When I started coaching teens and young adults with performance anxiety several years ago, I realized that many of them had something in common. I recognized it easily because I also have the same trait and so do both of my daughters. What we share is a highly sensitive nervous system. It is not a disorder, a syndrome, or anything of the like. It is a perfectly normal trait shared by 15-20% of the general population. Dr. Elaine Aron is the leading expert on this topic. In her book, The Highly Sensitive Person, she explains that those who share the trait simply have nervous systems that are wired differently than most people. Dr. Aron’s work was first published back in 1996, but I didn’t discover it until over 10 years later. It was so helpful in my own personal growth. I knew I was very sensitive to certain things, of course, but I often thought something was wrong with me when others around me did not seem to be bothered at all. Dr. Aron’s book gave me the understanding I needed to confidently make decisions that are good for my overall well-being, even when they are different than the decisions made by 80% of the people around me who are not HSPs.
After recognizing that many of my clients had similar traits, I began giving every new client Dr. Aron’s Highly Sensitive Self-Test. It was not surprising to me that over 90% of my teen clients with anxiety are HSPs. It confirms Dr. Aron’s finding that having this trait makes one more prone to anxiety because the nervous system is so easily over-stimulated. Just knowing that information is a great comfort to many when they understand there is nothing wrong with them. They simply need to know how to self-regulate when they are in situations that make them feel anxious or overwhelmed. HSPs are also prone to many positive things as well. For example, we think deeply and notice subtleties in our environments that many others don’t see. We are often very intuitive, almost having a “sixth sense,” and we see beauty that others miss.
If you are an HSP or have a child with this trait, you probably already know it instinctively. Have you been accused of being too sensitive or too shy? Are you uncomfortable around loud noises? Do you feel like you are more sensitive to violent movies and TV shows than those around you? These are just a few examples of things many HSPs have in common. If you’d like to take the Highly Sensitive Self-Test, click here and I’ll send it to you. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and it may go a long way in helping you understand yourself or your anxiety-filled teen.