Are people too socially sensitive these days

Psychology: High sensitivity: Almost every fifth person is affected

Since the beginning of puberty, says Dr. Michael Jack, he had the feeling that he was somehow “different” from his peers: “I had the feeling that my standards for a pleasant stimulus level did not match theirs.” He noticed this particularly where young people like to go , just in the disco. While his colleagues felt comfortable there, he lasted just five minutes without earplugs and half an hour with earplugs. In the midst of the crowd, with loud music, twitching lights and high humidity, he quickly had the impression that he was overwhelmed.

The feeling of being "different"

The vague feeling of being different from others - more sensitive to stimuli - never left him. A certain pressure built up, pressure to adapt, because after all, he says, “you don't want to miss anything”. He felt the expectations of society, but also of himself, that you have to do certain things when you are young, "otherwise you have not lived your life". This pressure grew stronger over the years. And he thought to himself, "It can't be that you're the only one who feels this way". So he hit the internet with the term “highly sensitive” - and found it.

Today the doctor of law is the chairman of the “Information and Research Association for High Sensitivity” in Bochum, which is committed to public relations, but also to serious research on high sensitivity. Because there is not much yet. Best known is the US psychologist Elaine Aron, who has been dealing scientifically with the subject for a long time. Only recently, a workbook she wrote for the highly sensitive came onto the market. Anyone who wants to know whether they are highly sensitive themselves will find a self-test that provides information.

Diagnosis by self-test

“It seems to me that I perceive subtleties around me”, “I tend to be sensitive to pain” or “Loud noises make me feel uncomfortable”, these are some sentences that must be answered with yes or no. Or “I have a rich, complex inner life”, “I am conscientious”, “I get nervous when I have a lot to do in a short period of time” - all in all 23 statements. If you tick yes at least twelve times, you are probably highly sensitive.

An information flyer from the Bochum Research Association also provides information about what it means to be highly sensitive: “Noise, social conflicts and everyday life with all the sensory impressions very quickly become too much for you, unbearable. You have to withdraw, rest, process the impressions, ”it says there. Highly sensitive people also often felt isolated because they felt they were less resilient than “normal” people. By the way, most of them are not only highly sensitive, but also introverted, so they have an inward-looking personality.

"Mountain Range Effect": Tremendous relief

Is there a disadvantage in being an HSP, a highly sensitive person? Those affected themselves actually tend to see the disadvantages at first, as they often perceive their otherness as abnormal - because they have been told, directly or indirectly, over the years that something is wrong with them. When Michael Jack discovered on the Internet that he is not the only one in this world who feels different, he felt what he calls the "mountain range effect" today: No, not a stone, whole mountain ranges fell from his heart, he says, so enormous was the relief. After all, all these years he had tried to adapt to the supposed "normality"; but filling a role that doesn't correspond to one's own being always leads to problems, he says.

High sensitivity, he explains, encompasses the whole range of different phenomena: "Potentially every sensory stimulus can be felt more intensely." The Austrian sister association of the Bochum research association, which calls itself "tenderly strung", informs: "High sensitivities can be roughly divided into three areas: physical / sensory, emotional / emotional and mental / intellectual. The physical area includes the sensitivity of the body and the sensory organs ”, which includes the sensitivity to noise that is often presented by highly sensitive people. Jack also has the impression that noise is something that is particularly stressful for many highly sensitive people.

Affects 15 to 20 percent of people

"Highly sensitive people who focus their sensitivity in the physical area perceive sensual stimuli more and more consciously than those who are not highly sensitive, but also much more strongly than other HSPs who focus on another area, perhaps in the mental / emotional area," it says continue with “tender strings”. The association also provides a discussion guide on how highly sensitive people should inform their fellow human beings about their "normal biological peculiarities": By telling them that this peculiarity affects 15 to 20 percent of people, but also of all other higher living beings. "People with this peculiarity perceive more subtleties and process information more deeply."

The often mentioned high percentage of 15 to 20 percent of those affected stands in "stark contrast" to the experiences of many highly sensitive people, who have the feeling that they are pretty much alone with their biological peculiarities. Possibly, thinks Jack, high sensitivity is not noticeable in certain constellations - or some people affected try to suppress their "otherness" in order to meet social expectations. Whereby this is undoubtedly difficult: "You cannot deny it."

Not dependent on your own decisions

“Sensitivity to stimuli does not depend on decisions made by the will”, he emphasizes, which means that the request of some fellow human beings to please “do not act like that” can hardly be complied with. Although research on high sensitivity is still in its infancy, there are considerations and speculations as to the extent to which the highly sensitive nervous system could be “knitted” differently than that of less sensitive contemporaries: It is speculated that the thalamus in the brain, a kind of stimulus filter, is involved Highly sensitive is more permeable. Or that, as Jack himself believes, the entire nervous system in HSP just works “somehow differently”.

No clear diagnosis

In any case, it has not yet been possible to “diagnose” clearly and objectively high sensitivity. Only the self-assessment questionnaires can be used. But after all, there is no pathology behind high sensitivity, Jack notes, in other words, the predisposition is not a "disease". And only such are known to be diagnosed. According to Jack, functional magnetic resonance tomography, with the help of which brain activities can be visualized, is gradually feeling one's way towards being able to capture the neurological basis of a high level of sensitivity.

Is it more of a pleasure or a burden to be highly sensitive? It is certainly associated with risks - because anyone who encounters incomprehension from their fellow human beings not only feels lonely - they can also be more easily victims of bullying, as Jack explains. But on the other side of the coin is the ability of the highly sensitive to perceive details, to the depth and intensity of the experience, to alertness and mindfulness. So do highly sensitive people get more out of life? "Yes," thinks Jack, "that could well be so."

Information on the Internet at