Highly sensitive: Characteristics and treatment for highly sensitive people

Highly sensitive: Characteristics and treatment for highly sensitive people


Highly sensitive people are particularly sensitive, which presents both challenges and enrichments. Here you can take a highly sensitive test, as well as learn more about what it means to be highly sensitive and how a psychologist can help. 

Through tens of thousands of therapy hours, we have learned a lot about how challenges opportunities in high sensitivity can be lifted and the challenges limited.

What does it mean to be highly sensitive?  

Highly sensitive person, or HSP (Highly sensitive person), is a personality type where you are especially sensitive to sounds, emotions, nuances and expressions. Highly sensitive people are very attentive and can quickly detect changes in the mood of a room or emotions of people around. 

Highly sensitive is a personality type, not a disease or diagnosis. Being highly sensitive is normal and in between 15 to 20 percent of the population has this personality trait. Being highly sensitive can be nice, at the same time as it can have its challenges. 

Highly sensitive people, for example, are often very empathetic and good at other people's feelings. At the same time, highly sensitive people tend to be more easily overwhelmed by the world around them and may need to retire at times. 

Characteristics of highly sensitive

Here are some examples of highly sensitive characteristics: 

  • Very attentive to its surroundings
  • Empathic
  • Slightly stressed or overstimulated 
  • Reacts strongly to sound and light 
  • Slightly tired and needs to retire 
  • Extra sensitive 
  • Reacts strongly to various forms of art, film and music 

If you recognize yourself in any of these, you can take a highly sensitive test below.
Furthermore, you can find even more information about highly sensitive people and learn about treatment, highly sensitive children and high sensitivity in relationships. 

Highly sensitive treatment   

First, we want to emphasize that high sensitivity in itself is of course not something to be "treated". Nevertheless, a highly sensitive person, like everyone else, may have a number of life difficulties and internal unresolved conflicts that may be helpful in seeking help.

As a highly sensitive person, you will also be extra affected by both good and bad. It is beautiful and you are in many ways closer to life itself, but it can also present challenges. We have experienced that acceptance, consideration and appreciation of high sensitivity is a basic prerequisite. And then you can work with the difficulties that are highly sensitive, which everyone else can have, but which you may be even more strongly affected by.

The really good news is that you can also be extra strongly influenced by a positive therapeutic experience. After reading this article, you can hopefully more easily decide if treatment with a psychologist is right for you.

If you have already decided to give therapy a try, you can easily schedule an appointment via our online booking system. 

During the first few hours you will get a clear sense of whether therapy with us will help you or not.

We offer videotherapy to people all over the country. You can watch a video where we share our experiences with video therapy on the order page above.

What can a psychologist help you with?

A quick overview of some of the issues that have been particularly relevant to the highly sensitive we have worked with

  • Am I highly sensitive?
  • How can I value and utilize sensitivity?
  • How can I cultivate acceptance and self-compassion?
  • What expectations are reasonable to have for my surroundings?
  • How can I delimit myself?
  • How do I regulate my feelings?
  • How can I handle difficult situations with greater inner calm, power and strength?
  • Do I have unresolved emotional conflicts?
  • Do I have a low tolerance for certain emotions?
  • Am I sensitive to others but insensitive to myself?
  • Am I sensitive and/or do I have anxiety?
  • Do I get caught up in other people’s moods and/or incorporate them into my own?
  • Do I have special abilities?

The list could have been much longer. In the first hour, we will try to map out which issues are relevant to you and keep the focus there.

Before we look closer at some of the points above we will discuss some of our perspectives concerning hypersensitive people.

We offer video therapy to people across the country. You can view a video, where we share our experiences with video therapy, in the booking section accessible above.

Highly sensitive people in therapy - what can we help with?

Here is a quick overview of some of the themes that have been especially relevant for the highly sensitive people we have worked with.

  • Am I highly sensitive?
  • How can I value and utilize sensitivity?
  • How can I cultivate acceptance and self-compassion?
  • What expectations are reasonable to have for my surroundings?
  • How can I delimit myself?
  • How do I regulate my feelings?
  • How can I handle difficult situations with greater inner calm, power and strength?
  • Do I have unresolved emotional conflicts?
  • Do I have a low tolerance for certain emotions?
  • Am I sensitive towards others but insensitive towards myself?
  • Am I sensitive and/or do I have anxiety?
  • Do I get caught up in other people’s moods and/or incorporate them into my own?
  • Do I have special abilities?

The list goes on. During the first sessions, we will attempt to map the problematics that are relevant for exactly you - and keep the focus there.

Before we take a closer look at some of the sub-points above, we will convey some of our perspectives on high sensitivity.

Are you born highly sensitive?  

Those we have collaborated with, who have been categorized as highly sensitive after online self-tests, are naturally very different as individuals. Some appear to be born particularly sensitive, in a normally stable and supportive environment. 

Others appear to have been born with a normal degree of sensitivity but have been particularly challenged by growing up conditions and ended up being highly sensitive on self-tests.

Some have been born especially sensitive and have also experienced a particularly challenging childhood. Their innate and primal sensitivity is neither easy, nor desirable, to change.

One can learn to relate to it more constructively. Above all: one can get help to dissolve in the inner knots that have settled through upbringing and development - which in itself can result in high sensitivity tests.

You can read more about how we believe psychotherapy can help.

Highly sensitive children

There need be no visible drama at all. Common is that one has been left in strong emotional tensions. Growing up always involves a certain degree of compromise between authenticity and affiliation.

Many have grown up in various emotional vices. Certainly in the gap between one's own and others' needs. Or in other ways in insoluble conflicts of loyalty and between conflicting feelings towards important others.

Others have from a young age been imposed too much responsibility, directly or subtly, by oneself or others. Several have experienced degrees of role reversal above their own caregivers. Or caregivers who have had difficulty taking care of themselves.

Perhaps in the context of a destructive relationship and or unclear boundaries, tend to inflict guilt, victim mentality or something else. Many have been exposed to a great deal of emotional pain in others, or lived in an emotional atmosphere marked by latent instability.

You are dependent on being able to follow your own gut feeling and spontaneity in this life - but also on having safe relationships with others. As a child, you are completely at the mercy of this. When the child's solution to the emotional tension fields becomes to become hyper-aware outwards - and over-controlling inwards, this can ensure attachment and thus survival, but the operating system that is then formed needs updating. Customization may have gone too far at the expense of authenticity. Here, treatment by a psychologist can come into play.

Is my child highly sensitive?

We know from research over several decades that infants differ from each other in a number of traits already in the newborn period. Some are clearly more sensitive than others. However, there is no solid research on the concept of highly sensitive as defined through online self-tests. The term highly sensitive is far too broad and imprecise and captures very different phenomena.

But researchers have for a long time examined a number of more limited features in children, which fall under the concept of children's "temperament". This term refers to the child's natural behavioral dispositions already from the newborn period.

For example, it is known that infants have great natural variation in what is called emotional reactivity, how they cope with transitions, new stimuli, whether they seek outwards or inwards and much more. Several of these different limited temperament traits can fit under the term highly sensitive. Some children are sensitive, others are robust. Others have a mix of sensitivity and robustness in various sub-areas. Not least, we know that the innate tendencies are very influential on the environment.

Interaction effects between the child's and the environment's inclinations are crucial for the child's further development. In an environment where sensitivity is taken into account and valued, the road becomes easier, and vice versa. An important point here is that a sensitive child will benefit extra much from a stimulating and safe upbringing environment, but is also more affected by the harmful elements in the upbringing environment.

Highly sensitive as a concept of advantages and disadvantages

We have experienced that for many of those who seek treatment from a psychologist, high sensitivity has been a very useful concept. For some, it has also been limiting. In a treatment with us, you can get help to sort out how this relates to you. It is often a great relief to recognize oneself in the concept and for many the pieces fall into place. The term helps to accept a dimension of the self that one may have struggled with for years.

It can in itself be demanding to be extra sensitive, and many also experience that high sensitivity does not fit into external expectations and the "growing up grinder".

The term helps to emphasize and accept the differences that naturally exist between us in degrees of sensitivity, and highlights the importance of this being taken into account - first and foremost by oneself, but also by the environment. This is important in order to be able to live well with the challenges a particularly sensitive personality is associated with, and to be able to embrace the possibilities.

Hypersensitivity as a limiting concept?

The reason why the term may seem restrictive is mainly related to two factors: First, the term is very broad. High-sensitivity online testing captures a large number of potentially different phenomena, which are grouped in the bag designation high-sensitivity. Highly sensitive can then be used as a broad explanation for a number of difficulties one experiences.

We have seen that many challenges of highly sensitive people are not necessarily due to sensitivity per se. If, for example, you take in other people's signals at a level that can almost seem overwhelming, this is a manifestation of sensitivity.

At the same time, such a potential for sensitivity does not necessarily lead to excessive self-censorship and adaptation to the other. For that to happen, you need sensitivity and an inner conflict where you yourself lose out. We can help you deal with the internal conflict through psychologist classes with us.

Psychological help for high sensitivity

Do you recognize yourself in any of this, or have you in other ways been forced to navigate demanding emotional landscapes from a young age? Then it is very possible that, for example, one of ours ISTDP (intensive depth therapy) therapists can help you become more secure and robust in a variety of areas.

Most of the people we have worked with have noticed that by practicing anxiety and emotion tolerance through therapy, they have gained more peace, inner strength and power. It is not uncommon to be able to tolerate one's own border guarding feelings in front of others better.

Some people who have high sensitivity are characterized by the fact that negative feelings towards others, and especially anger, have merged with anxiety and guilt. This fusion is quite possible to break up through systematic therapy work. It does not always take very many hours either.

Elements such as self-criticism and the feeling that others think negatively about oneself, which prominent people have cited as examples of high sensitivity, are not at all about innate sensitivity. These are troublesome defense mechanisms in the psyche that one can get help to weaken and sometimes remove, through psychological treatment.

Highly sensitive at Psykologvirke  

Research, as well as our own personal experiences in our work with hypersensitivity, gives a far more cohesive picture of the various forms of sensitivity and changeability than one might get the impression of through various other channels.

In that you have a precise understanding of what is what in your particular case, it is easier to navigate the gap between acceptance and change.

If you want to give it a try, you can easily schedule an appointment online. We bring our entire selves and the best of psychological expertise to our patients.

You are more than welcome at our offices!

If you do not have health insurance or cannot pay for a private psychologist, we have made a complete guide over how to find a psychologist in Oslo.

For a stimulating perspective on hypersensitivity, the following link to the world’s most popular psychology podcast (Shrink Rap Radio) may be of interest.

http://shrinkrapradio.com/213-the-highly-sensitive-person-with-ted-zeff/