without losing who you are? Learn how to rediscover your sense of purpose and empowerment as a Highly Sensitive Person, by managing stress, anxiety, relationships and work demand while honoring your authentic self.

— Layla Ashley, Marriage & Family Therapist in Valley Village, CA

As a highly sensitive person myself, I know firsthand how it can impact daily life. I have specialized in developing treatments to address the overwhelm often associated with high sensitivity. While treatment will focus on anxieties- it will also focus on what it means to be highly sensitive and how to embrace it as a strength. Sometimes sensitivity is accompanied by other issues which enhance daily challenges which we can navigate together.

— Sheilagh McGreal, Creative Art Therapist in Rochester,

As a highly sensitive person (HSP) myself, I am able to work with clients on how to understand both the challenges and strengths the trait can bring. I often work with clients on how sensitivity, creativity, and giftedness have shaped their life experiences and how they can utilize these in their adult lives.

— Kami Sidman, Licensed Professional Counselor in Arlington, VA

Many of my clients are immensely relieved just to learn their sensitivity and expressiveness are in fact parts of a temperament--something we are born with, but which is Not admired in our society. Some people benefit from reading the book (The Highly Sensitive Person) or using the accompanying workbook. In therapy, we learn ways to validate our spontaneous reactions and also to manage strong emotions.

— Nancy Gardner, Therapist in Chicago, IL

I spent several years working with highly sensitive adolescents and adults. Cultivating strong energetic and emotional boundaries can have a very positive impact in the way a sensitive person experiences their life. Managing anxiety around engaging with the world also has great positive impact on a sensitive person.

— Jennifer Munyer, Counselor

Individuals who experience an increase in sensory and emotional stimuli could have characteristics such as high creativity, innovation or empathy. These gifts can also come with unique challenges that I address from a multifaceted mind-body approach.

— Emily Fisken, Counselor in Eugene, OR

As a highly sensitive person myself, I understand the difficulty of navigating a world that was not designed to meet our needs. Feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, dissociation, and reactivity are common issues facing HSPs. I will help you unpack some of the coping mechanism that may not be helpful, draw healthy boundaries with others, respect your inner-rhythms and cycles, and live a life feeling grounded and centered, while learning to see your sensitivity as a strength.

— Kaylee Friedman, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in New Brunswick, NJ

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

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

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

I am passionate about High Sensitivity. When I was able to find out about the trait, it changed my life, as I am an HSP. The depth of processing, sensory sensitivities, and emotional experiences are just a part of the HSP experience that I understand and appreciate. As a fellow HSP, I am able to understand the challenges and strengths of sensitivity. I would love to help you see your sensitivity as a strength and explore the High Sensitivity trait.

— Claire Eggleston, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist