Is there a connection between being a highly sensitive person and depression?
According to Dr. Elaine Aron’s research: Yes and No; it depends.
To super-simplify: If an HSP grew up in a non-supportive environment, they are more likely to be depressed. If an HSP grew up in a supportive environment, it’s less likely they will be depressed.
To go further….
HSPs can be more prone to depression if:
- The HSP grew up with chaos, trauma, and dysfunction in their family.
- If the HSP is unaware of the trait and does not have a self-care plan. Without knowledge about the trait, an HSP can find themselves in a chronic state of overstimulation which would then lead to too much cortisol in the system, which can then lead to depression and/or anxiety.
- The HSP is in an unhealthy environment. (source)
It is NOT more likely, if
- The HSP grew up in a supportive and “secure” family.
- The HSP has accepted the trait as a positive and has adequate self-care.
IT DEPENDS, if:
- There is a history of depression in one’s family (genetically caused).
If a Highly Sensitive Person doesn’t know that they are highly sensitive, they may be self-critical and wonder “why can’t I be like everyone else?”
Here are 7 ways to cope with the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person.
If an HSP is aware of their sensitivity, they can plan their life in the best way to avoid overstimulation and scenarios that make them feel drained and unsettled. It is essential for HSPs to learn about the trait so they can find their own stasis of peace.
Depression is a dense topic that deserves more than a single blog post. This is just a basic, simplified overview of the accepted research on whether high sensitivity is related to depression.
Looking to break the cycle of chronic unhappiness? I recommend the book The Mindful Way through Depression by Mark Williams.
In regards to suicide: sensitive people feel things very deeply, so it makes sense that deep, painful thoughts could lead to depression, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. They may be incredibly self-critical and think the world or other people are better off without them. Being a perfectionist, and feeling like a failure, could also plan a part. It may seem easier to just quit living than have to deal with more pain. HOWEVER….HSPs are thoughtful and thorough, and may realize with empathy the reality of how much their suicide would their loved ones.
If you are depressed, please speak to a therapist. Even just one visit can make a difference and help you see things from another perspective. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 (in the U.S.)
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Kelly, though you are discussing the link to depression, this is a very uplifting post! When I have a new “aha” moment of self understanding, I have a “stasis of peace” moment (love that term!). Will check out the HSP link you provided.
Yes it is true. Sometimes specific situations can take a lot of energy out of us.. it drains you. Others overstimulate you… and if you keep on going you can and will collapse. Knowing when to stop, have a downtime..is no joke. And for the HSP sometimes it is confussing. I found that it is even MORE confusing for HSP that are extroverts. Because introverts yearn to be alone and that is how we recharge energy, whereas, the extrovert.. charges it’s energy when they are around people.. BUT if they ARE HSPs.. they NEED a downtime as well.. if not they CAN collapse. And they are a 30% out of us 20% of HSPs.. an even more rare ones… they “function” different. I have a friend of mine that is HSP extro, and she goes and goes ..at work..at sports.. at meetings.. everything.. but when she feels overwhelmed she takes a downtime allll on her OWN. Going to the beach by herself.. or traveling to another country ALONE. Needless to say her non-HSPs friends do NOT understand this part of her.. and for me it the outmost simplicity.. SHE NEEDS downtime, and she takes it.
I felt totally foreign in the world until I discovered who I was: An HSP! I have since changed careers (art major/I draw all the time). Life is much better knowing what I am.
Wow! I’m 53 yo and just yesterday stumbled upon Dr. Aron’s work on HSPs, and I am one. Now I understand why my previous jobs were an extremely poor fit for me. And, it explains why I am a borderline extrovert/introvert on Myers-Briggs type scales (i couldn’t figure out why, before!).
This article about depression hits the nail on the head, for me, as I’m in the process of re-careering from social welfare policy to more artistic endeavors (photography, writing and graphic design).
I don’t feel as much a “freak” anymore, and am going to learn all I can to “protect” myself from here on out. And, I will share with those close to me as well because how I am “innately” has long mystified both me and others!
Blessings to all of us HSPs out there!
Finding out I am an extrovert HSP has been life changing! I am 56 years of age and have been soul searching for years trying to understand why I feel so deeply, love deeply, have empathy for others, cry easily when i talk about emotional subjects positive and negative. I am very creative and love learning. However, I get overstimulated and end up doing too much. Became a teacher late in life and found that I was among non sensitive personalities big time! Run off my feet due to massive workload preparing, marking, programming, etc. worked most evenings and at least one day on weekend. thoughts always in the future. trying to fit in to workplace that was filled with non sensitive persons. Tried to be one without success. . Bad move. Anxiety/panic attacks in the end and had to give up the job. Loved teaching! Loved the students and the relationships I had built up with them. Now I know why I couldn’t cope in that situation.! Have been down on myself for not being tougher. It’s such a relief to understand why. I know now that I will be kinder to myself and align future work that suits my personality type. A big Aha moment!
Yes! Be kinder to yourself! That is something I have to tell myself, too. I am sorry you had to give up a job you loved. Have you found a new profession? I wonder if there is a way you could remain a teacher but in a calmer environment. Maybe a private tutor? Or a school with smaller classrooms?
I have to take issue with this. For me, at least, recoginising that I am highly sensitive has made absolutely no difference to my mood. My pattern seems quite simple. If my life is going reasonably well, I am a pretty happy person. However, if I find myself in unhappy circumstances they seem almost unbearable. This is also because I am highly sensitive. Many people would consider this to be me overreacting, and tell me to “think positively” or practice gratitude, but I don’t find that makes any difference. I find your post to be a gross oversimplification. A little quiet time and getting more sleep doesn’t fix everything.
Thanks for this comment. It has caused me to revisit this post and I’m going to work on it further. I do think that recognizing that one is an HSP can make one less critical of oneself, and can alleviate some feelings of self-hate, self-criticism, and worthlessness. But of course that is just one aspect of a much bigger puzzle.
Gonna work on this.
Just a sympathetic response to your comment about when you find yourself in unhappy circumstances that are almost unbearable . Speaking from my personal experience….I am an HSP, I am an Introvert, and I suspect I am somewhat of an Empath. I only realized all this within the past 7 years…so 50 years of my life I lived in the fast paced extroverted ‘happy’ world and burnt out a few times from exhaustion. With each discovery the puzzle of my life seems more understandable. I have read numerous blogs and articles and listened to podcasts on being HSP, Introvert, and Empath. However, I also have genetically inherited depression…my serotonin levels aren’t high enough to keep my emotional and thought life balanced and as healthy as possible without an antidepressant. I say all this to encourage you that if you are struggling with intense highs and lows of moods depending on your cirumstances…maybe a talk with a knowledgeable health care professional regarding depression etc. might be worth looking into. I hope you are feeling better.
I am highly sensitive. My mom died suddenly two years ago. I was very angry because no one seemed compassionate, but they also felt uncomfortable with my strong emotions. I have also been exploited at work for 7 years, and I am finally deciding to make some changes on my own. I don’t look to other people to validate me or give me support because they are unwilling or unable to be kind and loving. I have gotten through the hardest parts. I have suffered depression so profound that I felt I would not survive it. Hope and faith in God saved me.
Received a lot of criticism at work and I am now depressed and have a lot of self criticism thoughts. As a HSP, how do I move away from the negative thoughts?
Look into finding a new job! I don’t believe criticism is healthy. I do not believe in constructive criticism either. All criticism is toxic, especially to the HSP. I worked my whole ‘career’ life in toxic extroverted jobs. I went from job to job. The skills required were no problem, it was the people. Dr. Elaine Aron has written a book called ‘Making work work for the highly sensitive person’. I would suggest reading it. I found a copy at the library. I ended up buying the book for reference. I worked in so many places of employment where I was criticized that just hearing the word ‘work’ causes me anxiety. I have people close to me who, even though they know I am HSP and Introvert, have criticized my specific work environment needs because they don’t understand the HSP, Introvert life. I hope you are in a better work environment now.