Highly Sensitive Person
Takeaway: Navigating life as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) can present unique challenges, often manifesting as overwhelming emotions, overstimulation, and struggles with self-care and boundaries. However, embracing your sensitivity and finding empowerment and growth in Boulder is within reach through specialized HSP Therapy services. Our therapists understand the intricacies of the HSP journey and are here to support you in fostering resilience, establishing healthy boundaries, and discovering newfound balance and connection. Take the first step toward your transformation today.
Does this sound like you?
Highly sensitive people tend to experience the world on steroids, meaning, you can feel overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted when interacting with other people or your environment. Here are some common experiences of HSPS:
You have intense feelings and can feel other's emotions.
Bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and everyday human interactions can cause you to feel overstimulated and emotionally exhausted.
Alone time is important to you, especially after a group event, because you need time to release energy and decompress.
You often wish you had "thicker skin" or the ability to not take things personally, resulting in higher self-esteem and self-compassion.
Because you can sense subtle details in others, it's hard to be interested in small talk when you know something is happening at a deeper level within them.
When you are overwhelmed, you withdraw and avoid interacting with others in order to regulate your nervous system.
In your day-to-day life, you frequently feel worried about how people will perceive you and this creates negative thought patterns.
You pick up on energy in your environment and struggle to release it, which causes confusion, mistrust of yourself and others, and isolation.
You can struggle with making decisions and maintaining boundaries out of fear that someone will get upset with you.
You struggle with perfectionism and are overly critical towards yourself.
If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person
Oftentimes, empaths are HSPs, but not all HSPs are empaths. Highly sensitive people sometimes feel the emotions of others, and other times their high sensitivity is primarily due to environmental factors. People can be born with a sensitive nervous system and it can also be shaped by difficult experiences in childhood within our family system. Regardless, being an HSP doesn't have to get in the way of you living an empowered life. In fact, embracing your natural gifts that come with high sensitivity can result in some seriously magical things like:
Opening to your intuition and developing greater insight
Greater self-trust and more ease when setting boundaries.
Bigger self-compassion and mindful coping strategies
A more regulated nervous system and feeling good in your own skin
The ability to tap into healing frequencies and take care of yourself, rather than feeling overwhelmed by lower frequencies
Secure attachment to others and healthier relationships
The ability to let go and remain positive when someone responds negatively to you
A healthy sense of self that doesn't waver regardless of whom you're around or what you are doing
Let's take a closer look at what highly sensitive people (hsps) experience and how a highly sensitive brain can respond negatively to our often very busy society.
At Soul Essence Psychotherapy, we identify as HSPs too, so we bring a wealth of personal and professional experience to this topic. In a nutshell, highly sensitive children and adults have sensory processing sensitivity, which is a normal trait in approximately 20% of the population, or one out of every five people. If you're a highly sensitive person, you process things deeply. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Example #1: Loud music at a sporting event causes you to cover your ears when no one else seems to experience it as dramatically. You also notice that the people sitting next to you feel anxious, and this causes you to feel anxious or ungrounded. In the past, you would chalk this up as social anxiety, and feel low self-esteem because these experiences feel invasive. Now you know it's your heightened sensitivity and realize there is something you can do about it.
Example #2: You work in an office environment and often feel different from your coworkers. At lunch, they make small talk and don't look happy, but don't say anything about it. You often feel sad when you sit with them, and you pick up that many of them are not happy in their lives. Plus, the break room lights make you feel queasy and the temperature is always so cold, but no one seems to be impacted by you. When these insights come up, you realize that you need to prioritize self-care rather than pretending it's fine.
Example #3: You have a hard time committing to vacations or trips with family members or friends because you're afraid you won't have enough time alone or downtime. When everyone talks over each other you go quiet or find yourself in a peacemaker role. In the past, you've used alcohol or other substances to shut down your sensitivity so you can have thicker skin and not feel put off by conversations. You take things personally even when you know you shouldn't, but it's hard to feel comfortable with people. You are working on self-compassion and self-acceptance so spending time with people doesn't have to be such a big deal.
When you read these, can you locate your experience in any of the examples? Highly sensitive people often feel stressed, worried, overwhelmed, insecure, or overstimulated by big groups or places with lots of energy, and internalize their sensitivity as a weakness. If you've ever heard yourself say things like, "I wish I didn't care so much, or "I wish I felt more confident in groups," you might have a sensitivity trait.
Common Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People
If we put five people in a room, one of them being an HSP, and asked them to rank their experience of lights, colors, sounds, smells and emotions from 1-10, it is likely that an HSP might consistently be a 7-10, while the others might be much lower. Because everyday life experiences are felt more dramatically by those with sensitive nervous systems, life is incredibly rich, but it can also be overwhelming. Over time, if highly sensitive people assume their ability to pick up on subtle details is a weakness, they will embody negative stereotypes about themselves, such as being weak, fragile, or just generally thinking there is something "wrong" with them.
Intense emotions, from a positive standpoint, can be hugely beneficial in helping us access creativity, beauty, deep relationships, meaning, purpose, and drive. When we work with highly sensitive people, we often help them reframe their thinking that being highly sensitive means they are unable to exist with confidence and ease in our society.
A highly sensitivity person might think/believe things like:
"Why can't I ever say what I want to say?"
"Why am I so awkward all the time?"
"I wish I didn't feel things so deeply."
"I don't understand why I feel overwhelmed all the time."
"I'm different and I need to hide it."
"I feel better being alone, but then I'm lonely."
On a physical level, a highly sensitivity person might experience:
Restlessness, fidgeting, or a desire to move away from discomfort
A heightened response to normal temperament variation
Sensory overload resulting in shakiness, irritability, or agitation
Stress, anxiety, or loss of focus in big crowds
Folks diagnosed with ADHD can also share the same characteristics as those identifying as HSP. When we work with a highly sensitive client, we map out what someone experiences mentally, emotionally, and physically to get a better understanding of what type of mental health services would best support them. Having heightened sensitivity doesn't have to make you feel vulnerable or weak. It can actually be one of your greatest gifts if you learn how to use it to your advantage.
Soul Essence Psychotherapy
Highly Sensitive Person Therapists
At Soul Essence Psychotherapy, we believe that embracing your sensitivity trait combined with learning holistic coping skills, applying adequate self-care, and staying grounded in your soul essence is hugely important. When our clients learn to embrace their high sensitivity from a self-reflective place, we find that they begin living more meaningful, deep, and grateful lives. We also find that highly sensitive people often struggle with low self-esteem, so our therapeutic process is centered on helping you find a safe space within yourself to reconnect when the outside world feels overwhelming.
To Highly Sensitive Person Therapy in Boulder
Our approach to treating highly sensitive clients begins with creating a heart map. We discuss and write down where you would love to be and how you imagine life could be if you were free from anxious thoughts, excessive worry, daily overwhelm, and more. We use this map as a way to hold your higher vision together, and to also bring in a deeper knowing and clarity that you are worthy and deserving of the new life you seek.
Next, we process how being a highly sensitive person uniquely shows up in your thoughts, emotions, and body, and the impacts it has on your day-to-day life.
Here are some of the therapeutic modalities we use in our practice:
When we completely avoid discomfort, we often engage in behavior that ultimately makes us feel bad, shameful, or unpowerful. Engaging in the cycle of avoidance each time we feel overwhelmed results in more negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, and powerlessness. Using a mix of self-compassion and exposure therapy with a licensed professional counselor is a research-backed treatment that has been shown to help clients better regulate themselves in uncontrollable environments, and also weave in coping strategies.
We find that many HSPs struggle with low self-esteem and negative self-talk. Speaking your thoughts out loud allows you to increase your awareness of your internal dialogue and begin shifting the way you narrate your life. Talk therapy might include a mix of Contemplative Psychotherapy, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
Mindfulness awareness practices are hugely beneficial to helping you develop the ability to disrupt, pause, and release old patterns and loops that keep you locked in a cycle of overwhelm and suffering. In fact, an experimental study of the psychological impact of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on highly sensitive persons showed that after four weeks the "participating HSPs suffered less from stress and appeared to have less social anxiety, whereas their scores for mindfulness, emotional empathy, personal growth initiative, self-acceptance and self-transcendence were significantly higher." When HSPs become more aware of their thoughts, sensations, and feelings and choose how to relate to them, they often feel more confident and empowered in their ability to navigate life.
Developing a meditation practice with an HSP therapist can help you better ground and resource yourself in overwhelming situations. Highly sensitive people often need to find safe places internally and externally if they become overstimulated, and part of staying calm is becoming familiar with your breath and regulating yourself through common challenges.
Energy Work & Somatic Grounding Practices
Becoming familiar with your energy body and learning how to regulate and ground your nervous system can be hugely beneficial in assisting with problem-solving and releasing overwhelming thoughts, emotions, and feelings. HSPs often orbit around the unconscious belief and internalized message that they are not enough and are "not normal." However, highly sensitive people can also teach themselves to tap into the essence of beauty, love, inspiration, and joy, allowing them to experience life more positively if they choose.
Guided imagery and using the right brain to tap into emotions and different parts of our conscious and unconscious mind can result in the processing and releasing of stored patterns in our nervous system, muscles, organs, and chakras.
Who our HSP Counseling is for
We specialize in working with people who are sensitive, empathic, and intuitive and who struggle with trusting themselves and feeling at home in their body or on the planet.
Sensitive people aka HSPs
Highly sensitive people often feel like life is on steroids. This can cause social anxiety, fear of groups and crowds, avoidance of certain places, and more. For HSPs, lights, sounds, colors, textures and even technology-based objects that emit EMFs and other frequencies can be overwhelming, ungrounding, and cause headaches. Learning how your environment impacts you at a higher level and how to regulate your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in response to it can be life-changing.
Empaths feel the emotional fluctuations within their environment, and this can be a huge challenge to not taking on the emotions of others. The key to being an empowered empath is learning how to regulate your own emotional field, and learning specific skills and strategies to let energy go that isn't yours.
Intuitives & Starseeds
Intuitive people and starseeds often feel the deeper currents in our society. They feel called to fulfill a higher mission and purpose that centers on helping others and the planet heal and evolve. Because of their sensitivity trait, they feel a deep longing to engage with the world but question their capacity and abilities, which causes overwhelm, comparison, unhealthy competition, and self-doubt. Additionally, intuitives and starseeds might receive extra sensory input, which can show up as psychic abilities or clairvoyance. We help many people straddle this line between opening to their gifts, trusting themselves, and understanding the sensory information they receive.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Therapy for Highly Sensitive Persons
I struggle with perfectionism and am very self-critical. How do I know if I'm an HSP?
Answer: It is very common for HSPs to struggle with setting really high standards for themselves and judging themselves harshly when they don't achieve set goals. If you are an HSP and a perfectionist, you might find that perfectionism stems from wanting to please others, fear of judgment, comparison, or feeling behind. HSPs will have higher emotional responses to failure because they often struggle to feel enough in society. Additionally, HSPs can often sense other people's feelings and emotions, which causes highly sensitive children and adults to pick up their parent's and partner's silent disappointments and criticism, causing rumination or fear of rejection.
What if I have a hard time with meditation?
There are lots of different ways to engage in meditation and mindfulness. Most people have curiosity about what starting a meditation practice would entail, however, they fear their own mind and what might arise in silence. Therapists at Soul Essence Psychotherapy are trained to help you engage with your own mind, feelings, and sensations at your own pace, which might include short exercises to connect more deeply with yourself through a mindfulness lens. We do not require you to have a meditation practice unless this route feels inspiring to you.
If you still have questions, please feel book a free consultation call here.
What type of therapy is best for a highly sensitive person?
If you believe you have sensory processing sensitivity, then holistic therapy treatment that weaves together talk therapy, mindfulness, exposure therapy, and energy healing might be a good fit for you. However, a highly sensitive person can benefit from many modalities. Ultimately, it is the quality of the relationship and the client's ability to feel connected with and safe with the therapist that makes therapy work well.
Do highly sensitive people need therapy?
If you are highly sensitive and feel disempowered, disconnected from your soul essence, and overwhelmed by your daily life, then therapy might be hugely beneficial in healing you process your sensitive nature and also find strategies to engage more positively with your world. Beyond therapeutic treatment and counseling, a highly sensitive person might benefit from low-stress activities, such as yin yoga, beginner art classes, walks in nature, and 1-1 time with friends to support their growth.
How long does therapy take for highly sensitive clients?
At Soul Essence Psychotherapy, we recommend at least three months of weekly therapy in order for you to recognize unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and to practice making long-lasting changes. Ultimately, each client works directly with their therapist to create a treatment plan that’s customized to their needs.
Working with an HSP therapist in Boulder can help you find freedom, balance, and connection.
We are here to support your mind, body, and soul on this journey. You deserve healing and to live a life filled with purpose, joy, confidence, and self-trust.