Is being a highly sensitive person genetic?

  The concept of a highly sensitive person has helped many understand themselves better, as many things about their selves suddenly began to make a lot more sense. People with this trait are those who have a high sensitivity to the things going on around them, such as sights, sounds, people, smells, and other types of stimuli and situations. 

  Highly sensitive people are easily overwhelmed by the things going on around them. When there are sensations that have a signficant degree of intensity, they feel tired, rattled, upset, or stressed out. These sensations can involve intense sounds, sights, smells, or things that are unpleasant to the touch. The smell of a strong perfume can make them feel sick while in a closed space, for example, or a violent movie can upset them enough that they can‘t enjoy it. 

  A highly sensitive person might need time to recover after being with other people, even people that they love, and seek out time and space to be alone. Being highly sensitive has both positive and negative parts.

  High sensitivity is tied to some negative consequences. Firstly, people with this characteristic are often judged badly by those around them, starting with their family. They might be seen as being too “touchy” or thin-skinned. 

  Some might think that they are exaggerating their sensitivity for attention or other reasons. The people with this trait also need to take special precautions and make preparations for their day-to-day. For example, they might need to set aside some time to recover after hanging out with friends or might have to turn down a concert invitation if they know they will be overwhelmed.

  But being a highly sensitive person is not without its perks. People with this characteristic are more likely to notice subtleties that make appreciate things more. This can apply to art, food, or other people’s behavior among many other things. 

  They are able to enjoy more fully a variety of experiences and appreciate the fine things in life. HSPs are also able to detect small changes in other people’s moods and behaviors.  People who are classified in this category also tend to have a rich inner world that provides them with a lot of creativity and positive emotions. 

  Now that we have defined what is high sensitivity, it’s  important to consider where it comes from. Many people with the characteristic tend to wonder whether they are truly too sensitive (not in a good way) and whether they should try to change this to fit in better. 

  To understand why this is a mistaken perspective, we need to understand where high sensitivity comes from.

Elaine Aron was the one to pioneer the concept of highly sensitive people. She has been researching this since 1991 and has managed to identify several important things about it. 

  First, she proposes that this is a normal trait. It is not shared by everyone but around 20% of all people have it. This means that it is less common than other characteristics but still widespread enough to be considered a variation on the norm. Aron has studied the causes of this characteristic and suggests that it is innate.

  Whether you are highly sensitive or not is likely determined by your genetics and might be linked to a survival strategy that has worked for your ancestors. 

  The trait allows individuals to observe carefully before acting and doing anything, so it has provided an advantage over the years. The unique capacities HSPs have to observe, notice small details, develop a nuanced understanding of a situation, and to engage with the world have served them well throughout the years and continue to do the same today.  

  It does come with a series of downsides, including the sense of being overwhelmed by a variety of situations, but it also provides a different way of seeing the world.

The idea that this is a genetic trait is supported by several things. High sensitivity can be found among animals as well as people. 

  According to Elaine Aron, it has been identified in over 100 species that range from fruit flies to cats, horses, and primates. While they don’t manifest the exact same characteristics as a human (and would probably struggle to appreciate fine art, for instance), they do show the strategy of observing before acting that has been suggested as the main adaptive function of high sensitivity. 

  The second finding that supports a genetic basis of high sensitivity is the link between this characteristic and other Big Five personality traits. The Big Five personality traits are the main dimensions of personality that can describe any individual. 

  They are linked to biology and genetics and are considered to be innate as well. High sensitivity has been linked to traits like neuroticism, which involves a high level of worry and anxiety, and others.

  However, while it has been associated with these characteristics, high sensitivity is a distinict trait that is not the same as introversion or neuroticism or any other dimension of personality. The connection could suggest that high sensitivity is innate.

 Another thing that supports the idea that high sensitivity is genetic is that it seems to appear very early on in life. Children from a variety of environments show signs of high sensitivity, and it doesn’t appear to be a learned behavior. HS appears across cultures and seems to accompany the person from their childhood well into adulthood, suggesting a biological foundation for this trait. 

 An additional idea to consider is that high sensitivity appears in many different cultures. People from across the world recognize this trait in themselves.

 This includes those who come from cultures that value toughness over sensitivity and have values that are contrary to this characteristic. If this was a purely learned behavior, we might see different levels of the trait in cultures that value sensitivity and those that do not, but this does not seem to be the case. 
  A sensitive person might struggle to adapt in a context that suggests they are wrong for being the way they are but there still are high sensitive people in those types of circumstances. Highly sensitive people can be found everywhere.

  Overall, high sensitivity seems to be a genetic trait. Considering this, it can be considered as something normal. While not everyone has this characteristic, it’s not uncommon to find people who do. If we can accept this as a biogically determined trait, it can become easier to accept it as a part of ourselves. 
  While high sensitivity might cause some issues in our daily life, it also has significant advantages. By understanding that it is something genetic, we can accept that it will not change but also that it has an adaptive function. 
  It has helped our ancestors survive and can also serve us well if we can leverage the strengths to balance out the problems this trait might cause. 
 Viewing this trait as something genetic can alos hope with negative evaluations of our personality because it suggests that there is value to being a certain way and we should not try to change ourselves to better fit our culture or context. Being highly sensitive can have many rewards, especially when we accept this characteristic in ourselves and learn to enjoy it.

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