Have you ever had friends or family remark that you are a sensitive soul? Perhaps they’ve taken it a bit further and said you were too sensitive. Having a highly sensitive nervous system can have many challenges.
Sensitivity is a subjective personality trait that’s intrinsically connected to your nervous system. It entails your thoughts, emotions, and physical senses in a way that doesn’t always feel good. In fact, your heightened sensitivity may hinder you from enjoying your best life.
According to an article by Andre Psychology Today, research has found that an overly sensitive nervous system is genetic. So, if one or both of your parents had this issue, chances are you do too. Scientists also believe that heightened sensitivity may come from many genes, not just one.
Here’s one instance that you can blame your genetics. In one way, many people say that they prefer a sensitive mate. These are the people who are more empathetic and may invest more into the relationship.
On the other hand, being highly sensitive can create problems for you and your partner. It may cause you to be overly emotional and be offended easily. You may be more apt to hold grudges or feel like your significant other doesn’t care enough.
Do You Have a Highly Sensitive Nervous System?
If you’ve been labeled as “high strung,” you probably knew you were highly sensitive from a young age. While being sensitive can lead to positive relationships, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Here are 12 signs that you may have a sensitive nervous system.
1. You Experience More Intense Emotions Than Most Others
Experiencing and displaying emotions are an integral part of the human experience. In an article published by Greater Good Science Center, researchers have identified about 27 emotions. Rather than having distinct boundaries, your emotions seamlessly overlap.
Maybe you’ve noticed that your emotions are more potent than others in the room when hearing a story or watching a movie. You may empathize with the same feelings in the story or film in greater intensity. It’s as if you were experiencing what you’re hearing or watching, whether it’s joyous, sad, or scary.
2. A Person with a Highly Sensitive Nervous System Probably Has Overwhelming Feelings of Stranger Danger
Even adults should use good judgment when interacting with people they don’t know. As a person whose nervous system is highly sensitive, strangers may heighten your anxiety. These feelings may bloom into social anxiety that makes you hesitant to go to parties or other fun outings.
3. You Have a Hair-Trigger Startle Reflex
Remember the fun you had as a child by sneaking up on your friends and shouting boo? They might have jumped and made a noise from being surprised out of fear. The natural reflex infants have when startled stays with you as an adult, as it’s part of your survival instinct.
For example, you and your friends go to a haunted house attraction for Halloween. Sudden noises and ghouls jumping out of nowhere make them jump, but your response is more substantial. If people have told you that you are jumpy and nervous, you may have a highly sensitive nervous system.
4. You Have Problems Sleeping
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could sleep soundly every night and awaken refreshed? Did you know that a book excerpt published by the National Institutes of Health states that 50-70 million Americans have sleep problems? If your nervous system is highly sensitive, it may exacerbate your sleepless nights.
Maybe you’re one of the millions of people who don’t have problems falling asleep, but they awaken several times in the night. One of the issues may be that subtle light and noise are distracting you. Ensuring that you have a dark, quiet, and comfortable room may ease your nerves for better sleep.
5. You’re Not a Social Butterfly if You Have a Highly Sensitive Nervous System
People who have highly sensitive nervous systems are often introverts who avoid crowds at all costs. It’s not that they dislike others or have poor communication skills. Such sensitive introverts are often warm, conversant people when one-on-one.
Strangers, bright light, noise, and other sensations can overwhelm your sensitive nerves and intensify your anxiety. So, you deal with this overstimulation by staying away from big groups. Unfortunately, such an inability to cope may lead to agoraphobia and intense fear of open spaces and crowds.
6. Your Stress Levels Are Over the Top
Whether you’re a pauper or a prince, the stresses of life are inevitable. Some pressure is essential for learning, growing, and coping. It also signals your survival instinct to fight, fly, freeze, or faint.
However, those with highly sensitive nervous systems may have a stress overdrive. Your survival instinct is meant for emergencies to give you temporary strength for running or fighting. If it stays on a continual cycle, the stress hormones dumped into your bloodstream can be devastating for your mental and physical health.
If this sounds like you, you must discover ways to lower your stress levels. Meditation and quiet walks in nature may help soothe your frazzled nerves. You might also find it helpful to write your feelings in a journal each day.
7. Those with a Highly Sensitive Nervous System Cannot Bear Commotion
Some people not only cope with chaos, but they also thrive in it. However, if you have a highly sensitive nervous system, you’re not one of them. When you deal with noise and confusion, you may feel panicked and have a sense of loss of control.
Your ideal environment is calm, quiet, and orderly. Of course, real life doesn’t always put you in such a place. When you feel overwhelmed and your nerves are on edge, finding your safe place can help.
8. Your Five Senses are On High Alert
If your nervous system is highly sensitive, it’s not unusual for your other senses to perk up. Your eyes may be overwhelmed with too much light and vivid blends of color. The beat of the music may be fantastic to the crowd, but your sensitive ears may be in misery.
You may be pretty sensitive to certain smells, like perfumes or animals. Some sensitive people are picky eaters due to their heightened tastes. You might also feel itchy and uncomfortable with different textures.
Since you can’t stay in a bubble all your life, you can effectively cope with your heightened senses. Judicially avoiding too much stimulation can help you maintain your nerves while still interacting with family and friends. It’s all about knowing your triggers and how best to minimize them.
9. You’re Often Undecisive
When it comes to crucial decisions, some people have an easier time than others. If you have a highly sensitive nervous system, any decision can wreak havoc on your mind. Rather than make a choice, you may stay in limbo and frustrate yourself as well as those around you.
9. You Do Not Handle Stress
Stress is inevitable, but some folks tend to handle it better than others. However, if you have a sensitivity issue, stress may cause you to blow things up to unhealthy levels. Perhaps, you’re one of those who make mountains out of molehills, so everything seems amplified.
10. You Crave Order and Beauty
Who doesn’t want to be in a space that’s clean, bright, and lovely? Unfortunately, you don’t always get that choice. As a person with a highly sensitive nervous system, a dark, ugly place is your worst nightmare.
For you, serenity, peace, and aesthetics make all the difference. You are most comfortable in a space with calming colors, minimal noise, and tasteful décor. It lightens your spirit and relaxes your nerves.
11. You Often Fear Rejection
It doesn’t matter if you have a highly sensitive system or not; rejection is painful. Belonging and connecting with others is one of your basic needs as a human. When someone rejects you, it leaves you with a feeling of worthlessness and invalidation.
Fortunately, most people are more apt to accept rather than reject you. The fear of rejection may hinder you from meeting the love of your life or realizing your dreams. A highly sensitive nervous system often requires personalized coping strategies to overcome this fear.
12. You Feel Like an Odd Duck
It’s common for people to be in a room filled with strangers and feel like they don’t belong. For those with a highly sensitive system, it may be a chronic discomfort since childhood. Maybe you’ve often felt like you were born out of your time, or you’re a square peg trying to fit into a round hole world.
Your heightened sensitivities may have created unhealthy coping mechanisms that make you feel even more different. This anxiety may lead to greater sensitivity, evolving into a drowning whirlpool. When you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, it can erode your self-confidence.
Final Thoughts on a Highly Sensitive Nervous System
Learning to accept your highly sensitive nervous system is your first step to finding healthy coping skills. You can discover ways to channel your anxiety in more positive ways. Plus, you’ll learn how to love yourself and celebrate your uniqueness.