Hypersensitivity

Exceptional sensitivity to sounds, vibrations, smells, tastes, textures, touch, temperature, wind, barometric pressure & humidity, certain colours, bright light, fluorescent light, flicker, clutter, movement, crowds, stress or pain, can be a sign of illness, imbalance, stress or sensory processing disorder, or a natural innate sensibility.

Highly Sensitive Person

Elaine Aron calls naturally supersensitive individuals Highly Sensitive Persons. According to Aron, this is a perfectly normal trait that is inherited in 15 to 20% of the population. HSP seems to be extra common among autistic & neurodiversity spectrum people, but you can be a HSP and have extra well-developed senses without being autistic, and not everyone on the spectrum is highly sensitive.

Naturally, being able to consciously perceive more than most people and unable to filter incoming impressions can be both painful, frustrating and debilitating in many situations.

“I have always, in the past, enjoyed good smells, but I’m finding that my sense of smell is a growing problem as I age. I’m getting more and more sensitive with it, to the point that I almost can’t take any smells at all. I can detect smells that no one else can… and believe me, it isn’t fun!! Even the smells of my own husband and children are often unbearable to me.” – Cathy, adult Aspie from USA

“I am very sensitive to quick temperature changes. For me it is horrible to first have a shower in lipid water and then dry oneself in room temperature, I freeze to death before I get my clothes on. My facial skin doesn’t seem to have the same protection against cold that others have. When I go out in freeze temperatures I feel like I’d like a thick robber’s hood with just holes for the eyes. My skin is sensitive to heat too, I don’t feel well when it’s warm, over 20 degrees Celcius in the summer, and in the winter not under zero Celcius. Autumn and spring are my seasons, in other words.” – ‘Flinta’, female Aspie from Sweden

“Certain textures cause my gag reflex to kick in. When I was little I would vomit when I touched these certain textures. Wool is one of those things. I still cannot touch these textures without dry heaving.” – Bonnie D., adult Highly Sensitive Person from USA

“I can even get bothered by some people who to me drink too loud. You can actually hear some people drink, they make so much noise when they swallow and they give me the shivers…” – Alfonzo, adult Aspie from Belgium

“I am extremely choosy about what I wear, and only wear things that are comfortable. Nothing can be too tight, or too loose, and I can’t have any thick seems. I have to cut out all the tags out too. Sleeping isn’t easy, as every wrinkle must be flattened, or I will wake up with bruises. I also need multiple heavy blankets to be comfortable.

“Then there is the sense of smell. I am like a bloodhound… I smell everything, and way too strongly. I can find things you wouldn’t believe, just by ‘sniffing’ it out. Unfortunately I am also very sensitive here, and live with headaches, nausea, and dizziness, caused by the scents I encounter. I too wish purfume would be outlawed. Especially since the people who wear it seem to think bathing in it is required.

“Lastly there is light. It is not a good thing, yet neither is dark. I like dusk to be exact. I bit dark, but not quite yet. Bright lights just make my eyes close, involuntarily. I don’t like the sun, I get heat stroke easily (though I don’t burn at all) and the brightness makes me dizzy and lightheaded.”

“I have problems when there is a major change in Barometric Pressure too. In fact, I often end up with a migraine. I wake up in pain, with no warning, except that I knew a storm was coming. My knees often ache on those days too. I have always had joint problems in general, with my knees being the worst.” – Tracy, adult HSP from USA

“I am very prone to motion sickness. Air travel is a real horror for me because I almost always get airsick.” – William, adult Aspie from USA

It can also be highly enjoyable or useful in other situations. Or both.

“I was just thinking about sensory issues and how sometimes they can be uncomfortable, certain noises, smells that just smell too much and the dislike of certain tactile stimulus; but then I thought about some of the positive advantages too.

“For example, I have a heightened sense of hearing and can hear low level noises that nobody else seems to hear. On many occasions I have been able to detect and find problematic areas before others have been aware of them. For instance, electrical and mechanical products, sounding slightly different from how they usually sound, which can give me advance warning that they are about to break down, or experience difficulties. I can hear things that have been left on from the low level hum and seek them out and switch them off, to save battery power (if they are battery operated).

“Also a heightened sense of smell, which my son has too. We both detected a gas leak that no-one else seemed to smell. I thought I was going nuts when no-one else could smell it, but it was fortunate that my son and I did, as there did turn out to be a leak.” – Julie, adult Aspie from England

“Yes, I’ve had similar experiences… knowing by the sound of something that it isn’t right…  hearing the toilet running downstairs when I’m upstairs… the sound the water makes when coming from the faucet gauges temperature (if I’m paying attention to it – which helps because I don’t feel the water temperature right away on my skin, there is a delay).  It also comes in handy when I’m not in the room with the kids, knowing by the sound of something 2 rooms away or from upstairs that they are into trouble, lol.

“Smells also very similar to what you’ve said, even something as simple as knowing the meat or milk is turning long before others can smell it.

“I’m also very sensitive to pressure changes, so I can tell when the weather is changing – actually can feel a weather front or low pressure system pass over me (I’ve tested this with weather maps and it is always correct).  When the low passes, my entire body feels like a weight has been lifted and I can move more freely, and the pressure in my head is released… it is very strange, like I can breathe freely again too.  A hurricane down in the Caribbean can have me in terrible pain (I’m in New York, but deep low pressure can be felt that far away – imagine the pain I was in this summer when there were several hurricanes about at the same time!), and as it moved closer the pain worsens.

“I can also usually tell when a window or door is opened or closed (in a well insulated building) just by the air pressure changes on my eardrums.  In a car it is very painful to close a window, and depending on who is with me I usually ask for them to warn me in advance if they will be closing a window.” – Wendi, adult Aspie from USA

Highly Sensitive People can be very creative, empathic, have extra good intuition and may also be good at picking up subtler impressions such as moods, vibes and inspiration.

“For me, the biggest advantage is how I can sense ‘vibes’ other people put out. I often know how others feel, before they say anything at all.”

“I find that [HSP/SID] has made me a more compassionate human being, as I hate pain and discomfort so much, I can’t bare to let anyone suffer anything I can help. With the fact that I can sense people’s feelings and emotions, due to this condition, I use it to do things for the people around me a lot. I like that I can do something most people I know cannot.” – Tracy, adult HSP from USA

Judging from their biographies, many of the world’s greatest artists, writers, poets, composers, inventors, philosophers and idealists seem to have been such supersensitive individuals. Like the inventor Nicola Tesla and author Marcel Proust just to mention two examples:

“The acute sensitivity which allowed Tesla to convert his mental constructs to hardware was not unaccompanied by a host of bothersome impressions, known to few other mortals.  In a biographical sketch written in 1919, he described his violent aversions to women’s earrings and his obsessive fascination for crystals and plane surfaces, his revulsion at touching the hair of another person, the fever simply looking at a peach would arouse, and the nausea brought on by merely glancing at small squares of paper floating in a liquid.” – Christopher Bird & Oliver Nichelson inGreat Scientist, Forgotten Genius

Besides being plagued by asthma and severe digestion problems, Marcel Proust had other sensitivities which made his life very difficult:

“The third problem is underpants. Proust needs to have these circling tight around the stomach before he has any chance of getting to sleep. They have to be fastened with a special pin.”

“Sensitive skin. He can’t use any soap, or cream, or cologne. He has to wash with finely woven moistened towels then pat himself dry with fresh linen. An average wash requires 20 towels, which Proust specifies must be taken to the only laundry that uses the right non-irritant powder. /../ He finds that older clothes are better for him than new ones, and develops deep attachment to old shoes and handkerchiefs.” – Alain de Botton inHow Proust can change your life

The Highly Sensitive Person Elaine Aron info and short online test

Highly Sensitive People online info by Thomas Eldridge

Super Sensitive Person extensive sensitivity test

Dabrowski’s Over-excitabilities by Stephanie Tolan

Thank God for the iPod Sensory defensive in an over-stimulating society (blog)

32 Comments »

  1. Candace watt said,

    I am very sensitive to noises. Of all kinds. Just a person breathing can give me the chills and I almost want to gag. Or even when someone eats or drinks. I can hear things better than most and I have a hard time controlling the feelings I get. It’s frustrating and hard knowing in so intolerant..

    • Trisha said,

      I have a noise thing too. But mine is weird…. When I touch certain materials and feel them I hear it I guess is the best way to describe it. Sometimes its so unnerving it almost hurts. I like crocheting but in order for me to buy yarn I have to touch every type in the store to find one I can handle, same with clothing, Styrofoam is the worst!!!! But its only when I handle it. Smells ugh I can sniff a dead rat out before most people even notice… I tell my husband something died on the road way before we drive past it. I stay hot all the time too, in 20-40° weather I wear t-shirts but when its super hot I don’t mind it as much as most…. Do you ever feel this way too?

  2. Brandy said,

    I can smell everything. My family think im crazy because they dont smell like me. I knew something was wrong. I also cant stand to have someone eating or drinking by me…i cant stand the noise. I get angry when they do. Can someone please tell me if there is anything to help me.

    • Martina said,

      This is the explanation of your problem and what might help you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperosmia

      Also, see the movie Perfume: STORY OF A MURDERER, or at least read the book, because it is fantastic. The main hero has the same problem like you do.

  3. Corrie Hastie said,

    I seem to a very tactile person, I have and overwhelming urge (which I’ve learnt to suppress) to hug and touch friends, it feels at time almost too good, its frustrating that they can not seem to feel on the same level, its hard to explain..

  4. Martina said,

    I have huge problems with my extreme sensitivity to the LIGHT. Do not be mistaken, I love light as a phenomenon. But when there is too much of it, I start to have troubles. My eyes cannot take it, at best they are hurting, at worst I get something like seizures (without actually being epileptic). It is the worst especially in the moments when somebody uses flash on me, or when I see a flash – and it does not matter whether it was a natural effect (like a bolt lightning) or a some FX, manmade effect. And that is EXACTLY the reason why I cannot watch some action or comic book movies. It first occured to me during the screening of the fifth Harry Potter. I was sitting at the cinema, and at the end of the movie, where Harry and his friends use magic spells to fight Voldemort and his hunchmen, there were so many “milky”, glowing, blinding flashlights that I had to be rushed into a nearby hospital. It was positively the WORST experience of my life, when it comes to sensory problems. Or medical problems, so to speak. I could not even move and I thought I was dying. Not a pleasant experience.

  5. Morning Light Dislike said,

    In the mornings i really like to have just the natural light coming in instead of indoor light. However, when i wake up it’s like between dark and light like before sunrise how things are like blue. Well when i get up i don’t like having bright light so i sometimes shut lights off that other people around me have turned on. They think that i’m messed up and im mental and i just want to know if im wrong or if they are wrong! It’s upsetting me that they don’t understand and they won’t even listen to why i don’t like light! I feel like i am all alone and a weirdo! Please tell me i’m wrong!

    • dawn said,

      my daughter does this. She nearly always says the light makes her eyes water. I like to have lights in the morning to help me wake up but often end up sitting in the dark because I recognize she has sensitive eyes the way I have sensitive nose and ears. It is frustrating some days though when it’s cloudy and she won’t let me have a light on. I mean I could have a light on but it would involve listening to her cry which is unbearable for me. besides, it’s one of those ‘pick your battles’ moments, why bother fighting about a light on, I’ll save the fight for denying sugar.

  6. Erica said,

    I must be such an annoying person. I can’t stand heat – I’m always turning heaters off and I have my air conditioning on in the car all the time, even in winter. I can cope for a little while in a hot room, but then it’s like I reach a threshold and my face becomes red hot – then it will stay that way for a couple of hours. So of course I do all I can do avoid that. People don’t understand how much the heat affects me. I also have trouble with light – I always wear my sunglasses outside, even when raining sometimes. When eating out, I always position myself so I’m not looking into the light, or I get a headache. If someone turns a light on during the day, I feel physically sick – it must be the contrast between the blue of daylight and the yellow of artificial light. I’m also sensitive to noise – always telling the kids to turn the TV down. But I can handle noise when I’m in the right mood. The weather affects me as well. Overcast, still days are the worst – often migraine days. Sunny days cheer me up so much, but I rarely spend much time in the sun for fear I’ll get too hot. I am sensitive to smell, but that’s a good thing really, since I work in a Sensory role! I did have to remove an over-ripe banana from my sister’s dining table the other day – no-one else could even smell it. Touch is not such an issue, I’m always happy to hug my kids. But I don’t like people touching my hair. I’ve just started to research all my ‘symptoms’, in the hope that I can put a name to them and know that I’m not a crazy person :)

  7. Camille McEwan said,

    My eyes get so dry that my lids stick to them,drops, just disappear as soon as I put them in,even the jell ones.
    I always know when we have low pressure arriving , because my eyes get so dry and sore, which is very often as I live on the coast..the summer is usually much better for my eyes, the warmer and dryer the weather the better..this has only happened later in my life, but it is very uncomfortable, as I have to keep blinking.. I just wondered if anyone else has this problem, as I think my doctor doesn’t believe the weather is the problem..I have just worked it out myself.
    I have been tested for everything , when it’s really bad I find if I put a hot lavender bag across my eyes it really helps..just wondered if anyone else has this problem. I have say once the wet weather arrives it a lot better it’s just the change from high to low pressure..

    • Sue said,

      Camille, a lot of friends and I were discussing this last year–many of us are getting dry eyes as we get older. One suggested what her doctor told her, which is to wet a clean washcloth with warm water every morning or night and put it across your eyes for several minutes. At first you may find it makes a sort of film appear on your eyes–this is the waxes that as you age start building up in your lids instead of spreading on your eye surface throughout the day. It will go away after a few minutes of blinking normally. After a week or so of doing this, the film should stop appearing and sooner than that, you should have less irritation in your eyes.

  8. Bekki said,

    i never used to be like this, but lately, in the past 3 weeks, i have been gagging over a lot of things and i haven’t vomited in over 3 years. i have a bit of a cold at the moment, but that’s only been the past week and a half and usually when getting a cold this sort of thing does not occur. it happens when i pick up some things that the mere thought of me touching it makes me gag. it also happens with certain smells, ones that are bad are around. what could this possibly be?

  9. I can’t sleep with wrinkles under any part of my body,I awaken every night in such PAIN where ever I have a wrinkle mark..I can not wear anything to sleep in , due to the bunching up of the material…I have tried different fabrics to line my bed,,so far a thich blanket coverd with silk like sheets have worked the best..But still after 4 hours I hurt so bad, I have to get up for a short time before returning back to bed..The Pain is like a chainsaw has cut deep into those wrinkles, I actually cry some nights from the Pain… I also have a increased sense of smell,,mostly bad smells,yuck !!!! I am Blessed with Talents ( music,artwork,writeing & a Keen sense of high & low tones ) I’m sorry ,yet relieved to hear I am not alone people …I pray for you all ..

  10. Amanda said,

    In June of 2012 I started taking nasonex, for one month total time, I had a severe allergic reaction to it, horrible chest pains, unable to breathe, I couldn’t even sleep it was so bad, and on top of this I had a reaction to the medication, where I was in so much pain in my mouth, tongue teeth gums, I Couldn’t touch anything with my hands or feet without it effecting my mouth, also smelling things like soap, laundry detergent, any of that causes my mouth so much pain, I cant drink anything but water, and cant eat certain foods, I’m living a life of hell, it is a year later, and I have been able to mute somethings to help with the pain like fragrance free soap, only drinking water and only eating for the most part veggies and fruits nuts seeds etc. I get a pain almost like a throbbing anxiety pain in my lips gums teeth and hits the worse on my tongue almost like a feeling as if I burned the crap out of my tongue and a horrible dryness on top of it all day and it never ends!!! its like somehow this nasonex made me sensitive too irritants which i dont know if it confused the hell out of my body when it was helping for allergen, but whats funny is my doctor said to try it because i mentioned i had post nasal drip and headaches often, I wish i had my post nasal drip and headaches back! I need help im at the end of my rope! I want my life back! Has anyone gone thru anything like this with this extreme sensitivity in your hands feet and smell and taste? Please email me…

    • Sue said,

      Amanda, have you looked into treatments for dry mouth? Don’t know if the scents or flavors will affect you, but it might help the tongue pain. I use MedActive mouth spray in Natural Spring flavor, their mildest flavor. You might also ask your doc if you can be checked for Sjogren’s syndrome.

  11. chris said,

    My therapist believes me to be hypersensitive, lately it has been really hot out 85-90 and were before i used to be able to survive in the heat even 114. Now anything past 70 i get weak feeling and just out of it. I have anxiety also, but are anyone else with hypersensitivity unable to handle the heat?

  12. tracy said,

    Some sensitivity issues can be the result of something called pyroluria. it is a deficiency of B6 and zinc. You can look it up and check the symptoms to see if it applies…

  13. jenifer smith said,

    Oh my word.I am Highly annoyed and bothered by sound (people eating, drinking, blowing their nose, burping,etc) light (always have a headache from lights, can’t relax unless there is minimal lighting, ) texture ( can’t even stand to look at certain things or have them nearby) smell ( I smell everyone’s breath, my dogs treats, and lots of other things no one else can smell) touch (I bruise very easy, don’t like to be hugged or touched unless I’ve had time to mentally prepare). I am always irritated because I feel like ppl are intentionally being super offensive. I know it’s not true, and I get annoyed at my own self daily, but I can’t escape me. Others I can, so most of my time is spent alone by choice. When my husband eats or drinks, he has to get on the other side of the room and put a pillow up so I can’t see his face. I feel very bad for him and wish I could be laid back like he is. However, my sensitivity has actually worked to my advantage many times in my life. I just wish I could turn it off sometimes. Like thanksgiving dinner with tons of ppl. A murderous rage comes over me when i can’t to anything too escape the sound.

  14. I have a super-sensitive skin and sense of smell.

    – Can only wear a handful type of clothes (leather, smooth silk, used cotton clothes)
    – super-sensitive to smells, specially pizza/cheese, fried food

    No skin specialists are able to help…

    any tips to fix?

    • Ing said,

      Sounds like you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and in that case it’s how you are wired.

      Sometimes the brushing protocol can help a little. See the page SID Therapy just under this page.

  15. Haroon said,

    my sense of smell is very high when i wakes up, and gradually it normalized. is it okay or do i need to see some doctor? please help!

    • Ing said,

      Haroon, I think it’s natural to be extra sensitive to light, sound, smell or touch right upon awakening, I often am.

      But I’m not a medical professional so I can’t tell you what to do.

  16. Jordan said,

    I’ve always had very sensitive hearing, as well as other senses, but recently I’ve noticed things that happen when I hear different frequencies. When I hear low tones like the bass in most music or even a truck passing my house, my eyes will start to water excessively. With higher frequencies, I will often need to cover my ears to prevent splitting headaches or an itching deep in my ear canal. I’ve consulted my doctor and he says it’s nothing to worry about, and I can’t find anything pertaining to this online. If anyone here knows what this is, please reply.

  17. Tita said,

    Im really overwhelmed my ears started hurting and my head and when i smell something strong i feel like vomiting, i have not had sex for over 2 years so I know im not pregnant i just want this feelings to go away what can I do?

    • The Sentinal said,

      Have sex

  18. I get irritated at crowded stores, dodging people and getting around them, and very annoyed at hearing somebody’s loud boom box noise from their car as it passes by, but I control my reaction and don’t say anything just ignore it.

  19. Renault regan said,

    I just read all my part of life said from a third person. I can smell super sensitivity and I can feel the emotions of others pretty quickly. The biggest problem is that I empathize with them and often saddens me.the biggest advantage is that just looking at bright sunlight or a beautiful tree or music just take me to another level. Believe me meditation are most effective for us. Though it has certain problems try to take the positive things and live beautifully.

  20. Nivya said,

    bad smells make me feel dizzy and to vomit..

  21. lynn said,

    everything i touch i taste is this sensory so if i wash my hands i taste the soap or smell still taste really bad last couple of days

  22. Erin said,

    Everyone on this post needs to try this. If there are any lies that you have told someone, tell them the truth no matter what you think will happen. Big or little, lies cause stress and stress causes you to be super sensitive. And withholding information is a form of lying too. And I am not just assuming this, I know this from experience. I am currently lying to my own family and it is weighing me down. I get aggravated, my skin gets super sensitive, like if there is a little tiny dog hair in my shirt I can feel it and it itches like crazy. My own hair makes my skin itch. When the people that I am lying to try to touch me I get aggravated. The person that I am lying to makes me so aggravated that I just want to kill them to relieve the stress. But it is not their fault, it is mine for continuing to lie to them.

  23. Daz said,

    For me its heat. With it being summer here, I just find it unbearable. Can’t stop sweating, literally. Feels I’ve lost a litre of water that way. Wishing it was half the temperature it is.

    Sound too can be a bugbear for me. Any loud nosies, especially unexpected ones drives me up the wall.

  24. Julie P said,

    Sorry…didn’t know it would put that big image in my post. I don’t know how to get rid of it!


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