Highly sensitive people (PAS), a new personality trait?
Historically, psychology has based its personality studies on the factors evaluated in the model of the five major traits and other models derived from it. The "Big Five" model defends the existence of five great personality traits that every person possesses and manifests in a certain percentage.
The opening to experience, the responsibility, the extraversion, the cordiality or amiability and the stability are the five traits that are evaluated in this model and in a large number of clinical assessment instruments and screening that have developed later.
The sensitivity and repercussions of not including it within the personality models
But What would happen if another new feature could be added to take into account? We are talking about the sensitivity.
Elaine Aron was a pioneer in investigating this personality trait. She herself, based on her own experiences as a person who manifested the trait and after coming in contact with other people who believed to be highly sensitive, began to investigate about the common characteristics between them and the implications of the manifestation of this sensitivity in their lives With the results of this research, in which he found that around 20% of the population could be included in this category, he coined the term "highly sensitive people" or "PAS".
Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People
Highly sensitive people begin to show signs of such sensitivity from the moment of birth, babies with this trait have a harder time sleeping, they are affected by being surrounded by a lot of stimulation (noise, light, people, etc.), they tend to have more fears and as the child grows up, they usually see great creativity and intuition. Likewise, they are very empathetic minors with the suffering of others, educated, kind and considerate.
They have been observed, too, physiological differential characteristics between SBP and non-SBP babies , such as the fact that highly sensitive children have a higher heart rate and, under stress, their pupils dilate earlier and their vocal cords tighten faster emitting sharper sounds. In addition to all this, at the cerebral level they have a greater activation of the right hemisphere (emotional) and have higher levels of cortisol and norepinephrine (Aron, 1996). Subsequent studies, in which neuroimaging techniques have been used, have also revealed greater activation of the amygdala and frontal lobe.
Empathy, intuition, intrapersonal intelligence ...
In adulthood these traits that have been observed during childhood acquire their maximum expression. PAS people are highly intuitive and emotional, with a great empathy for their own and others' emotions.
They are creative people who are attracted by the arts and knowledge, both at the intellectual level, they have an almost unlimited capacity to learn, even without being aware of it, as well as on a personal level, because they are usually people with a great knowledge of themselves and a very rich inner world , which, at times, make them seem introverted, although it does not have to be that way.
Is it a good idea to include sensitivity in personality models?
Why the importance of recognizing sensitivity as another feature to consider in personality models? The answer is simple. The PAS people who speak of their sensitivity above all make reference to the incomprehension, both personal and of their immediate context, and refer to having felt in a position of minority, of constant struggle against a world that surpasses them, until the moment in which they discover who have this trait and can make a personal reflection from the knowledge of it, identifying and reconciling with their sensitivity.
On the other hand, at a clinical and evaluation level, the group of people who possess the sensitivity trait has been poorly evaluated and diagnosed. They have received inadequate treatments and have been "cataloged" with diagnostic labels that did not correspond to them. During childhood, highly sensitive minors are misdiagnosed with autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.
During adolescence, a stage of very intense personal changes for anyone, but even more so for a hypersensitive person who already has difficulty reconciling the internal and external world, may appear problems of depression, isolation or consumption of drugs, which may lead to in depressive, anxiety or addiction disorders in adulthood.And all this, due to the ignorance of the personality trait that defines them, the sensitivity and their lack of inclusion in the explanatory models of the personality.
- Aron, E. (2006). The gift of sensitivity. 6th Ed. Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Obelisco.