HYPERSENSITIVITY: HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH YOUR EMOTIONS?
Hypersensitivity is not a pathology, it is a character trait. However, we can feel handicapped by this increased sensitivity in certain areas of your life. You may feel fragile, anxious, vulnerable. To better understand hypersensitivity is to better learn how to manage it.
- What is a hypersensitive person?
- What are the characteristics of a hypersensitive person?
- What is the origin of hypersensitivity?
- What are the consequences of hypersensitivity?
- Which therapies to treat hypersensitivity?
1. What is a hypersensitive person?
A hypersensitive person is someone who experiences and interprets events in a particularly intense way, usually more strongly than most people. In these people, there is an abundance of positive and negative emotions that overwhelm them.
This intensity can be represented on the level of the emotions that the person experiences, but also on all the other senses (noise, smells…). Generally, a hypersensitive person lives his life through the very thick filter of his emotions.
These emotions are often considered excessive or exaggerated by those around them or by the person him/herself. Indeed, a hypersensitive person absorbs the emotions of others and cannot build a shell to protect him or herself from them. They must therefore manage their own emotions, and those of those around them, whether close or not.
Take the example of a young adult who, while in college, is rebuked by one of his teachers. If some people are not affected by the remarks they received, hypersensitive people will consider it intensely. In fact, in their head, they will repeat the words, they may feel sick to their stomach, they will replay this moment for several hours or even several days.
Please note that hypersensitivity is not a pathology, but a characteristic.
2. What are the characteristics of a hypersensitive person?
When a person is hypersensitive, he or she is even more than empathetic, since he or she is not only at the stage of “understanding” the emotions of others, but experiences the emotions of others with the same intensity as if he or she was experiencing the event.
A hypersensitive person can also be impulsive. Indeed, emotions sometimes make it difficult for the person to control their behaviour. Having control over a situation is complicated if we do not manage our emotions. We can then find in these people abrupt break-ups, divorces, dismissals, social complications… but also pathologies linked to impulsivity.
3. What is the origin of hypersensitivity?
The origins of this hypersensitivity can be multiple. They can be due to certain pathologies, to a specific sensitivity, to a trauma or to education.
A hypersensitive person may derive his or her origin from the upbringing he or she has received. Indeed, when a child has had demanding parents, the child will always worry about not disappointing them, even if it means forgetting themselves. Through this, they put their parents’ emotions, needs and feelings before their own. He wants to make sure that they are not sad or disappointed because of him. If this happens, the child will be particularly affected. Also, to make sure that the parents are not sad to be without their child, he will spend more time with his parents than with his peers.
It is possible that in some periods of life we are more sensitive than in others. This may be due to certain reasons, such as bereavement, burn out, intense stress, poor sleep etc. If you have been feeling quite sensitive lately, but it doesn’t seem like you normally do, ask yourself why you might be feeling this way today.
This hypersensitivity may be associated with certain pathologies that the person has, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, depression, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity. These pathologies make the person more prone to sensitivity.
When you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, your sensitivity is greatly increased, whether it be emotional, olfactory or auditory hypersensitivity. The trauma may be recent, but it may also be very old. It may even have been triggered in your mother’s womb. You may therefore carry within you, indirectly and unconsciously, the trauma of your mother
If you were born to a hypersensitive mother, it is possible that she passed this characteristic on to you. Also, if your entire childhood was spent with parents who are hypersensitive, you may feel the same emotionality. It is true that you lived 9 months in the womb of a mother, who could herself be hypersensitive and feel the same things, in an intense way.
4. What are the consequences of hypersensitivity?
In order to compensate for this strong sensitivity and to crutch the pain that this sensation can bring us, we tend to set up strategies, conscious or unconscious. Generally, these are addictions or eating disorders. It is also possible that other complications may arise from this difficult-to-manage hypersensitivity, such as generalized anxiety or specific phobias.
Using a substance (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc.) or adopting an addictive behaviour (gambling, sports, pornography, etc.) helps to anaesthetise certain pains that may be felt. Addiction helps to forget the feelings or thoughts that may come to mind and cause harm. When a person is under the influence of alcohol, for example, he or she feels less overwhelmed by these sensations and no longer tries to control them, but accepts to experience them with all their intensity.
If you cannot control your emotions and thoughts, you still need to know that you have some control over your body. Therefore, eating disorders can provide a form of self-control. Eating disorders can be defined as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or even binge eating.
Anorexia, for example, is the voluntary restriction of food intake. The voluntary aspect helps to convince us that we are in control of our bodies.
The other aspects of eating disorders can be understood as the difficulty in managing emotions, and eating allows us to fill ourselves up to avoid the emptiness that prevents us from feeling able to manage our emotions.
Anxiety and phobias
The difficulties of managing your emotions, which are particularly strong, sometimes make you flee or avoid certain situations. As a result, you fear certain places and contexts because they remind you of a difficult situation or because you are afraid of being unable to manage your emotions. This can lead to a generalized anxiety disorder, a specific phobia or even social avoidance.
5. Which therapies to treat hypersensitivity?
Even if hypersensitivity is not a pathology, it is possible to learn to live with and manage this characteristic, which defines you. Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) allow you to learn to live with your emotions, with this hypersensitivity, but also to distance yourself from events and from what you may be feeling at that moment. Work on automatic thoughts, on false beliefs, on mental representations and on the interpretation of the world can therefore be done.
In addition, Cognitive Behavioural Therapies can also work on the reasons for this hypersensitivity. To do this, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapies immerse the patient in an environment that can generate intense emotions and help them to work on their emotions, their history and their thoughts directly in the situation. It is therefore important to be able to develop this emotional intelligence.
Finally, you can also do mindfulness meditation to accept the sensations you are feeling in the present moment. Understanding and distinguishing your physical sensations so that you can move forward with them is particularly helpful. These relaxation sessions can be done with videos or audio that you can find on the internet, but also in virtual reality. Virtual reality allows a better learning of this relaxation for people less adept at these techniques.