You’ve been told that you’re sensitive more times than you can count. People act like it’s a bad thing. You can’t help the fact that you’re not that great under pressure, have increased sensitivity to pain, or that you react in a strong way when under criticism. You’ve never known anything different. This is your version of normal.
On the plus side, you’re very observant, intuitive, and empathetic. Those are all great qualities. If only others could see these skills and traits that lie just beyond the sensitivity.
You know you’re a little different compared to your friends and family. You are in fact a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). After some research, you realized your brain is just wired a bit differently compared to the average person.
Let’s learn more about what makes the brain of a highly sensitive person different.
HSPs Experience Emotions More Vividly
The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is part of your brain that’s responsible for managing your emotions and processing sensory data. The vmPFC is what’s responsible for creating a sense of emotional vividness when experiencing certain things. This part of the brain is what causes an increased emotional vividness in Highly Sensitive People. This increased sense of vividness is what allows HSPs to feel emotions based on their surroundings.
An HSP Brain is Wired for Other People
For someone with a typical brain, it can be easier to tune out other people. For someone with a highly sensitive brain, it isn’t as easy. The brain of a highly sensitive person is actually wired for others. In social situations, the brain is known to become more active. When a Highly Sensitive Person is in a social setting, their brain becomes more alert to their surroundings and other people nearby.
There is a Different Dopamine Response in an HSP Brain
Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that makes you want to complete certain activities. A Highly Sensitive Person’s brain is less likely to be affected by dopamine compared to the typical brain. The lack of response to dopamine is actually what helps them be able to become more thoughtful and observant while they’re working on processing information.
An HSP Brain Has More Active Mirror Neurons
The neurons in the brain that help people understand what’s going on in another person’s life based on their actions are known as mirror neurons. Mirror neurons essentially mirror someone’s actions by comparing them to your own, similar experiences. This process allows you to essentially step into the other person’s shoes to better understand certain situations. For Highly Sensitive People, their mirror neurons are more active. This increased activity level is what makes an HSP more empathetic and compassionate.
How to Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
As with most things in life, there are always positives and negatives. When it comes to being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), the same can be said. Being an HSP has a lot of benefits. HSPs are able to connect with others on a deeper level. They’re extremely creative. They are also extremely detail-oriented.
Being an HSP also comes with its own set of challenges.
When you’re an HSP, it may feel like no one understands you or what you’re going through. It can be extremely difficult to carry the weight of your own emotions plus the emotions of people around you.
Seeking additional support may be exactly what you need. Working with a therapist can help you better understand what being an HSP means. You’ll also be able to learn coping techniques.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.