It was 2015 and I was reading a book that was describing my youngest son exactly. He was about 12 years old at this time and I felt like I finally had the answers I had been searching for his whole life. The book I was reading was, “The Highly Sensitive Child” by Dr. Elaine Aron. As I got further into the book, Dr. Aron had a test for parents to take (it’s the same one found on this website www.hsperson.com) because the trait is often hereditary. And much to my surprise, I was highly sensitive too, and likely passed on the trait to my son. It was a relief to finally have a name for what we were dealing with and more importantly how my husband and I could parent him better.
This was the beginning of my niche in counseling. I found out quickly when I went into private practice that I wanted to work with highly sensitive individuals. Recent research shows that about 50% of people who come to therapy are highly sensitive. Since I’ve been doing this for several years, I can tell quickly during an intake session whether the person is highly sensitive. I might even ask the question, “Do you think you might be highly sensitive?” and the person will almost always answer quickly with a yes or a no.
The highly sensitive trait is a genetic trait and is found in about 15-20% of the population. It’s too high to be in the DSM-V (that’s the diagnostic book that clinicians use for making a diagnosis). Most of the mental health issues found in the DSM-V are found in 10% or less of the population. The Trait affects both men and women equally. It is also not the same as Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder, even though some of the symptoms of the HSP trait can mimic the symptoms of these disorders.
D.O.E.S is a helpful acronym to describe the trait:
D=Depth of processing
Some examples include: overthinking, taking a longer time to move on from situations and people longer than others, difficulty with transitions, feeling feelings deeply
Some examples include: irritability, overarousal, overwhelm by external stimuli, meltdowns/shutdown
Some examples include: range of emotions are bigger and broader than that 80-85% of the population who are non-HSPs, might feel deep feelings of hopelessness, depression or deep sadness)
Some examples include: noticing when something has been moved or changed in an environment, noticing when someone doesn’t like them-even when it’s not obvious to others
This week, I wanted to focus on books that I have found helpful in my quest to understand myself better, and my children better. That’s right, we later found out that both of our boys are highly sensitive! It was definitely more subtle in the older one, than the younger one so it took us awhile to figure it out.
Finish by Jon Acuff
This is the best book I’ve found on managing perfectionism. Perfectionism shows up so often in HSPs but it might look like procrastination, not completing the task well, or overwhelm at even starting the task. Jon Acuff is a Christian author, so this book is not for everyone but it’s definitely worth the read if you struggle with perfectionism in area of your life. I haven’t told Jon this, but I actually think he is a HSP. I don’t diagnose someone if I haven’t ever met them but he seems to get exactly why perfectionism is problematic for HSPs especially.
Rethinking Narcissism: The Secret to Recognizing and Coping with Narcissists
by Dr. Craig Malkin
One of the things I was finding as I began working with HSPs is that they often were married to narcissists or had very strong narcissistic traits. I later discovered that there is some research to show that a high percentage of HSPs marry narcissists. This book covers the basics of narcissism but also how to continue to be in a relationship with them. The end of the book includes several contracts to use with narcissist in order to create healthy and safe boundaries.
Hearthmath Solution by Doc Childre and Howard Martin with Donna Beech
I finished this book most recently and it begins with an interesting concept that the heart can make decisions independent of the brain and bring the rest of the body into alignment with these decisions. This is a great book for those of who overthink and overprocess situations They identify three things people can do to calm themselves down in the moment and how to maintain this peace even though nothing about the situation changed. It is not based on mindfulness but does have a suggestion on how to use meditation daily using the “Heart lock In” technique. There are three techniques they teach: Freeze-Frame, Cut Thru and Heart Lock In. Each of these interventions should help people calm down and handle tough situations with ease. There are some new age concepts in the book.
The Gift of Being Yourself Dr. David Benner
He is one of my favorite authors and a deep thinker. This is one of three books in a series for spiritual development. In this book, Dr. Benner encourages readers to spend time with themselves so they can know themselves better and spend time with God so they can know him better. And this work should be done in tandem. He has suggestions on how to do this through meditation, prayer, guided imagery, and journaling.
Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus and Marie Chapian
This is on my reading list but many of the reviews and the fact that the purpose of the book is getting to the root of problems is appealing to me. Many of the reviewers said that this book gave them the tools to transform how they see themselves to be more authentic. It even gets to the nitty gritty of why we stay stuck and prolong our own misery. While this book is not spiritual, it is based on moral principles.
There are many other books that I have read that are helpful for HSPs, any of Dr. Aron’s books are great (I have all of them and read most of them), Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Gary and Townsend, and Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf this is a great book that addresses how to rewire your brain by recognizing your neuro-cycles and how to fix it.
I love having a great book or two going at once and hope you’ll find one or more of these books helpful, especially if you or someone you love are HSP.
If you think you might need counseling or coaching, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email email@example.com. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling or life coaching. If you are looking for help with burn out, depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.