ADHD Videos

Are You Hypersensitive?

One in five individuals is a “highly sensitive person” (HSP). Hypersensitivity commonly occurs with ADHD. Learn the common signs, and how to cope.

Hypersensitive people are over-responsive to their environment. That is, they avoid loud noises, flashing lights, and strong smells at all costs.

It’s more difficult for them to process and act upon the information received by the five senses, and that can lead to emotional overwhelm. Could you be a “highly sensitive person?” Learn more by watching this video.

Are You Hypersensitive?

One in five individuals is a “highly sensitive person” (HSP). Hypersensitivity commonly occurs with ADHD.

Common physical sensitivities include:

  • Loud noises
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Fast moving objects
  • Strong odors
  • Coarse fabric or tags
  • The feeling of hair against skin

HSPs are more likely to suffer from:

  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Allergies
  • Over-the-Top Emotions

“Emotional pain and physical pain are experienced in the same part of the brain,” says Ned Hallowell, M.D.

Hypersensitive people with ADHD feel pain more acutely and dramatically than do others. Unkind words that may bounce off others can leave a HSP in tears. For HSPs, stimulating environments and conversations feel overwhelming at times. That can lead to an emotional overreaction.

“Just as we have trouble filtering what goes out,” says Hallowell, who has ADHD himself, “We also have trouble filtering what comes in.”

If you’re living with hypersensitivity, pursue an evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and try these approaches:

  • Block it out. To avoid sensory overload and anxiety, carry earplugs and a headset with you.
  • Make sure you’ve had enough sleep, or take a nap, before facing a situation that will be highly stimulating.
  • Meditate, pray, or use another relaxation method to strengthen your coping mechanisms.
  • Reduce extraneous stimulation by saying ‘no’ to unnecessary or overwhelming obligations.
  • Be a homebody. Highly sensitive people need more time than others to process the events of the day, so stay in more often.

“When you know that you are highly sensitive, it reframes your life. Sensitive people have to live differently in order to be comfortable.” — Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.

Learn More About the Hypersensitivity:

1. Take This TestSensory Processing Disorder in Children
2. Take This TestSensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in Adults
3. Top Article: Hypersensitivity Is Not Imagined
4. Download Are Your Senses in Overdrive?


2 Comments & Reviews

  1. I have a friend who is not only ADHD but also Hypersensitive as I am but also attends the same church as i. Last year i invited him to attend a series of group sessions with me and he was startled to discover a new world of similarities. We discussed all the issues that we could think of in our one hour or more telephone conversations until one time he asked me if I noticed the Ministers terrible breath .We surmised it was due to the special oils he uses in his cooking as he was from Asia. I had to admit i had also noticed them. It could be disastrous in his work as a spiritual advisor and I was genuinely concerned that someone extremely tactful should let him know. I happened to meet with that someone the nextday at a function and you guessed it the “condition was passed along and seemed to disapear.
    Now i find out that the issue is ours not the pastors. My tactful friend had lost his sense of smell so had been unable to verify our findings before carrying out his infomative errand
    I am of two minds on this, do nothing, or admit my misconception and affliction and apologize
    . Are there any other solutions out there to this conundrum?

  2. I just found this article while researching Aron’s work on the Highly Sensitive Person. One confusing thing about this topic is that some writers call hypersensitivity a disorder, naming it either HSD or SPD, while others differentiate between hypersensitivity as a disorder and as a personality trait, the latter of which is not considered to be a pathology.

    Dr. Aron is clear, in reporting her research, that being an HSP — resulting from Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) — is NOT the same as having a disorder. From her perspective, perhaps because of its prevalence in the general population (up to 20 percent of people, one in five), SPS is a personality trait. Aron theorizes that SPS is an evolutionary holdover that helped our species survive in its earlier stages, by allowing some individuals to detect threats in the environment faster than others. According to Aron, SPS is not a pathology, any more than having blue eyes is a pathology. It’s a difference, and the problems Highly Sensitive People have in many industrialized societies is that they don’t fit the mold into which most people adapt. SPD, on the other hand, is a processing *disorder.*

    This isn’t just a question of semantics. There’s a real difference in people’s lived experience between having a personality trait and having a disorder, especially if one seeks treatment. A major issue, for example, is whether or not current diagnostic codes allow either SPS or SPD to be covered by health insurance. A disorder is more likely by far to be covered than a trait. Physicians and therapists are fond of inventing new labels for things. The problem for many of us, as patients, is that care is expensive. So canny health providers may diagnose ADHD or other coverable conditions in order to open treatment gateways for the patient (for which I don’t fault them). It’s a conundrum, and adds to the stress we patients and our families have to cope with while we’re busy coping with symptoms.

    Another issue is the patient’s self-regard: it feels one way to think of oneself as having a quirky personality trait, and quite another to think of oneself as disordered, or as having a disorder. Since self-regard can affect outcomes — considering how it may alter mood, for instance, which can have very tangible, measurable physical consequences — the nature of the label can make a big difference. While I don’t suggest altering an accurate label, I do suggest being careful about what we call a trait and what we call a disorder.

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