Growing up, I was constantly labeled as the “good listener.” I was also told to stop “taking things so personally.” I can read other people without them saying a word. I feel everything. All the time. Really deeply.
That’s because I’m a highly sensitive person, or HSP. Sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS) is the trait’s scientific term, and while it’s greatly misunderstood and often mischaracterized, it’s found in 15 to 20 percent of the population.
The terms HSP and SPS originated in the mid-1990s by research psychologist Elaine Aron, who theorized that it’s an inherent trait — an “innate survival strategy” designed to help people with more sensitive nervous systems better cope with the world by being “observant before acting.”
Studies indicate that HSPs actually exhibit increased blood flow in the areas of the brain that process emotion, awareness, and empathy. Since the advent of research into HSPs, biologists have discovered that more than 100 species of animals, including dogs, cats, horses, and even fruit flies, can possess sensory-processing sensitivity.