young waitress hypersensitive arguing seniors

Are Hypersensitive People Neurodivergent?

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel incredibly overwhelmed by noises, smells or textures in our environment? Is it something you’ve noticed is a common occurrence and is repeatedly causing disruption to your everyday life?

If this sounds like you, you may be one of the hypersensitive neurodivergent people of this world. Keep reading to learn more and see if that sounds like you!

Definition of Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity is a personality trait often referred to as High Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). It is characterized by an increased sensitivity to physical, social, and environmental stimuli. People with this quality possess a remarkable ability to perceive their surroundings in a more profound way than others.

They are susceptible to sensory input such as loud sounds, bright lights, intense smells, or novel experiences. This can sometimes lead to feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated. They may also experience strong reactions to emotional stimuli, including facial expressions and body language.

History of the Term

Psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron first claimed the term “highly sensitive person” in the mid 1990s. Elaine Aron published her book in 1996, titled “The Highly Sensitive Person”.

The book sold over a million copies, and to this day still plays a crucial role in the research of highly sensitive neurodivergent studies. The research carried out by Aron & Aron has been extremely important on this subject and new information continues to arise as studies grow.

Characteristics of Hypersensitive People

Characteristics of hypersensitive people (HSP) vary from person to person, dependent on their background and mental health conditions/ mental health disorders. HSP may have a strong dislike to violent movies such as horror movies, as these can make an individual feel threatened and can recreate a negative energy that is associated with past negative experiences.

They may also emotionally and physically withdraw from social situations as these situations may be extremely overwhelming for them and their emotional levels of sensitivity increase in certain situations. HSP may also feel on edge constantly which resorts to them being startled easily.

Causes of Hypersensitivity

There could be many reasons why people are highly sensitive. This can depend on a person’s life experiences, relationships, job, mental illness and many other factors.

Biological Responsivity

Biological responsivity is a key factor in hypersensitivity. Research has suggested that those with this trait have a brain that processes sensory and social information more deeply than other individuals. When the brain takes longer to process sensory and social information, it can increase sensitivity and awareness of the environment.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics play a potentially large part in being hypersensitive. For example, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be a increasing factor of being hypersensitive.


Environment & Learning Experiences

As well as being hypersensitive, there is also sensory seeking. This is where certain brain regions are under-stimulated and require something to ignite that region to satisfy the person. This is also known as stimming, where a person does something to create that missing emotion.

On the other end of the sensory scale is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD is where a person struggles with verbal communication and often their brain doesn’t process information properly. As if when you watch a program and the audio is out of sync, and you see the words coming out of the person’s mouth before you actually hear the words. Like the circuits in the brain aren’t processing the information.

Signs & Symptoms of Hypersensitivity

Overwhelming Situations

Overwhelming social situations can cause unnecessary stress for a person with a sensitive brain. Certain social circumstances can cause heightened emotional sensitivity, which could send a highly sensitive person into sensory meltdown.

Strong Emotional Responses to Stimuli

Emotions from certain stimuli can be more intense than most. A small change in a routine or a traumatic event can result in powerful reactions from the body and mind.

Highly Sensitive to Pain & Noise

Highly sensitive people may be more responsive to pain such as physical pain, loud noises, strong odours and bright lights. This also includes being extra sensitive to words that are hurtful in certain situations.

Negative Emotions in Social Situations

Bright lights, loud noises, uncomfortable clothing and much more can contribute to a shut-down or meltdown in a social situation. HSP tend to try and avoid social situations that involve their triggers, as they tend to feel overwhelmed and very anxious when they are over-stimulated.

Depth of Processing to Facial Expressions & External Stimuli

Facial expressions can be difficult to read for neurodivergent people, and in some cases can lead to copying another person’s expressions. At times mirroring facial expressions can be seen as “appearing as normal”. Or in other cases, HSP can focus too much on facial expressions and get the wrong impression. This can cause emotional distress depending on what the situation is.

Impact on Relationships & Social Interactions

A HSP can struggle with both platonic and romantic relationships in different ways. Being in a relationship can be hard for highly sensitive people, because everyday things can be overwhelming. It’s even tougher if the partner doesn’t get why you have emotional reactions to events that seem normal to them.


Poor communication and misunderstanding between employers and employees can lead to emotional overload, damaging their relationship. It is important that additional stress doesn’t accumulate in the workplace as this can affect a person’s work ethic. It can cause intense emotions for the person which could result in poor work from them.

Inability to Handle Stressful Situations

Stressful situations tend to occur frequently in a highly sensitive person’s life, whether it be physical stress or emotional. These stressful situations can result in an overload and cause the person to shut down completely, resulting in emotional outbursts. This is due to how quickly the person can absorb environmental stimuli and how they respond to it.

Difficulty Forming Strong Connections with Others

Being hypersensitive can be a struggle, especially when trying to connect with people. So when a strong relationship is formed then this can be a big thing for someone who struggles to form connections. On the one hand, another deep bond with someone is great. However, meeting a new person and not fully knowing a person triggers could be volatile for any kind of relationship.

If a relationship becomes volatile, it can create more negative emotional experiences which later in life can affect the person more. It can also lead to extreme attachment/detachment issues which affect future relationships. As well as poor mental health issues.

Diagnosis & Treatment for Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity is often associated with autism, sensory processing disorder, depression, or anxiety. It can be diagnosed through sensory processing sensitivity tests and other assessments by medical professionals.

Treatment for hypersensitivity can include: medications, talk therapy, occupational therapy or even diet change. It is important that people who have been diagnosed with hypersensitive disorder get the correct help and have a strong and understanding support network.

Many people deal with this issue. You’re not alone.

Last Updated on May 31, 2023 by Neurodadversity

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