High sensitivityHighly sensitive person or hsp is a term from psychology introduced in 1996 by American psychologist Dr. Elaine N. Aron and stands for (English): highly sensitive person. In Dutch, highly sensitive person is translated as hoogsensitief persoon, sterk sensitief persoon or hooggevoelig persoon.

HSP according to Aron


High sensitivity is central to Aron's studies. Drawing among other things on the studies of psychiatrist Carl Jung[2][3] and psychologist Dr. Jerome Kagan,[4] she concludes that high sensitivity is strongly innate and genetically determined. However, unlike, for example, Kagan[5] and mainstream therapeutic psychology, she characterizes the associated behavior not as inhibited, shy or timid and deviant, but as the natural consequence of innate high sensitivity that can be positively valued.

Aron concludes that multiple studies show that certain people are more strongly stimulated than average,[2] in an internal sense, hsps are more sensitive to emotions, pain, pleasure and other physical and mental experiences. In an external sense, hsps are not only more sensitive to sounds and smells and to visual and tactile stimulation, but also appear to take in more impressions, making them more aware earlier and more aware of details and the number of possible scenarios that an environment holds. hsps are therefore more alert to possible dangers and are more inclined to overthink and assess situations which, according to Aron, is often mistakenly considered shyness and inhibition by colleagues.

Hsps are also prone to less social interaction and assertiveness, again according to Aron, not because they are shy or unsocial, but as a result of necessary adaptation to their innate trait that requires them to be more careful with themselves and their environment. Also, because of their innate powers of observation, hsp'ers are more inclined to empathy and, especially in a quiet environment, appear to be able to absorb information better than average and work out all the details and nuances.

For Aron, these research findings prompt a different, more positive approach and appreciation of high sensitivity.[6]

Characteristics of hsp'ers according to Aron

  • Are aware of subtle cues in the environment.
  • Are influenced by the moods of others.
  • Are quite sensitive to pain.
  • During busy days, they feel more need to retreat to bed, a dark room or a place of undisturbed solitude.
  • Are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
  • Get easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong odors, coarse fabrics or loud sirens.
  • Have rich and complex inner experiences.
  • Are uncomfortable with loud noises.
  • Can be deeply moved by art or music.
  • Are conscientious.
  • Scare fast.
  • Feel rushed when they have to do a lot in a short period of time.
  • When high-sensitives feel uncomfortable in an environment, they usually know what to do to change it (by dimming the lights or moving the furniture, for example).
  • Get irritated when people want them to do too much at once.
  • Try very hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting something.
  • Preferably do not watch violent movies or TV programs.
  • Feel uncomfortable when there is a lot going on around them.
  • Excessive hunger strongly affects their ability to concentrate or their mood.
  • Changes in life upset them.
  • Have a sense of delicate smells, tastes, sounds and works of art, and enjoy them.
  • Give high priority to avoiding situations that upset or overburden them.
  • When they have to compete or are watched, they become so tense that their performance is much less than usual.
  • As children, they are/were considered sensitive or shy by their parents or teachers.


In practical terms, according to Aron, it is important for hsp'rs to become aware of this innate trait and adapt their lifestyles accordingly: take more rest, be alone more often or seek nature, and limit overstimulation (such as crowded, competitive environments). They should also let go of feelings of guilt or inferiority about their inherent limitations, and hsp'rs should not try to conform to the behavior of non-hsp'rs, as is often required by contemporary mainstream therapists.

On the other hand, she pays great attention to guarding against exaggeration, dramatization and victimization, as well as some assertiveness that many hsp'rs often lack. She also especially encourages hsp'rs to continue participating in social life. Because their high sensitivity allows them to process information better and more comprehensively under the right conditions (a quiet work environment without excessive pressure and criticism and excessive supervision), they can contribute significantly to society. Through this positive appreciation of and better handling of innate qualities, many hsp'rs will lead happier spiritual lives, according to Aron.

Aron thus also points to a social-psychological context. According to her, high sensitivity brings with it many valuable qualities that often make hsp'rs the "ideal employee," for example: conscientious (conscientious; precise), loyal, focused on quality and with a high understanding of people and processes. In addition, Aron finds from research that HSPs are attracted more than average to arts and sciences and advisory and nurturing roles and less to managerial and competitive occupations. Since these professions have produced many a celebrity who has been of widely recognized importance to people and society, this is seen as support for Aron's argument that high sensitivity can definitely be socially positively valued rather than corrected. She therefore argues that therapeutic psychology should not succumb to the demands of a culture or zeitgeist that seems to value power, profit and insensitivity more highly, and argues for a positive revaluation of high sensitivity in a social sense as well.

According to Elaine Aron, 15 to 20 percent of people are highly sensitive, and she vehemently opposes inclusion of the term in the DSM-5 because it is an innate character trait. To date, neither is it.

In addition to Aron, two books on high sensitivity have also been published by psychologist Ted Zeff.


Treatment BeterKlinic

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An van Veen (physician) and Michael van Gils (therapist) look for the cause of a condition or disease. That is where the treatment starts otherwise, as people often say, it is 'carrying water to the sea'. We call this cause medicine. Sometimes it is also desirable to treat the symptoms (at the same time). We call this symptom medicine.

Chronic disorders often have their cause in epi- genetics. You can schedule a free informative telephone consultation (phone number 040-7117337 until 1 p.m.) at BeterKliniek to discuss your symptoms so that we can provide you with further advice.