High sensitivity- Facts and Handles

5 Feb, 2020

A guestblog by Marlies Zonderland-Thomassen (MSc, PhD)

Did you know that 1 out of 5 persons is a highly sensitive person, or HSP? Did you know that it has been proven that the brain of HSP processes stimulus differently, and needs more processing time (Bergsma, 2019)? Did you know that being highly sensitive is a character trait, and not a disorder like autism (Marletta Hart, 2015)?


What is HSP?

High sensitivity means having a high sensitivity to the sights, sounds, emotional cues, and other stimuli around you (Aron, 2012). You probably know someone, or recognize it yourself, who is more sensitive to the atmosphere in a team than others, who feels the expectations of others, who needs more me-time after social events…. The founder of high-sensitivity Elaine Aron developed a test to estimate if a person is highly sensitive or not. You can try the test yourself!


Are you HSP?

What if you turn out to be a HSP? Most likely you know deep down already that you have always felt a bit different than others. It can also be that finally pieces of the puzzle come together. As a PhD student, you have to balance so many things, so maybe you have already noticed that you deal with the PhD challenges differently than your PhD mates. It could also be, that you have experienced when interacting with your supervisors, that they are result-oriented, while for you the process is also very important, and you value a good atmosphere.


HSP as a quality

What can you do? The challenge is to understand e.g, by reading more about it, what you as a HSP need to function well. As stated above, being highly sensitive is a character trait, and can be a quality, once you understand how it works. The challenge is to avoid over-stimulation, learn to recognize when to take a step back, set clear boundaries, and take regular breaks. Also, appreciate the great characteristics that come along with high sensitivity: most HSP are creative, empathic persons. A coach specialised in high-sensitivity can help creating the settings you need to perform well


Supporting a HSP

It could also be you are not HSP but you recognize a colleague, or partner, who could be HSP. As a colleague, PhD supervisor, or partner, it is great for HSP if you understand that they experience more stimulus than you and support them in creating an environment for them to thrive well. It helps if you understand that HSP needs to avoid over-stimulation, and if you support them when they attempt to set boundaries.


Want to know more?

Interested to learn more? Contact Marlies Zonderland-Thomassen on +31 6 83 565652 or info@cuneracoaching.nl

You can also check out her website, or follow her on facebook or LinkedIn.



Aron, E., 2012. THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.

Bergsma, E., 2019. Het Hoogsensitieve brein. Waarom je een vis niet moet vragen in een boom te
klimmen. http://hoogsensitievebrein.nl/

Marletta Hart, S., 2015. Leven met hooggevoeligheid van opgave naar gave.


Featured image by Gerd Altman @ Pixabay

HSP are creative, empathic persons

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