PodcastSeason 1

Highly Sensitive People

How to Tell If You’re an HSP + Shedding Light on This Misunderstood Trait

S1 E5 39 minutes

"You're just too sensitive"… "why are you always so shy?"

If these are phrases you're used to hearing, you might just be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The trait of high sensitivity was discovered by Dr. Elaine Aron and explains the 20-30% of the population with a unique way of processing sensory information.

Even if you're not an HSP, someone close to you may be, so it's important to understand the trait to make life more enjoyable for your highly sensitive loved ones.

After taking an online test and discovering they are definitely not HSPs, Lianne & Corey decided to ask expert Dr. Bianca Acevedo to shed light on this misunderstood trait. Referencing research studies, Dr. Acevedo explains how to tell if you are an HSP, what that means, and how to look after your sensitive body to reduce overwhelm and experience the many benefits of high sensitivity.

If you're an HSP, or know someone who is, episode 5 will prove you're not as alone as you may have thought.

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Get To The Point

0:27 What to Expect Summary of episode 5

1:23 Quick Quote By Frank Lloyd Wright

1:41 Focus On… Highly Sensitive People. Are Lianne and Corey HSPs?

4:49 Interview Introduction Background on Dr. Bianca Acevedo

5:34 Interview Dr. Bianca Acevedo on how to tell if you're an HSP, what that means, and how HSPs can live their best lives

34:30 Interview Digestion Key takeaways from interview

35:37 Take It Further Recommended books, apps, and online resources

Show Notes

To find out if you're an HSP, take the online test. Scores of 14 out of 27 (and higher) are considered highly sensitive. There's a separate test for children.

The best information about HSPs can be found on Dr. Elaine Aron's website and in her ground-breaking book. She's also written a book about Highly Sensitive Children.

The trait of high sensitivity occurs naturally in several species from fruit flies to primates and humans. About 20-30% of the population is highly sensitive.

HSPs process and reflect on information at a deeper level and are more sensitive to things like smells, noise, crowds, and even the emotions of others. The downside is a tendency to get overwhelmed

HSPs are often undervalued and misunderstood by a modern society that values bravado, extraversion, and appearing tough, especially for men.

Key Interview Takeaways

  • Research has shown the highly sensitive brain is associated with more awareness and more empathy in the mirror neuron system.
  • HSPs can pick up subtle stimuli both in the external environment and internally.
  • Many people aren't aware they are highly sensitive. In the past, incorrect labels like shy, introverted, neurotic, and overly empathic have been assigned to HSPs, especially HSP children. HSP children can also be incorrectly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Recommended resources include Dr. Elaine Aron's website, book, and movies on HSPs in relationships, The Highly Sensitive Man by Tom Falkenstein,
  • Not all HSPs have the same levels of sensitivity, it's not black and white.
  • Being highly sensitive is not a disorder. It's a biological trait with a genetic and biological component, similar to having red hair vs brown hair.
  • HSPs tend to need more downtime and alone time to process the extra information they take in. They're usually okay with solitude.
  • Check out Bianca's app, LoveSmart (iPhone only) which provides a self-assessment tool to measure several different areas of a relationship. It's a useful tool to identify which areas of your relationship are strongest and those that need attention.

Connect With Dr. Bianca Acevedo


Foundation for Healthy Relationships and Lives

Dr. Acevedo is the Director and Founder of the Foundation for Healthy Relationships and Lives, a research scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), a private consultant, writer, and public speaker. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from NYU and a PhD in Social/Health Psychology from Stony Brook University.

She conducts research on the science of love, empathy, highly sensitive people, and mind-body practices.

Dr. Acevedo also teaches courses in interpersonal relationships, positive psychology, and research methods. She has published several widely-recognized articles on the science of love and the HSP trait. Her contributions to psychology were recognized with the 2012 International Woman in Science Award.

Ever wondered what the secret is to a great relationship? Relationships are complicated and it's not always easy to navigate their waters. Sometimes we need a little help. This is where LoveSmart comes into the picture. LoveSmart is a relationship analysis tool created by Dr. Bianca Acevedo. While there are many apps out there claiming to offer relationship advice, few if any are based on real science about how the human mind processes love, and what is needed to create healthy relationships.
The Highly Sensitive Brain: Research, Assessment, and Treatment of Sensory Processing Sensitivity2020
This is the first handbook to cover the science, measurement, and clinical discussion of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a trait associated with enhanced responsivity, awareness, depth-of-processing and attunement to the environment and other individuals. Grounded in theoretical models of high sensitivity, this volume discusses the assessment of SPS in children and adults, as well as its health and social outcomes. This edition also synthesizes up-to-date research on the biological mechanisms associated with high sensitivity, such as its neural and genetic basis. The Highly Sensitive Brain is a useful handbook and may be of special interest to clinicians, physicians, health-care workers, educators, and researchers.


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