30 March 2012

Hypersensitivity Is Not Normal

There's something wrong with being a Hypersensitive Person (HSP). There's something wrong with the definition of hypersensitivity as well. A female co-worker wondered whether I was hyper sensitive because I notice tiny details.  Her son is, and she compared his attention to detail to mine. I suspected it was a pseudo-science thing. The co-worker answered my remark with a disappointed look. It turns out it is pseudoscience indeed.

This is what a Hypersensitive Person is according to Elaine N. Aron:
  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
The first item is of a physical nature (senses) and the rest of the items are traits of an emotional or behavioral nature. Let's dissect this list a bit.

Being overwhelmed by sirens nearby could easily be the same as being overwhelmed by any loud sounds. It might be a sign of stress. In fact, one of the self test questions on E. Aaron's website is about being overwhelmed by strong sensory input in general. If one combines overwhelming sensory input with being startled easily, can't cope with increased workload, can't cope with emotions, then this clearly is a serious indicator for stress.

Everything else in this list fits any normal person. Do you enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes or sounds? Are you sensitive or shy (really?) ? Do you have a rich and complex inner life? All these items have nothing to do with hypersensitivity! Traits of a typical strong introvert are combined with indicators for stress.

Questions like "I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things." This question could fit a perfectionist. The test repeats the same questions albeit in a different form:
  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells,coarse fabrics,or sirens close by.
  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.
  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
Scoring 14 out of 27 questions means you're probably a HSP. But with these kind of questions, as posted above, it's easy to get 14 positives.

How perfect this has been done to conceal weaknesses. It's the same as combining the flu with normal healthy human traits only to claim that there's nothing wrong with you. You supposedly just need to be aware of who you are so you can cope with the flu. Well that's wrong. The real answer should be that you're a normal person with an illness called the flu! So you need medicine.

Again, many (good) traits of introvert personality types are combined with stress-related signs, only to call such a a person a Highly Sensitive Person. Remove the good traits and all that remains is a psychological and/or neurasthenic disorder.

The so called HSP counselors are earning money with patients who are desperate. Pseudopsychology is for those left behind because effective mainstream methods are not available. An analogy is to be found when religious views fill gaps where science can't reach yet.

The Hypersensitivity-industry is a god of a gap.

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