Home > 10 must-know misconceptions about (high) sensitive people

10 must-know misconceptions about (high) sensitive people

MIsvattingTwo weeks ago we’ve learned a lot about the advantages of being a (high) sensitive person . Remember, about 1/ 5 of all people would qualify as highly sensitive. (High) sensitives are people with particular genetic characteristic that makes them keenly attuned to the world around them. Because (high) sensitive people process sensory input more deeply than others, they tend to be more empathetic and thoughtful. They might be easily overstimulated and require (regular) breaks of peace and quiet to reload their energy balance.
Today I would like to expose the most common, regrettable misconceptions about (high) sensitive people.
Why do I think you will enjoy this article?
For 2 very good reasons:
For 2 very good reasons:

  1. If you are (high) sensitive, it is good to know how others might perceive you. Knowing this you may (or may not) choose to react to such misconceptions in situations that you might otherwise have failed to understand or simply ignored. This might strengthens the positive image that others have of you.
  2. If you are not (high) sensitive, it is valuable to know that your impression of a certain behavior in another person might not be based on what you’ve learned during your previous experience in life. It might just be a result of (high) sensitivity characteristics (see f. ex. misconceptions number 3, 4 & 6) . This helps you to gracefully prevent misjudgment and instead create an encounter where new possibilities of inter-personal contact unfold.

Here we go:
Misconception number 1:   (High) sensitives are introverts.
Although (high) sensitivity is often used synonymously with introversion these traits are not the same. While they share similar characteristics (like wanting downtime and having relatively quiet personalities), renown (high) sensitivity expert Dr Elaine Aron discovered that approximately 30 % of (high) sensitive persons are. In fact, extroverts.
Misconception number 2:   Being (high) sensitive is another word for being shy.
Both introvert people and (high) sensitive people are often mistaken as being shy.  Although the traits share characteristics as sensitivity to overwhelming social situations, being shy is generally a learned behavior while being (high) sensitive is innate. Dr Aron states: ‘Shyness is a fear of social evaluation, and we are not born with that fear.’
Misconception number 3: ADHD and (High) sensitivity are closely related.
Although ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; collective name for ADHD, HD (hyperactive Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)) have some traits that overlap with (High) sensitivity the two are different things. ADHD was defined as a ‘psychiatric disorder’ (handbook of DSM Diagnostic and Statistical handbook of Mental disorders III, 1987). (High) sensitivity (HSP), is not a disorder but an innate characteristic that 15-20% of all people were born with.
Some traits that are common in both groups are:

  • Strong sense of justness
  • Easily seeing through other people’s motivations or bearings
  • Prone to daydreaming and / or fantasizing
  • Often perfectionists
  • Strong intuition
  • Inclined to enjoy helping others
  • Often very creative
  • Often think in pictures and images
  • Both groups (plus autists) respond very well to a conscious diet cutting out sugars, E-components, gluten and casein

Because of these similarities, ADHD and (high)sensitive people understand each other perfectly and often seek out each other’s company.
What generally distinguishes the (high) sensitive person from the typical ADHD person is:

  • Generally good concentration
  • Generally good in paying attention
  • Generally good in listening to what is being said
  • Starting a project and not finishing it but instead start doing something else

Given all the above, it is not uncommon that a person with general good concentration becomes restless, overly busy and unable to concentrate as a result of overstimulation. This pattern points to a (high)sensitive person and not to a person within the ADHD spectrum.
Yet since (high) sensitivity is heritable, a combination of (high) sensitivity and ADHD is possible as well. Therefore it is extremely important to carefully consider and evaluate all characteristics of a person/ child before making the final judgement and ‘stigmatize ’them with the label ADHD for good. (Credits and read more)
Misconception number 4: (High) sensitivity is a part of the autistic spectrum.
The enhanced perceptivity of (high) sensitive people (‘too tight’, ‘too loud’, ‘too bright’) can very easily be mistaken by less sensitive people for acquired hypersensitivity or sensory defensiveness, produced by brain damage. Indeed, sensory defensiveness, in which ordinary stimuli are perceived as unbearably intense, is ‘on the autistic spectrum.’ It is often produced by fevers, concussions, and/or medication, and it can and should be treated with the relatively cheap and simple therapies (f.ex. Sharon Heller. For (high) sensitive people, however, perceptivity is normal. They are born with it while autism is a developmental disorder. Autism is a neurological disorder in the brain more based on biology than with psychology. While (high) sensitive persons can become less sensitive with age, becoming overstimulated is a common thread especially in young children. Yet in order to distinguish between high sensitivity and autism there are many other distinctions that parents should pay attention to and discuss with their doctor. “That’s a difficult diagnosis to make in a very young child … it’s been misdiagnosed both ways, but they’re different,” says expert Dr Aron. Here are some or the aspects to which people with autism and (high) sensitivity respond similarly:

  • uneasy with loud noises
  • Being easily scared
  • Work conscientiously
  • Are easily upset as a reaction to very bright light or pushy colors or odors
  • Feel uncomfortable in very busy surroundings.

However, other characteristics that are commonly recognized by (high) sensitive persons but do not apply by autistic persons are:

  • Being aware of subtleties in their environment
  • Being (strongly) influenced by the moods of others
  • Feeling the atmosphere in a room or a space immediately at entering the space
  • Knowing instantly what should be changed in a room / space to make it more inviting

Therefore it is advisable to just acknowledge the (high) sensitive trait (instead of the inappropriate label of being ‘autistic’) to people who recognize themselves in the 4 above-stated statements. This might prevent  many people from getting stamped wrongly las being ‘autistic’, and all the automatic key reactions this might provoke in their lives. (credits and read more).
Misconception number 5: (High) sensitive people need medical aid to better their condition
Out of ignorance, (young) (high) sensitives are at much risk of being labelled ‘depressed’, ‘withdrawn’, or even ‘autistic’ or ADHD’ (due to the lack of better alternatives, see misconception number 3). They are consequently inappropriately medicated for conditions they don’t have with strong drugs like Prozac or Ritalin. These drugs work on a substance called serotonin which is indeed associated with depression. However, in (high) sensitive persons often another form of depression is found, a form that is caused by low levels of endorphins. This form cannot be improved by serotonin-orientated medication. It can, however, easily be treated through diet and exercise.
Misconception number 6: (High) sensitive persons don’t take risks.
The general conception that (high) sensitive individuals just want to stay at home or want everything calm and quiet all the time is a myth. In fact, many seek high-sensation thrills like downhill skiing, surfing or adventurous traveling. They also choose careers where they can satisfy their curiosity while still finding stimulation and meaning, such as journalism, acting or service-based jobs. Wonder if you are a ‘thrill-seeker’? Take the test here.
Misconception number 7: (High) sensitive persons are weak.
In our modern society, we tend to rank people based on specific characteristics that are generally associated with being ‘strong’ and /or ‘successful’. Many (high) sensitive people tend to elude those traits. However, we need to keep in mind that there are different kinds of strength. Since (high) sensitive persons are often less aggressive than less sensitive people, they might be less inclined to provoke a fight or be caught in one. Many (high) sensitive persons are also more sensitive to pain which might enhance the choice not to fight. Opting against a fight, however, might give the impression of weakness, especially when dealing with a (young) boy.
However, (high) sensitive people do possess another kind of strength. Since they perceive the world a way that other people are unaware of, they are able to pick up on the others’ emotions. This allows them to react accordingly instead of just responding to the verbally expressed information.
Misconception number 8: Being highly sensitive negatively affects workplace success.
Intuition does not need to be a handicap in relationships or at work. (High) sensitive persons can use their highly-refined intuition  to perform better.  It can be used to translate observations into an advantage.  Being intuitive can support bringing new ideas or bad news in an acceptable and pleasing way and help being diplomatic.
Liv TylerMisconception number 9: They don’t like big crowds.
While (high) sensitive people do prefer to participate in activities (like exercise) solo, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a large party or interacting in a big gathering. In fact, (high) sensitive people can thrive when there’s social stimulation and some even find calm in large groups.
Misconception number 10: You can easily identify a highly sensitive person.
In most cases, you probably won’t be able to spot an (high) sensitive in a crowd, least if you are not one yourself and use your instincts. Save for a few eccentricities, like preferring alone time or a quiet restaurant over a noisy one, the personality trait doesn’t often stand out. (High) sensitive people often are creative, insightful, have a lot of empathy and people tend to like them.
Rests me to be a bit curious myself and ask you some feedback:

  • Which misconception did you find the most revealing?
  • Which one surprised you the most?
  • Did you have any moment of ‘Aha – now I understand why that- and – that person reacts like this’?
  • Has your perception of (high) sensitive people changed? For that matter, has your perception of autistics or ADHD been affected?

Let me know!
If you liked this article, mark the following data in your agenda:
’10 reasons why being trendy is a piece of cake for (high) sensitive persons’ ( June 8th)
’10 essential ‘instant Zen’ flower remedies for (high) sensitive person’s emergency use’ ( June 22th)
‘ Surprising diet adaptations for (high) sensitive persons that really help improving your resilience’  ( July 6th)
’10 practical and fun tips  if you have or work with (high) sensitive children’ (August 31th)
My number 1 desire is to inform and inspire you. Sign up for my blog and you will be provided automatically with more insightful information and inspiring mind-travels.
Image credits + image credits