Caregiving and the Highly Sensitive Personality.

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I recently came across an article about HSP while researching information about coping with narcissism - I've noticed a LOT of people on this site are dealing with narcissistic parents and/or siblings. I myself have two SILs that (unfortunately) fit that same bill.

After reading this article I concluded three things about this so-called Highly Sensitive Personality:
1) the characteristics fit me to a "T"
2) matched with caregiving it's a two-edged sword - because of an increased ability to empathize it lends itself very well to the task; it also makes one far more vulnerable to the demands of caregiving (especially if caring for a very difficult and demanding person!!)
3) it is the POLAR OPPOSITE of narcissism!!!

According to author and psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD. this is an innate personality trait (NOT a disorder) that apparently exists in about 15-20% of the human population. It's also found in many animals, including dogs and primates. It results from having a "sensitive nervous system that makes it harder to filter out stimuli and easier to get overwhelmed by our environment."

You may be a Highly Sensitive Person if you...
- are highly curious, imaginative, intellectual, and/or creative
- are intuitive, caring, and spiritual
- are a good problem solver
- are especially conscientious and compassionate
- harbor an exceptionally deep fondness for art, music and nature
- were considered "shy" or "timid" as a child

You may also...
-be more acutely aware of your environment; loud noises, bright lights, big crowds overwhelm you more than the average person
- get rattled when there's a lot to do in a short period of time
- prefer to avoid confrontation (also violent movies, TV)
- tend to "sense" an uncomfortable situation more readily than most people, and then feel driven or obligated to "fix" it
- be more sensitive than most to certain smells, tastes, and/or textures

Another "expert", Jeffrey E. Young (who wrote "Schema Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide") states "if these individuals don't learn to handle their high sensitivity they may suffer greatly...when it comes to a self-sacrifice schema, which always lends itself to emotional deprivation"...."these people need to learn to focus on themselves instead of or before focusing on others, and to learn to get their own needs met first, needs they are typically not aware of."

Any of this sound familiar???

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Sounds just like me. OMG. Is there one of us for every narcissist? Ya ya that was true enlightment. I have always been ultra sensitive. If things arent right or a person i feel it. I feel the turmoil and I feel the ugly. And yes I do try and fix things and so many people cant stand the truth so hate me because it comes out around me. I put on a tough front but deep in side I was or am I still a cry baby.
I know when my landlord sold her house to not lose everything I had to move back in my mothers house. It was the only place I had to go outside of a shelter. Rent is high in new your and I was drawing unemploymet after a severe illness. So being treated as an intruder and see them take every moment possilbe to kick dirt in my face had me crying just walking the street. I put the strong on for them but it broke my heart to see the joy it was for my mother and sister to see me down and to be ignorant to think it wwould stay that way.

Well anyways its good to know it has a name. Now what to do about it. I think we learn as we go. I am certainly not the person to mess with but I dont wear that well so some people take the kindness for weakness and learn the hard way if I have enough energy to waste because people who use people dont do the live and learn thing cant see their wrong, just wont (maybe) come for you again..

I am going to go back and read other posts just had to shout out because this fit me to the tee.
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I'm an HSP as well. Thank you for talking about it here. I'm struggling with helping my mom. She has what I recently learned an "oppositional" conversational style. I have had to work on that myself. I can't win with her. She has an answer--and often a twist--for everything. Now she's an exaggeration of her former self so I have not yet been able to separate her nastiness from her dementia. I don't think I said that correctly. What I'm trying to say is that I would like to not be hurt by all of the things that she says because she now has dementia and I would like to help her feel better, but I get so caught up in defending myself, or trying to correct her, or some other idiotic move. I just feel so lost and out of control of my surroundings--as if I'm just bouncing around in all of this. I HATE that I'm hurt by her stuff since she got sick, and that I haven't yet been able to be extra kind to her instead of fighting off the hurt I feel.
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HSP.... that sure sounds like me.... and let's throw in some mild OCD while we are at it.
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LivingSouth, I thought when you said, "I'm an HSP" that you were saying that you're a nurse for HSP. So I popped in to take a look. Read Yaya's introduction. Most of it sounds like me. I will need to come back and start from page 1.
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I'm an HSP - and also a INJF, if you know about the Meyers Briggs test. I have had to contend with people thinking that I am stuck up because I wait and see what type of person I am dealing with first, and I have problems with absorbing other peoples emotions. I also grew up in a family where everyone else is 'tough' and wanted to know what was wrong with 'that kid who bawls at every sad movie'! Unfortunately I also have a lot of self absorbed people in my family too. You know, the kind you give every little detail of every thing they did this week, but then when you say that you have a cold and are worn out, they suddenly 'hear the doorbell'?
I'm beginning to think we must have a sign that is only visible to others because I had had people in my family, who rarely had time for me when growing up, suddenly decide that I would be the 'perfect caregiver' for them. I don't think that people understand that most HSP people may appear weak, but really are not - and can stand up for themselves ( of course I've also been bullied for that, also)
It does make it hard to be a caregiver because you can feel the frustration that older people feel, and the constant negativity and complaints really do get to you - like the drip, drip, of a faucet....
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I just want to add, for the benefit of the other commenters, that being an HSP can mean that you "appear" to be extremely self-absorbed... this is not at all the same as narcissism, though our society may see it as such. As children, HSPs often stand back from the crowd to observe and absorb behaviour, and they do a lot of reflecting on what's going on around them. Also, in crowded or over-stimulated environments, we have a greater need to protect ourselves, which can be seen as selfish or needy to others. Narcissists generally do not take into consideration the feelings of others when they make choices/life decisions; that's a strong differing factor. HSPs, on the other hand, consider others first when making a choice, and will feel extremes of guilt, sorrow, regret, etc.
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THANK YOU for bringing up HSP in connection with caregiving. I bought Dr. Aron's book years ago, and felt it explained so many things in my life that didn't make sense. I can now relate to myself better, understanding that I am an HSP and part of a minority who have a slightly different perspective on life. As caregiver for my two parents (both with Alzheimer's), I wondered at first why the activity was so draining. Thanks to HSP research, I've learned to carefully guard my alone-time and my down-time, so that I can replenish my depleted energy and be more there for them. Good post, now I'll go read the other comments! Just so happy that you brought this up, Yaya51.
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Wow. This is me. So maybe im not bipolar after all.
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Holy moly, ALL of these apply to me! I somehow feel vindicated in that its all real and there is a term for it. I'm sharing this with my husband so he can better understand me as we're beginning on the path of my role as his caregiver. I totally get it with him but he doesn't have a clue about me.
Most important about this list for me is it proves my mom was wrong about me. I'm the way I am for a reason. I feel free today!
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16 for me.This site makes me feel normal. Thanks.
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