Opinion: The science of Highly Sensitive People

Mar 15, 2023, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:37 pm

Highly Sensitive People...

(Photo from article on KSLNewsradio.com, July 27, 2020)

(Photo from article on KSLNewsradio.com, July 27, 2020)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

If I had a nickel for every time someone has told me to “Chill out!” What I didn’t understand as a young person, and now, even though I understand, still struggle to explain to anyone, is that there are some people, about 20% of us, who are highly sensitive people.

This isn’t me being a snowflake. This is science.

Highly Sensitive Person or HSP

Dr. Elaine Aron coined the term 30 years ago. She found that brain scans of HSPs are actually different than scans of non-HSPs.

High sensitivity is something that is found in 100 different species including dogs, monkeys, fish, rats, and even spiders. How many of us have had a beloved dog who seems to know when we’re sick or sad and won’t leave our side? Yep. (HSD – highly sensitive dog)

“You’re not alone”

Let me be clear. I’m not asking for special treatment. I just want to give a shout out to my fellow HSPs to say, “You’re not alone. I cry at commercials, too.” And I want to give a head’s up to everyone else that we may not be the annoying babies you’ve always thought we were, just “working it” or “over the top with all that crying.” It’s a thing. A real thing. Some of you are diabetic or have asthma or insomnia, and some of us are highly sensitive.

Dr. Aron would like HSPs to know that research shows what we experience is innate. We tend to be more easily overwhelmed, and people tend to misunderstand us. Hence all of the “Don’t be so sensitive” comments.

Tips for staying strong

There are things we HSPs can do to stay strong in a world that wants us to “chill out!” Dr. Michael Pluess, a professor of psychology at Queen Mary’s College in London, offers the following advice.

  1. Embrace being sensitive. Think of the times your sensitivity has helped you. (I find people open up to me more in interviews because they sense my sensitivity.)
  2. Allocate your energy. (I say “no” easily and often now to things and events that don’t need me specifically so I can save my energy for when I am truly needed.)
  3. Create more positive experiences. (My husband calls it my “happy list.” When he finds me crying over my crocheting, he’ll gently nudge, “How about you do something from your happy list? It’s not snowing. You could take Molly for a walk?”)
  4. Writing – in a journal, in an email to a friend, or for me, here in this column. Thank you for reading.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah’s Morning News and A Woman’s View.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Image of Utah's Morning News host Amanda Dickson and colleague Kate Davis, who says she is grateful...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Social media and the importance of the radio community

Unlike social media, radio is one of the few experiences that offers everybody listening the same information at the same time.

1 day ago

Deedee Corradini, the former Salt Lake City mayor, was instrumental in getting the Olympics to Utah...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Remembering Deedee Corradini after the Olympics news today

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini was instrumental in getting the Olympics. She would be ecstatic to see them again.

7 days ago

President M. Russell Ballard might have been losing his vision himself, but he never stopped inviti...

Boyd Matheson

Boyd Matheson: President M. Russell Ballard inviting all to “come and see!”

President M. Russell Ballard spent his life inviting people to "come and see."

20 days ago

The KSL Movie Show reviews"The Holdovers" and says it might be one of your favorite movies....

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘The Holdovers’ is your new seasonal anthem

"The Holdovers" could easily become the next film you watch every holiday season with your family.

29 days ago

The KSL Movie Show review gives "Priscilla" a B grade for its truth despite being ugly....

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Priscilla’ isn’t pretty, but it rings true

If you're looking for a pretty movie, this isn't it. The latest KSL Movie Show review gives "Priscilla" a B grade. It's ugly, but true.

1 month ago

Image of Gavin Zachary Valdez was born at Primary Children's Hospital on June 11, 2007. He died not...

Amie Schaeffer

Schaeffer: A letter of thanks to Primary Children’s Hospital

Sixteen years ago Primary Children's Hospital cared for a new mom and her preemie son who later passed away.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Opinion: The science of Highly Sensitive People