Woman smelling a yellow flowerOne of the first things you’re taught about in school is about your five senses. You learn about taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight.

As you grow older, you realize that these five basic senses aren’t given to each individual. Some people are born without the ability to see. Others may lose one of these abilities, like hearing, over time.

On the other hand, some individuals may be more in tune with their five senses and even the senses of others.

Let’s learn more about the differences between a sensory processing disorder and a highly sensitive person.

What Is a Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that can affect the way that the brain processes sensory information or stimuli. Lights, noises, scents may seem too intense. The opposite situation could also happen with a sensory processing disorder. This means that it would take a great amount of stimuli like noises or smells to affect someone.

What Is a Highly Sensitive Person?

Crowd of people behind a barrierA highly sensitive person (HSP) describes individuals who have deeper or increased sensitivity to emotional, physical, and social stimuli. Highly sensitive people have a heightened awareness of others around them. This means that they can tune in and even absorb the feelings of others. If someone close to them is sad, they may experience sadness of their own. Highly sensitive people are extremely empathetic and can pick up on the emotions and feelings of others.

The Signs and Symptoms

Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about sensory processing disorder and being a highly sensitive person, you’re probably wondering how to know if you’re dealing with either.

These are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a sensory processing disorder:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Fearful of certain activities
  • Food textures are unpleasant
  • Materials of clothing feel too itchy or scratchy
  • Poor reactions to certain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touches
  • Touches feel too hard

These are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a highly sensitive person:

  • Affected by the energies and emotions of others
  • Anxiety
  • Craving downtime
  • Easily startled
  • Overwhelmed in crowded places
  • Sensitive to caffeine

The Similarities

Both a sensory processing disorder and being a highly sensitive person can cause individuals to be overly sensitive to certain stimuli. Lights can appear to be too bright. Some sounds may seem too loud. Even certain textures can feel too extreme at times. Although there are similarities between sensory processing disorder and being a highly sensitive person, there are a lot more differences between the two.

The Differences

Disorder vs. Trait

It can be easy to confuse having a sensory processing disorder and being a highly sensitive person. That being said, the two are very different from one another.

For one, a sensory processing disorder is actually a disorder. Being a highly sensitive person isn’t a disorder at all. It’s a trait that some people can have. A big confusion between the two is that being a highly sensitive person is commonly known as having a sensory processing sensitivity.

The Sensitivities

Woman with eyes closed and head up in fall leavesThe sensitivities can also differ between the two. Highly sensitive people don’t often have issues with their motor skills, spatial awareness, or their balance. Instead, most of the sensitivities are related to their emotions or the emotions of others.

Next Steps

If you’re struggling with a sensory processing disorder, being a highly sensitive person, or a combination of the two, it may feel like you’re alone, especially compared to your loved ones. The truth is, these are a lot more common than you think. And you’re not alone. Help is available to you when you’re ready to ask for it. If you notice you’re having a hard time getting through your day-to-day, reach out to me today to set up a consultation.

Click here to learn more about HSP therapy services in Delray Beach, FL and Sandy Springs, GA.