Monday, August 20, 2012

The Highly Sensitive Person

The Highly Sensitive Person | Nov 30th -0001

Welcome. I'm Elaine Aron, author of and The Highly Sensitive Child, as well as The Highly Sensitive Person Workbook and The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, a book about how sensitivity affects our close relationships. I began researching high sensitivity in 1991 and continue to do research on it now, also calling it Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS, the trait's scientific term). I never planned to write any self-help books, but those who have this trait seem to gain a great deal from knowing about it.

Are you highly sensitive? You can find out by taking the self-test. This test, the result of empirical research on the trait, gives you a good sense of what high sensitivity is, as well. To see if your child is highly sensitive there is another checklist.

If you find you are highly sensitive, or your child is, you need to begin by knowing the following:

  • Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population--too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
  • It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others'.
  • You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
  • You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
  • This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called "shy." But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
  • Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told "don't be so sensitive" so that they feel abnormal.

So again, welcome to this website. You are definitely not alone. For example, thousands of people have subscribed to the newsletter, Comfort Zone, offered here. If you want to know more about sensitivity, consider the follow ways to become more informed or to let others know more about you:

See a list of international HSP websites here.

The original book, The Highly Sensitive Person, is a general introduction and covers every aspect of an HSP's life. (We're proud that it has sold a million copies world wide and has been translated into French, Dutch, Danish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Japanese, Korean and both forms of Chinese, and Korean--with very little publicity. It's all been word-of-mouth.)

The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook can be read and used alone, although its chapters parallel those in the first book. It further integrates your trait into your social, emotional, and work life. It helps you take better care of yourself and reframe your past. It also includes instructions for those who want to form a group of HSPs. The Workbook was previewed by HSPs to make it "user friendly," and they found it useful and thought-provoking.

In May 2000 The Highly Sensitive Person in Love was published, a blend of my lifelong research interest in close relationships and in HSPs. It's full of advice on how HSPs and non-HSPs can learn to live with their differences, as well as how a pair of HSPs can gain more from each other.

The Highly Sensitive Child was written in response to all those sensitive adults who say their childhoods were excruciatingly difficult, even when their parents had the best intentions, because no one knew how to raise them. Parents and teachers told them there were "too sensitive" or "too shy" or "too intense." HSCs have a tremendous amount to offer the world. But they do need special handling.

Comfort Zone began in 1996 as a newsletter strictly for HSPs. In the over 150 articles written since then, you will find topics as diverse as sensitive dogs and how to survive unemployment to Jungian psychology and the latest research on HSPs. From 1996 to 2004 it was printed and mailed out four times a year, for a fee. Back issues of these paper newsletters are available in the Store as long as they last. When you go to Comfort Zone you will finds a list of the contents of each issue. Choose the ones with articles that interest you, or order them all as a boxed set.

Since 2004 Comfort Zone has been a free online newsletter announced in your e-mailbox every February, May, August, and November. If you sign up to be on our mailing list (go to the bottom of any page), you will be notified when the next issue is available. Our archive of articles from these online issues keeps growing.

Answers to Your Questions

Questions about sensitivity? Most of the answers are in the Comfort Zone. For example there are articles on high sensitivity and children, noise, animals, dreams, travel, grief, work, autism, ADHD - really just about everything.

You can find answers by using the Google search tool at the top of this page, or the Comfort Zone page, and choose ""

Also available:

A 90-minute audio CD recorded in 2007 by Elaine Aron on Understanding the Trait of High Sensitivity. A good introduction for anyone. Has recent research and reinforces the information and positive attitudes gained from the book, but presented freshly.

Another CD, Thoughts on the Highly Sensitive Child, a blend of four different lectures by Dr. Aron. It does not substitute for reading The Highly Sensitive Child, but complements it nicely by providing better ways to think and talk about high sensitivity in children.

A video DVD, The Trait of High Sensitivity, Elaine Aron speaking to a group of about 20 HSPs for an afternoon. Begins with the entire self-test and has interviews with several HSPs. A lively presentation with many questions answered, from what to do about perfectionism and "is sensitivity the same as being psychic?" to "How can I be an HSP and love to drive fast?" Or "How can an HSP be an extravert?" Does not overlap with other books or audios.

The Highly Sensitive Person Unabridged Recorded Book by Elaine Aron and read with great verve by Shakespearean actress Barbara Caruso. A boxed set of 9 CDs (10 hours), each with tracks every 3 minutes for easy bookmarking. Great fun to listen to.

Anything purchased in the HSP store is signed by the author.

About Dr. Elaine Aron

Dr. Aron earned her M.A. from York University in Toronto in clincial psychology and her Ph.D. at Pacifica Graduate Institute in clinical depth psychology as well as interning at the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. Besides beginning the study of the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity in 1991, she, along with her husband Dr. Arthur Aron, are two of the leading scientists studying the psychology of love and close relationships. They are also pioneers in studying both sensitivity and love using functional magnetic resonance imaging. She maintains a small psychotherapy practice in Mill Valley and San Francisco.

Articles for Professionals on Research and Theory

Elaine N. Aron and Arthur Aron (1997). "Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 73, No. 2, 345-368.

E. N. Aron (2000). "High Sensitivity as One Source of Fearfulness and Shyness," in Extreme Fear, Shyness, and Social Phobia: Origins, Biological Mechanisms, and Clinical Outcomes. Eds. L. A. Schmidt and J. Schulkin. New York: Oxford University Press,pp. 251-272.

E. N. Aron (1996). "Counseling the Highly Sensitive Person." Counseling and Human Development, 28, 1-7.

E. N. Aron (2004). "The Impact of Temperament on Intimacy and Closeness." In The Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy. Eds. D. Mashek and A. Aron. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Aron, E. N., Aron, A., & Davies, K. (2005). "Adult Shyness: The Interaction of Temperamental Sensitivity and a Negative Childhood Environment." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 181-197.

Aron, E. N. (2004). "Revisiting Jung's Concept of Innate Sensitiveness." Journal of Analytical Psychology, 49, 337-367.

E. Aron, The Clinical Implications of Jungs Concept of Sensitiveness, Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 8,2006, 11-43. Available online at or download the PDF

Jagiellowicz, J., Xu, X., Aron, A., Aron, E., Cao, G,, Feng, T., & Weng, X. (2010) The trait of sensory processing sensitivity and neural responses to changes in visual scenes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. [Advance Access published March 4, 2010; will appear in May issue]

Abstract on line and free. Full text can be gotten through subscribing or if you have a link to an academic library.

Stony brook University Press Release on it

Aron, A., Ketay, S., Hedden, T., Aron, E. N., Markus, H. R., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2010) Temperament trait of sensory processing sensitivity moderates cultural differences in
neural response. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. [Advance Access published April 13, 2010; will appear in June issue]

Elaine N. Aron, Arthur Aron, and Jadzia Jagiellowicz (2012) Sensory Processing Sensitivity: A Review in the Light of the Evolution of Biological Responsivity. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Abstract on line and free. Full text can be gotten through subscribing or if you have a link to an academic library.

(If you have access to library materials on line, search PsychInfo and you will also find articles written by other psychologists on sensitivity or sensory-processing sensitivity as well as on related ideas such as "biological sensitivity to context." Search for "sensitivity.")

The three articles titled "Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality," "Revisiting Jung's Concept of Innate Sensitiveness," and "Adult Shyness: The Interaction of Temperamental Sensitivity and a Negative Childhood Environment" can be obtained easily online through university libraries, or perhaps from the websites of the journals themselves. If you are a researcher and cannot obtain these three online, reprints can be obtained by sending $5.00 to cover postage to the PO Box address below. We cannot provide the chapters at all, or the articles to the general public, because we don't own the copyright. (Reprints of the articles are sent to fellow researchers as a professional courtesy.)

Media or Researcher Contact Channels
Media contacts requesting interviews or arranging for possible speaking opportunities, and researchers seeking contact regarding the concept of high sensitivity may write to Elaine Aron at:
2439 28th Avenue,
San Francisco, CA 94116
or fill out the Media/Researcher Contact web form.

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