I was reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain about Introversion and its benefits… I highly recommend it to any introvert, by the way. And there was a section on HSP- Highly Sensitive Persons and the research behind it. And… I think I fit rather well into that category. More HSP are introverts but they can be extroverts (roughly 30% are extroverts) as well. And about 15-20% of the population fits into this category. I do not know if I believe in the theory of the Highly Sensitive Person entirely since I have not read the original research and a lot of what you find online is pretty watered down, so I would like to read a book on it and see, but it is interesting from what I read in this book. And certainly, it is feasible a certain part of the population would fit these particular traits of hyper-awareness which would serve evolutionary as a sort of group alarm system… some are ready to charge ahead and some are hyper-aware of danger… both of which serve a purpose to the group. Now, in our lives, this may lead to a state of chronic stress though.
One thing is clear the HSP is hyper-sensitive to their environment and stimulus. And I always have been. The texture of clothes. Sounds. Lights.
But the true, research-backed definition of a “highly sensitive person” is an individual who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his or her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment,” according to Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist who has studied high sensitivity since 1991.Prevention
And basically, you need your downtime. And even meditation can help calm your mind. Tips for a HSP
HSP show as being high in Openness, Introversion and Neuroticism in the Big 5 Personality traits.
The reason why many highly sensitive individuals act in an introverted manner might be that social interactions generally are a major source of stimulation (Aron & Aron, 1997). Consequently, social withdrawal would be a natural strategy for reducing stimulation for highly sensitive people. Thus, highly sensitive individuals seeking to reduce an uncomfortable level of stimulation are considered introverts by others. Furthermore, SPS and neuroticism seem to have much in common. A possible reason is that both highly sensitive and fearful individuals tend to respond to stimuli in a cautious manner (Smolewska et al., 2006). As highly sensitive individuals are more aware of their surroundings, and are more easily aroused, it would only seem natural to respond to stimuli in a cautious manner but without this implying that highly sensitive individuals are necessarily fearful and neurotic (Aron & Aron, 1997).Sage Journals
I found that correlation to personality factors interesting since I do rank very high in introversion, openness and neuroticism. So that is interesting. And it is true that introverts do withdrawal and seek alone time as a response to over-stimulation. Just being an introvert according to that book I read means we are more easily stimulated and that is why we like our alone time, to recover basically. Whereas extroverts seek more stimulation because they have a lower threshold.
A possible explanation was that heightened sensitivity increases general physiological arousal, leading to a chronic stress to the body with subsequent health consequences (Benham, 2006). Another explanation is that highly sensitive people are more aware of somatic symptoms that others may not notice. Accordingly, persons scoring high on SPS are more affected by pain (Aron, 1996b), medications, caffeine, and to have a higher rate of somatic problems like migraine, headaches, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue (Jawer, 2005; Jonsson, Grim, & Kjellgren, 2014).Sage Journals
It also suggests a poor response to stress overall or a heightened Awareness to stress. You can see how constant overstimulation can lead to chronic stress and chronic stress can have health consequences if it is not dealt with.
It occurred to me with migraine and fibromyalgia… maybe they are risk factors of an HSP. Not Necessary connected. But a Risk factor is based on the natural sensitivity already there and the sensitivity to pain, the environment and stress. In other words, if you had a risk for FM or migraines And are an HSP… then it might trigger those conditions to come out if you were an HSP that was sensitive to pain, your environment and stress.
See HSPs and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Other Illnesses Perhaps Related to “Central Sensitization” for an interesting discussion on fibromyalgia and HSP.
There is no Direct link between them, but as I listed above we are more prone to specific health conditions including chronic pain and migraine disease. Perhaps due to the sensitivity to our environment, the sensitivity to pain itself or the sensitivity to Stress. It creates a perfect breeding ground for chronic pain, migraine disease and other chronic conditions to flourish in. Especially if we are Not Aware and do not manage that stress effectively. As in ME.
Things I know now
- I am aware now that I have a very low tolerance to stress
- I know since I was a kid I have always had a sensitivity to chemicals, to texture, to my environment
- I was very sensitive as well until I learned to bottle all that up as a coping mechanism, which I do not think is an effective one’
- I am too empathetic even when I shouldn’t be
- I think my low tolerance to stress did lead to chronic stress and may have triggered health issues which spiraled into more health problems.
And what I think that means in regard to chronic pain conditions is:
- I need my downtime
- I should limit my exposure to loud over stimulating environments
- I should be very careful in choosing a work environment and run as fast as I can from any toxic one
- I should continue my meditation practices
- I should continue my exercises to de-stress
- I should continue my practices that relax me such as journal writing, writing, and art
Anyway, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, I happen to like that about me. And there is nothing wrong with being a Highly Sensitive Person, since 20% of humanity IS. What it means is that we have to be aware of our self-care in specific ways. And perhaps if we do fall ill for whatever reason even more so focus on self-care. Anyway, it is a factor that needs to be considered in pain management for sure.
Also think about your alone time as recovery time. Consider your environment as a factor in your life when doing things. Consider your environmental triggers. Be careful of toxic people but Also toxic environments and remember you may have a low-stress threshold so those people and environments may affect you Fast. And chronic stress not only exposes us to illness but aggravates the chronic illnesses we Have.
I recently read the book by the original researcher and it is excellent. Great for understanding yourself as a HSP- and why it can be good but also how to deal with the sensitivities. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms