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San Diego Blogger Releases New Book On Sensitivity

Book cover, "A Highly Sensitive Person's Life"
Book cover, "A Highly Sensitive Person's Life"
San Diego Blogger Releases New Book On Sensitivity
Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? GUESTS: Kelly O'Laughlin, author, "A Highly Sensitive Person's Life" Diana Herald, psychology/neuroscience researcher, UC San Diego

DID YOU EVER GET THE FEELING THAT YOU FEEL THINGS THAT ARE DEEPER LEVEL THAN THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU? MAYBE A HUG MAKES YOU HAPPIER? A SAD SONG MAKES YOU SAD OR OR A LOT OF COMMOTION MAKES YOU WANT TO ESCAPE TO A SMALL DARKROOM? THESE INTENSE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS MAY BE PART OF AN ENTIRE PERSONALITY TRAIT MARKING YOU AS A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON. IF ALL THIS SOUNDS TOO TOUCHY-FEELY TO BE REAL, BE AWARE THAT HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE OR HSP'S ARE NOW STUDIED BY NEUROSCIENTISTS AND GENETICISTS TO SEE WHERE AND HOW THIS TRAIT DEVELOPS. JOINING ME IS KELLY O'LAUGHLIN, THE SAN DIEGO OFFER -- AUTHOR OF THE NEW BLOG AND BOOK TITLED A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON'S LIFE. WELCOME TO THE SHOW. HAPPY TO BE HER. DIANA HERALD IS A PSYCHOLOGY AND RESEARCHER AT UC SAN DIEGO WHO STUDIES SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY. DIANA, WELCOME. THANKS FOR JOINING US. THEY GIVE FOR HAVING ME. KELLY, MOST PEOPLE LIKE TO THINK OF THEMSELVES AS SENSITIVE PEOPLE WITH DEEP EMOTIONAL REACTIONS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HIGHLY SENSITIVE? THERE IS A WOMAN NAMED DR. ELAINE ARON, THE WORLDWIDE LEADER IN RESEARCH ON HSP'S AND SHE HAS A TEST ON HER WEBSITE FOR HSP'S. YOU CAN GO THROUGH WITH THESE QUESTIONS TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOU ARE OR AREN'T. SOME PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY ARE VAGUE, LIKE WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? I THINK IF YOU ARE AN HSP, IT HITS YOU LIKE A TON OF BRICKS. OH MY GOSH, THIS IS ME. I CAN'T BELIEVE SOMEONE IS EXPLAINING ME PERFECTLY TO A T. IT IS A LITTLE BIT MORE SENSITIVE THAN OTHER PEOPLE. WHEN IT COMES TO ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, EMOTIONAL STIMULUS, AS WELL. WHEN DID YOU START TO THINK THAT YOUR REACTIONS TO THINGS WERE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT THAN THE AVERAGE PERSON'S? IT FIRST STARTED WHEN SUSAN KANG CAME OUT WITH HER BUT QUIET, ABOUT INTROVERTS, A HUGE BOOK AND IT STARTED THE WORLDWIDE THING WHERE EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT INTROVERTS. I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. I DISCOVERED I WAS AN INTROVERT. IT WAS A LIFE-CHANGING REALIZATION FOR ME. ON THE JOURNEY OF LEARNING ABOUT INTROVERSION, I KEPT RUNNING INTO A PHRASE THAT KYLIE SAID THAT A PERSON. I THOUGHT THAT SOUNDS AWFUL, BECAUSE THE WORD SENSITIVE OFTEN HAS NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS. EVENTUALLY, I REALIZED THIS IS ACTUALLY ME. ALL THESE THINGS THAT SEEMED DIFFERENT THAN OTHER PEOPLE, WAYS I WOULD REACT THAT WERE DIFFERENT, THEY NEVER CATEGORIZED THEM AS BEING SENSITIVE. I DIDN'T THINK IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS SENSITIVE, I JUST DIDN'T KNOW. IT IS LIFE-CHANGING. WERE TALKING ABOUT LOUD SOUNDS? SCARY MOVIES? IS IT JUST ACROSS THE BOARD, A HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY? IT CAN BE. I HAVE ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVITY, LIKE YOU SAID. I'M JUMPY AND LOUD NOISES GET TO ME. LIKE SCREECHING BUS TIRES, IF A BUS GOES BY AND THE BRAKES GO IT DRIVES ME CRAZY. RIGHT LIGHTS ABOVE ME AND OFFICES IN CUBICLES ARE HARD FOR ME TO HANDLE. OR WILL WE'S, I DON'T WATCH THEM BECAUSE THEY AFFECT ME SO INTENSELY AND I DON'T WANT THOSE FEELINGS. CAFFEINE SENSITIVITY CAN BE SOMETHING SOME PEOPLE HAVE. SMELLS -- I SMELL THINGS GOING BAD IN THE REFRIGERATOR BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DOES AND THERE'S EMOTIONAL SENSITIVITIES. YOU CAN BE EASILY OVERWHELMED, DEEPLY TOUCHED. THERE ARE GOOD SIZE, THIS DEEP APPRECIATION OF THINGS THAT EVERYBODY WOULD APPRECIATE, BUT FOR A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON, THAT THE REACTION IS MORE INTENSE? YES. I'M GLAD YOU BROUGHT UP THE BENEFITS. APPRECIATING BEAUTY AND NATURE AND ART, WE OFTEN HAVE DEEP CONNECTIONS WITH ANIMALS AND OTHER CREATURES. WE ARE GOOD LISTENERS, CAN BE GOOD FRIENDS, WE MAKE CAREFUL DECISIONS. WE ARE CURIOUS. THESE TRAITS CAN TRANSLATE WELL TO CERTAIN PROFESSIONS. DOCTORS AND NURSES, YOU WANT TO THE COMPASSIONATE DOCTOR AND NURSE CARING FOR YOU. THAT MAY GO TO DIANE HAROLD, THE PSYCHOLOGY AND NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCHER AT UC SAN DIEGO WHO STUDIES SENSORY PROCESSING SENSITIVITY. DIANA, IS THIS HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON A REAL THING THAT SCIENTISTS CAN OBSERVE IN THE BRAIN? YES. I BELIEVE IT REALLY IS. KELLY JUST PUT IT VERY WONDERFULLY. APPROXIMATELY 15% TO 20% OF HUMANS ARE AND -- ARE AFFECTED. IT IS AN INNATE TRAIT. THE GENERAL DEPTH OF PROCESSING OVER AROUSAL, IT CAN BE MEASURED BY DIFFERENT METHODS LIKE MRI OR THE EMOTIONAL REACTIVITY CAN ALSO BE MEASURED, DEFINITELY. IF YOU ARE DOING, FOR WANT OF A BETTER PHRASE, AN MRI OR BRAIN SCAN, YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE PEOPLE WHO ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE, THAT THEIR BRAINS FIRE AT AN INTENSITY OTHER PEOPLE'S DON'T. ABSOLUTELY, THAT'S THE CASE. THAT IS A PRELIMINARY EXPERIMENT I POSTED LAST QUARTER. KELLY WAS SAYING MOST POSITIVE ASPECTS, JUST TESTING FREEZONE RESPONSE, WHICH IS CHILLS AND PLEASURABLE RESPONSE TO MUSIC. YOU CAN SEE HEIGHTENED AROUSAL. IS THIS GENETIC, DIANE? IS A LOT OF DEBATE WHETHER ASPECTS OF PERSONALITY OR MENTAL HEALTH ARE GENETIC. THE MODEL SUGGESTS A LINK WITH NEURAL RESPONSE AND HEMATITE. IT'S BEEN TIED TO THE SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE SYSTEMS, SUGGESTING A GENERAL GENETIC VARIABILITY FACTOR THAT CAN BE ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED RISK FOR AFFECTIVE DISORDERS ARE MALADAPTIVE TRAITS LIKE STRESS REACTIVITY. ESPECIALLY AFTER EXPOSURE TO NEGATIVE LICENSES, MORE OF THE NURTURE VERSUS NATURE DISCUSSION. KELLY, HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED THE HIGH SENSITIVITY, AFFECTED YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AND YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE? PROFESSIONALLY, I WORKED IN CUBICLES FOR A LONG TIME AND FOUND IT VERY CHALLENGING FOR A LOT OF REASONS. VERY UNCOMFORTABLE AND I COULD GO ON AND ON. BECAUSE OF THAT, I SOUGHT A WAY TO WORK FOR MYSELF AND WORK FROM HOME. RIGHT NOW, I'M SELF-EMPLOYED AND THAT IS ONE WAY IT AFFECTED ME. PERSONALLY, IT'S HELPED MY RELATIONSHIP WITH WHEN MY HUSBAND FIRST HEARD ABOUT HSPS, HE HAD A TYPICAL REACTION, WHICH WAS SKEPTICISM. OVER TIME, HE WAS ABLE TO SEE MY RESPONSES TO THINGS AND SEE, WOW, I GUESS THIS DOES MAKE SENSE, THE STUFF SHE'S BEEN TALKING ABOUT. IT IS VERY HELPFUL IN THAT REGARD BECAUSE I THINK HIS MORE UNDERSTANDING AND I DON'T FEEL SO BAD ABOUT MYSELF. I USED TO BE SO HARD ON MYSELF, WHY CAN'T I BE LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE? I AM MORE ACCEPTING OF MYSELF. ONE OF THE PHRASES I USED TO PROMOTE THIS PARTICULAR TOPIC WERE TALKING ABOUT, AS I USE THE TERM HIGH MAINTENANCE. THAT DESCRIBE -- I MEAN -- IT WOULD SEEM LIKELY TO ME THAT, INDEED, IF YOU ARE MORE SENSITIVE TO THE ENVIRONMENT, THAT YOU WOULD NEED MORE TIME, AND TO TAKE MORE PRECAUTIONS THEN SOMEONE WHO IS MORE THICK-SKINNED, SO TO SPEAK. I BRISTLED A LITTLE BIT, IT SOUNDS LIKE A NEGATIVE THING. THEY BE THE WAY YOU EXPLAIN IT IT DOES MAKE SENSE. I DO HAVE TO TAKE MORE PRECAUTIONS AND THINK EVERYTHING THROUGH A LOT, EVEN COMING HERE TODAY. I NEED TO LEAVE TIME TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PARK SO I MIGHT NOT BE OVERWHELMED. THAT MIGHT BE AN ANXIETY THING, TOO. [LAUGHTER], I GUESS THEY OVERLAP. I NEVER HEARD ABOUT HIGH MAINTENANCE. I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THAT MORE. DIANE, YOU CONSIDER YOUR SELF A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON, BECAUSE OF YOUR PERSONALITY AND THE TRAITS YOU EXHIBIT, AS WELL. WOULD HIGH MAINTENANCE FIT THE BILL? I AM SURE I HAVE A NUMBER OF FRIENDS CHUCKLING RIGHT NOW. [LAUGHTER] THERE ARE NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS BUT SOME TRUTH. WE DO PROCESS THINGS LIKE LIGHT AND TIMING AND BEING NERVOUS ABOUT PARKING SOUNDS SILLY, BUT IT IS A VERY REAL THING. IT COULD BE A GOOD THING. HOW DO YOU DETERMINE IF A PERSON IS ACTUALLY HIGHLY SENSITIVE, DIANE? DO YOU LOOK AT THEIR BRAIN? DO YOU HAVE THEM TAKE A QUIZ? WHAT IS THE DETERMINING FACTOR? I FEEL LIKE THE SAFEST WAY, OVERALL, IN SCIENCE IN GENERAL, IS USING A VARIETY OF MEASUREMENTS. THERE'S ALL KINDS OF SUBJECTIVE MEASUREMENTS LIKE THE HSP SCALE, WHICH WAS DEVISED BY DR. ELAINE ARON, AND THINGS LIKE MRI, TO LOOK AT MEGILLAH ACTIVATION. THE MORE THAT YOU LOOK AT IT AND THE STUDIES THAT ARE ACCRUED, THE SAFER IT WILL BE. THERE ARE CERTAINLY ISOLATED RAIN AREAS THAT ARE ASSOCIATED STRONGLY WITH THE CONDITION. I HATE TO BE OVERLY SKEPTICAL. IN LOOKING AT THE QUIZ FROM DR. ELAINE ARON, THE QUESTIONS SEEM LIKE THEY COULD APPLY TO AN AWFUL LOT OF PEOPLE, LIKE BEING VERY HUNGRY, DOES THAT DISRUPTER CONVERSATION? THAT WOULD PROBABLY BE TRUE FOR MOST OF US. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE AGGREGATION OF THESE PARTICULAR QUESTIONS THAT SEEMS TO INDICATE WHETHER SOMEONE HAS THIS SENSORY SENSITIVITY TO THE ENVIRONMENT? ONE OF THE THINGS TO NOTE ON THE SURVEY, THERE IS A LINK FOR RESEARCHERS TO USE THAT I DIDN'T GO OVER. IT DOES GET MORE SPECIFIC IN TERMS OF COGNITIVE PROCESSING AND STIMULI DRIVEN BY HIGHER REACTIVITY. THE MORE SPECIFIC YOU CAN GET EASIER IT IS TO SEE. THERE IS A TREND IN PSYCHOLOGY RIGHT NOW, BUT EVERYONE HAS EVERYTHING. NO ONE IS AN AX MURDERER OR EVERYONE IS AN AX MURDERER. YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT EVERYTHING. I TOUCHED ON IT EARLIER. I HEARD THE QUESTION ABOUT THE TEST. SOMEONE LIKE ME, WITH HSP, IT IS SPOT ON. CAN'T BELIEVE SOMEONE EXPLAINS WHY AM EXACTLY. I DIDN'T KNOW ANYONE HAVE THESE TRAITS LIKE I DO, THAT HUNGER BOTHERS ME -- HUNGER BOTHERS ME -- IT IS MORE INTENSE. THE WORD SENSITIVE, THIS IS SOMETHING I TALK ABOUT A LOT. IT HAS A NEGATIVE CONNOTATION IN OUR CULTURE, PEOPLE HEAR THE WORD SENSITIVE AND THEY THINK WEAK. WHAT DO SENSITIVE REALLY MEAN? IT MEANS CONSCIENTIOUS AND OBSERVE AND. -- OBSERVANT. PLEASE DON'T BE TURNED OFF BY THE WORD SENSITIVE IF YOU ARE LISTENING TO THIS. IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU ARE WEEK OR WRONG. THAT IS A GOOD SPOT TO ENDED ON. I'VE BEEN SPEAKING WITH KELLY O'LAUGHLIN, THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK, LOG AND PODCAST CALLED A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON'S LIFE. AND, BY PSYCHOLOGY AND NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCHER AT AT YOU SEE -- DIANE HAROLD. THANK YOU.

A new book by a San Diego blogger offers advice for those who experience the world at a different level.

"A Highly Sensitive Person's Life,” by Kelly O’Laughlin, explores the world of highly sensitive people.

For some people, a hug makes them feel happier, while a sad song makes them feel sadder. A lot of commotion makes them feel like they want to escape into a small dark room. These intense emotional reactions may be part of an entire personality trait marking someone as a "highly sensitive person," O’Laughlin said.

O’Laughlin blogs about life as a “highly sensitive person” and shares her observations in a podcast. Highly sensitive people are now being studied by neuroscientists and geneticists to see where and how this trait comes into being.

O'Laughlin said she began learning about highly sensitive people after reading Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.”

“I discovered I was an introvert,” O'Laughlin told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “It was really life-changing. And, I kept running across the term ‘highly sensitive person’ and eventually looked into it. I said, ‘Wow, this is me.’”

But being a highly sensitive person doesn’t mean it’s a negative trait, O'Laughlin said.

“A lot of these traits can transfer well into certain professions like doctors and nurses,” O'Laughlin said. “You definitely want a compassionate doctor caring for you.”

The term was coined by Dr. Elaine Aron, and she believes up to 20 percent of the population could be considered highly sensitive.