Highly Sensitive People: if you prick us, do we not bleed? and burst into tears? and run from the room and fling ourselves down on the bed?
April 8, 2007 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person? This trait ... is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and ... seems to be present in all higher animals. Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener .... But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed. This trait ... has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited ...
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posted by grumblebee (145 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I'm the poster-child for this syndrome, but I wish it was called something else. (Though the name IS apt.) I'm not crazy about being SEN-sah-tive, and I keep thinking about my favorite entry to the the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (an annual contest in which you try to write the worst opening sentence of a fake novel):

I was an extremely, extremely extremely, sensitive child. -- Arnold Rosenfeld, Austin, TX

Seriously though, I've tried to classify myself for years, and I've come to the conclusion that I have Aspergers (which certainly has more cache than "being sensitive"), and I suppose the two syndromes may be related. In any case, I'd like to thank the HSP people for giving me a new thing to worry and navel-gaze about, in my charming Woody-Allenesque way.
posted by grumblebee at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I thought I was a sensitive guy but when honestly answering that quiz, I only ticked one box. So I guess I'm just an insensitive bastard.
posted by birdherder at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I only answered 'yes' to 5 questions, which means I am about as sensitive as a toilet seat.
posted by jonmc at 12:28 PM on April 8, 2007

Grumblebee, the first thing I thought of when I saw the FPP was that entry in the Bulwer-Lytton, and you even beat me to that.
posted by maxwelton at 12:30 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm shy and very bothered by loud noises (and quiet ones ... I spend five minutes getting the volume EXACTLY right on the tv, every time I turn it on: it must be in this very specific mid-range, or I can't focus on the show, and I insist that it's in this range even if I'm not watching, even if it's one of my wife's shows and I'm just in the room. I can't do anything -- read, work, cook dinner -- if the TV is too loud or too mumble-y. I'm a joy to live with.) I need the light to be just so bright. Not too dim; not too bright. But I prefer the bright side, and I get a headache if I'm in a dark bar or restaurant for too long.

My weirdest trait: odd items in my visual field drive me crazy. I don't mind things that are clumped together. I'm fine with clutter on a desk. What I can't STAND is, say, one shoe lying in the middle of an otherwise empty floor.

I fight this and tell myself to just deal. I sit on the sofa and try to read, but the shoe, which I can see over the top of the book, keeps nagging at me. I try to position the book so that it blocks the shoe, but that usually makes me hold my arms in an awkward position, and I can't keep it up for long. Finally, I can think of nothing but the shoe, and I HAVE to move it.

When I'm on the subway, trying to read, anything can make it impossible -- especially subtle, repeated actions, like someone absent-mindedly rubbing his pants-leg. Or a receipt that dropped out of someone's pocket and is now lying on the otherwise empty floor.

I often can't sleep at night because of rumples in the sheets. It takes me forever to find a comfortable position.

I've lived with this stuff for so long, it's almost not irritating (to me) any more. My live involves thousands of adjustments every day: switching seats on the subway, moving shoes, adjusting volumes, etc. I do it without thinking about it.

Aspergers? OCD? ADD? HSP? Just a fucking nutcase?
posted by grumblebee at 12:32 PM on April 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

You're just a nutcase. They'll be some nice young men in clean white coats to take you away, ha-haaa...
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2007

I know I'm quite the sensitive bird & the test confirmed that for me. But jeez, come on. Do we really need another psychiatric label for what is just a normal variance in humanity. I know y'all sensitive and all, but GET OVER IT. On the one hand you get all confused and frightened when a lot of shit is going on around you but on the other hand, you're a great poker player. So, Emo boy, swings & roundabouts; the human condition; you're no more or less special than anyone else.
posted by seanyboy at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2007

17 here, perhaps predictably.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2007

the first thing I thought of when I saw the FPP was that entry in the Bulwer-Lytton

One of the greatest crimes of humanity is the fact that Arnold Rosenfeld didn't win.
posted by grumblebee at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2007

on the other hand, you're a great poker player.

Hmm. I did come in forth in a 60-person tournament, recently.
posted by grumblebee at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2007

My score was 21, by the way.
posted by grumblebee at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2007

Plus that latest research is nonsense.
posted by seanyboy at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2007

Plus that latest research is nonsense.

Very possibly. But could you elaborate?
posted by grumblebee at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2007

Yeah - I was a 20.
posted by seanyboy at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2007

My score was 22.

I thought all of that hyper-awareness was just from the PTSD.
posted by cmyk at 12:38 PM on April 8, 2007

Very possibly. But could you elaborate?
Not really. I've just got a feeling. And you already know I'm very sensitive, so I'm probably right.
posted by seanyboy at 12:39 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have developed tolerances for myself and the environment.


seanyboy, if you're correct about the research, my guess is that it's the interpretation that's bullshit. The research -- unless you're claiming the fMRI stuff was faked or something -- seems solid and provocative. Even if you're not into the HSP stuff, the findings about American vs. Japanese subjects is interesting.
posted by grumblebee at 12:42 PM on April 8, 2007

My pseudoscience senses are tingling.
posted by bhouston at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

23. But I'm a whiny musician that avoids violent movies.
posted by sourwookie at 12:43 PM on April 8, 2007

And I'm with bhouston.
posted by sourwookie at 12:44 PM on April 8, 2007

This is the thing. You think that it's PTSD or ADD or OCD. But it may actually be HSP.

If this were any other field of science it'd be laughed off the chemistry bench.

Now I'm all for labeling people (so we know who to cull when the revolution comes), but this is dangerous in a number of ways.

1) It's making illnesses out of character traits.
2) It's basing its deviations on average human experience & then its saying that to be outside those averages is abnormal.

How long before a pill is created to *fix* this sort of thing. I don't know about you, but I want my life to be full of colour. I don't want the mind liposuctioned and facelifted towards some average ideal. I don't want variation to be classified as abnormality.
posted by seanyboy at 12:44 PM on April 8, 2007 [11 favorites]

I'm not a HSP, I'm a SSS. Super Special Snowflake.
posted by tula at 12:44 PM on April 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

I'm more of a hailstone, myself. or maybe acid rain.
posted by jonmc at 12:45 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I see hand-waving, I see a "test" that is inherently biased (who, other than those with low self-esteem, answers no to "I have a rich,complex inner life." or "I am deeply moved by the arts or music"?), and a non-scientist's description of fMRIs done on a small sample.

Oh, and an acronym and a self-help group.

What I'm not seeing is any science.

Sure, we'd all like to say we're more sensitive to subtleties and more deeply reflective than the next Cletus, and that just increases my skepticism that this is anything but wish-fulfillment for Milquetoasts. Again, show me some falsifibale science and a mechanism -- by what means an "HSP's" "nervous system" is "more sensitive" --, and I'm all ears.

Until then, put this on the shelf with fairy dust and crystal resonances and homeopathy.
posted by orthogonality at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

The American vs Asian stuff is interesting & I've come across it before. It's old news. If you show a picture of a landscape with a family standing in front of it then Asians are more likely to see the landscape & Westerners are more likely to see the family. Common consensus has it that this is because of societal norms. The individual vs the group and all that.

This just seemed *hokey*. I've no doubt that some people can see the box or see the line, but attributing it to sensitivity seems a little too much of a jump.
posted by seanyboy at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2007

who, other than those with low self-esteem, answers no to "I have a rich,complex inner life." or "I am deeply moved by the arts or music"?

People who aren't fags. Duh.
posted by sourwookie at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

I believe tula nailed it. I too am an SSS. And I'm not proud to admit it to *sobs* you guys.
posted by seanyboy at 12:52 PM on April 8, 2007

It may be pseudoscience (I get a little of that tingle myself), but SOMETHING is going on with people like me. And assuming we don't want to just live with it, it would be nice to understand it and see if there's a cure.

Even if it's genuine science, the name is a BIG mistake. Most people's response to someone like me is "get over yourself." They either think I'm not trying hard enough or that I'm in luuuuuve with my special-snowflake status. And that stupid name makes things worse. (It's almost as stupid as atheists choosing "brights" as their new name.)

I don't like being the way I am. In spite of the fact that I'm constantly making adjustments, I'm very clever about making them seem natural. Most of my friends and co-workers would be really surprised if they read this. I don't do it for show or to make myself seem special. I'd rather be ordinary and not miss sleep because there's a crease in the sheet.

As for not trying hard enough, I don't know what to say. It certainly FEELS (even to me) like I should be able to practice some sort of mental discipline and get over the shoe in the middle of the room. I CAN discipline myself enough to not let anyone know it's bothering me. And I do. When I visit someone else's house, I don't rearrange their stuff, no matter how much I want to. But that doesn't stop me obsessing about it to the point where I'm almost non-functional.

The only "help" I've ever heard of for this sort of thing is pharmaceutical, and I'm not ready for that yet. I AM trying to learn how to meditate. Not much luck yet, but I'm not going to give up.
posted by grumblebee at 12:53 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

15% to 20% of the population have more of a particular trait than 80% to 85% of the population. Film at eleven.
posted by blenderfish at 12:55 PM on April 8, 2007

By the way, I can see some positives to being introverted, but I can see ZERO positives to being overly-sensitive to tiny zits in one's environment. I'm not interested in seeing the bright side or being part of a support group. I'm interested in stopping it.
posted by grumblebee at 12:56 PM on April 8, 2007

By the way, I can see some positives to being introverted, but I can see ZERO positives to being overly-sensitive to tiny zits in one's environment.

uhm, being able to tell when a woman is attracted to you/cutomer-prospective employer/etc finds you interseting, etc...
posted by jonmc at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee: I am tempted to say "Get over yourself" here. You behave a certain way in some situations and you don't like it. Things which other people don't care about drive you nuts. You've a feeling that something is wrong with you.

Welcome to the club. I could trot that stuff out & 90% of the people would think that it applied to them.

As for the OCD stuff, it's a continuum. Everyone gets the feeling that they haven't turned the gas off or locked the door or {x} isn't right. If it rules your life, then it's a problem. If you have friends and a job and you can get out of the house on a morning then you're probably alright.

As for the chronic shyness. There's a bunch of ways you can deal with this. Growing older is a good one. Forcing yourself into the awkward situation is another. Living with it is a third. Psychiatric help and pharmaceuticals is a fourth. Choose the way which works best for you. Except that last one.
posted by seanyboy at 1:01 PM on April 8, 2007

jonmc, I didn't mean that I couldn't come up with a list of positive traits, I meant that I didn't care about them. Really, I'd trade all that shit to be able to read a fucking book without making 15-adjustments every ten minutes.
posted by grumblebee at 1:02 PM on April 8, 2007

70% of psuedoscience is 20% awesome.

I scored 17. She is just trying to sell a book, and I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but I'm not going to buy it. Might be useful for people who don't realize they're sensitive? But ... how can you not, if you are?
posted by blacklite at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee: I think the things you're describing are more than sensitivity. I mean, I'm not saying you're broken, just that that's different. Pretty sure you're a SSS. (see above) :)
posted by blacklite at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2007

I started the test, but didn't finish it because I was answering yes to just about everything. These personality traits don't seem important enough to get "a label", especially considering it's 1/5 to 1/6 of the population.

seanyboy: I agree with you about this making for a good poker player. I play quite a bit, and the strongest part of my game is being sensitive to the environment and how it is affecting the other players (and myself). Everyone's mood is changing from moment to moment, but most people don't notice, and fewer still understand why.
posted by where u at dawg at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee: I am tempted to say "Get over yourself" here.

I understand. I say it to myself dozens of times each day. And I'm proud that, in general, I DON'T let my wacko-stuff bother other people. I really don't. (Except for my wife, and she knew what she was getting into.)

I guess it's fair for you to say "get over it" if what you mean is, "don't complain here about your problem." If it's boring people, I SHOULD stop. (I was hoping other people would chime in with their experiences.)

But if "get over it" means "just stop obsessing about shoes (or whatever)," then I wish you'd tell me how.

People suffer all kinds of things that they hide in public. These range from very serious illnesses, like cancer, to relatively unimportant annoyances, like athlete's foot. But if something is seriously affecting someone's lifestyle or happiness, I don't think telling them to "get over it" helps. They would if they could.
posted by grumblebee at 1:08 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I only scored a 12. Surprising considering how fucked up I am!
posted by brundlefly at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm highly sensitive to others and have a rich inner life. Unlike you shallow bastards.
posted by hal9k at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2007

score of 24.
My keen sense of the obvious tells me that I'm either supposed to look into buying the self-help book, or I'm supposed to rant about pseudopepsych-blue shilling of said book to the mefi mob.

Plus I don't believe that the real purpose in publishing self-help books is improvement, its mostly just for profit. Targeting people who self identify as highly sensitive is a genius bit of marketing though. What a sucker demographic.
posted by isopraxis at 1:10 PM on April 8, 2007

I don't understand how this is any different from Sensory Integration Dysfunction--which is a real, and serious, diagnosis.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee: Seriously though, I've tried to classify myself for years, and I've come to the conclusion that I have Aspergers (which certainly has more cache than "being sensitive")

k, don't freak out, but you meant "cachet" there.
posted by davey_darling at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm supposed to rant about pseudopepsych-blue shilling of said book to the mefi mob.

As the OP, I should state that I have no intention of buying this books, and I haven't read it. I can't and won't recommend it to anyone. I'm hoping we're all mature enough to look at a promotional site and choose for ourselves whether or not to buy a product.

I do highly recommend the book in my "via" link ("Evolution for Everyone"), which I did buy, have read, and do love. It was reviewed in today's NY Times.
posted by grumblebee at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2007

How dare you even accuse me? You don't know me!
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:15 PM on April 8, 2007

don't freak out, but you meant "cachet" there

YOU'RE FUCKING TELLING ME WHAT I MEANT, NOW????!!!!??? Just kidding. You're quite right, of course. I've been spending too much time doing web-programming lately, and I'm constantly cleaning out the cache. It must be on my mind.
posted by grumblebee at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2007

I ticked (and with honesty) every single box on that test; like grumblebee, I used to be hugely bothered by things out of line in my environment, but as I've gotten older I've learned, or forced myself, to care less. Living with a small child will rewire that impulse pretty quickly.

I've arranged my life so that I get a lot of solitude, a lot of quiet time, and a long walk in the woods at least once a week. Excercise really, really helps, and if you haven't tried yoga, I recommend it.... it raises the endorphin levels wonderfully, and then the shoe on the floor matters less. And public transit still often involves deliberate distancing in my head from what's going on around me. That's another technique that helps: I just quickly go somewhere else.

But off course I still move the shoe. What's it doing there anyway? Why is there a spot on the floor? Okay, deep breath, distract self, take a step back, it's okay, the house isn't filthy, it's fine, look at something else. Repeat.
posted by jokeefe at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm not saying that you're boring me.

What you're describing sounds like a minor form of OCD. I hate the label, but it fits. I've seen this in a variety of strengths and I've seen it handled in a variety of ways.

I've had friends move the shoe from the middle of the room and place it carefully next to the other show WHERE IT BELONGS and I've heard them apologise for the wackiness and move on. They don't show that behaviour in public, but amongst friends the behaviour has been tolerated & loved. I've seen a girl move from 4 showers a day and a 3 minute ritual on hearing the sound of an ambulance to normality. I've also seen a girl move from that same position to full blown can't get out of the house OCD.

I know someone who can't bear to touch buttons. She's fine too. She just doesn't like buttons. Or clowns.

I'm saying "get over it" because although it's a problem for you it's not such a big problem. If I had access to the anonymous metafilter account I could list a whole bunch of weird stuff that'd squeek you out.

I've adapted to these by avoiding certain situations & by making my friends aware that I can be freaky sometimes. And then sometimes I'm freaky. As a rule other people cope.

This is what I mean by "get over it." There's stuff about yourself you hate. You can change those things or you can learn to hate them less. In my case, I chose the latter option.
posted by seanyboy at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2007

Just move the damn shoe and get over yourself ;)
posted by autodidact at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2007

1) If identifying yourself as "sensitive" resonates and comforts you, more power to you.
2) Disregard those who wish to demean.
3) Ketel and Percocet.
4) Repeat.
posted by Dizzy at 1:22 PM on April 8, 2007

5) ????
6) Profit.
posted by seanyboy at 1:25 PM on April 8, 2007

I see hand-waving, I see a "test" that is inherently biased (who, other than those with low self-esteem, answers no to "I have a rich,complex inner life." or "I am deeply moved by the arts or music"?)

I answered no to both of those, and still ended up at 14 or 15. But I'm just a picky bitch.
posted by dilettante at 1:29 PM on April 8, 2007

Now Miss Johnson, I must make it clear that our Johnny is a most highly sensitive young person and you must never shout at him or speak sharply to him. If you feel he absolutely must be corrected then just slap the child sitting next to him.
posted by jfuller at 1:32 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

(Please note that I'm not offended by anything you say, seanyboy. And I hope I don't offend you with anything I say.)

I think we're missing each-other's points. You're saying "get over it" on a much higher level than what I'm talking about.

I am over it socially. Totally. I don't worry about what people think. I function as a normal person. I do my job, etc.

I am over it (if I was ever "under it") in terms of self image. I don't hate myself. I'm not ashamed. I may BE abnormal, but I don't FEEL abnormal.

I'm talking on the level of having a horribly annoying itch on your nose. You don't have to be embarrassed or ashamed or down-on-yourself to wish the itch would go away. Furthermore, if you ARE embarrassed or ashamed, that IS something (relatively) easy to get over with support from your friends, talking-cures, common sense, etc. But NONE of that will stop you from feeling the itch.

I really don't care about the shoe on any level other than the fact that it fucking drives me crazy and, after a while, forces me to get up and move it. I hate the fact that I can't enjoy a movie if start noticing the exit sign in the movie theatre. That doesn't make me feel abnormal or bad. But I still want to be able to enjoy the movie.

If it was just the matter of, every once in a while, having a movie ruined, it wouldn't be so bad. It's hard for me to convince you that it's a bigger problem, because it doesn't stop me from doing my job or having friends. It IS all little stuff like not-being-able-to watch TV. But if there are a hundred little things like that every day, it starts to seem more and more important.

It's more about QUALITY of life than about being functional.
posted by grumblebee at 1:34 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm less sensitive than jonmc. I scored a total of 3.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:36 PM on April 8, 2007

5, bitches!

So, anyway, she's published with some respected researchers and there's one paper in the top social psych journal, so I don't think this complete hokum. That said, I tried to read the paper and it was so poorly written that I had to stop; and, anyway, it mostly talks about validating the HSP scale. I wasn't able to track down a paper or anything about the fMRI stuff.

Additionally, the fact that it's been 10 years since the original paper and there hasn't been any other work using this scale suggests that other researchers don't buy it, or that it doesn't predict anything useful or non-obvious.
posted by myeviltwin at 1:36 PM on April 8, 2007

Apparently, Oliver Sacks has similar symptoms (needing everything to be arranged just so, getting bothered by tiny "imperfections" in his environment, etc.) and he's very vocal about it. He refuses to give interviews unless everything is arranged to his satisfaction, etc. THAT'S the point at which I think someone needs to get over it. If I made people crazy like that, I'd get on meds immediately.
posted by grumblebee at 1:38 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm with you grumblebee, I know you aren't pushing the book. I guess my basic frustration with the 'metric' is that it strikes me as simply a marketing funnel to sell books. Maybe there is some validity in their little test, but in my mind, self-help books are like the amway of the written word. As a highly sensitive person, it tears me apart to throw the baby out with the bathwater. *wink

I'd like to see what has been published academically in regards to the HSP designation.
posted by isopraxis at 1:38 PM on April 8, 2007

I checked 26 items on the list. Whether or not there is any merit to the "HSP" designation - I too was an "... extremely, extremely extremely, sensitive child." I still am. I don't think it merits "disease of the week" status - it's just a part of my personality. Once I realized that I could stop trying to shove my square, sensitive psyche into the round hole of other peoples' expectations of what I was supposed to be able to tolerate - I was a lot happier. Now, when someone tells me that I'm "too sensitive," I can comfortably say "no shit, sherlock - so turn the damn music down!" I need a LOT of quiet time. I also like to sit in my closet.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:38 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't know then. I don't think meds is the answer.

Have you tried over-exposing yourself to annoying stimuli; try and build up an immunity to these things?

That's all I got.
posted by seanyboy at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2007

I also like to sit in my closet.
I think I just fell in love.
posted by seanyboy at 1:43 PM on April 8, 2007


And fuck all y'all sensitive little bitches.

This may be pseudo-science -- it may not be. Who knows.

But the knee-jerk reaction against it here is as a common as penny, and indicative of nothing. (Change HSP to almost any other mental issue, and I've heard identical arguments).

There are many, many quirks/faults/pathologies of human nature. They're not all like diabetes or allergies or blindness. They come in odd, subtle varieties, too, even mental ones. Some of them can be (or will) be "fixable" with a pill. Even the mental ones like HSP (assuming it is real, and not crap).

This simple fact makes people very uncomfortable. Who you are is alterable with a pill. That freaks people out, but it's just simple reality. Your brain is a chemical machine, so this should not be in the least bit surprising. Further, everything you see in human beings is ultimately attributable to something "physical," even the things that are all "in your head" like personality traits. Assuming we're talking science, and not mysticism.
posted by teece at 1:44 PM on April 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

my snowflake is more special than your snowflake.
posted by Stynxno at 1:46 PM on April 8, 2007

Some of them can be (or will) be "fixable" with a pill.
My general point here is that they shouldn't be fixed. Since when was deviating from the norm such an undesirable position. In fact, nobody is discussing the mysticism of the consciousness here.

Your general position seems to be that "fixing the mind" is a good thing. I hate the tyranny of the body beautiful and I hate the tyranny of the mind beautiful even more.
posted by seanyboy at 1:50 PM on April 8, 2007

I would have said that a lot of those statements are true of me before I started taking Lamictal and Strattera for Bipolar Type II. Now, I find that I'm signifigantly less bothered by the type of things listed, although I do still crave a low-stim enviorment (dim lights, clean, orderly place without too much in the way of furniture and decoration) from time to time. Makes me wonder, how much of what they're describing could be attributed to sub-clinical symptoms of things like ADHD and Bipolar Disorder rather than some fancy new syndrome?
posted by echolalia67 at 1:51 PM on April 8, 2007

I also like to sit in my closet.

How can you do that without constantly re-arranging your clothes?

I like your idea about over-exposing, seanyboy, but I'm not sure how to do it. Putting a hundred shoes in the middle of the floor wouldn't work, because it would be a clump, and clumps are fine. It's isolated objects that drive me nuts. I could place an isolated object in every room, but ... there already is one, pretty much always. More than one.

What I try over-and-over (I don't know why; it doesn't work, but I'm waiting for the day when, by magic, it suddenly will) is just exposing myself to it and ignoring it. The more I try, the more things build up until it feels like my head will explode.
posted by grumblebee at 1:51 PM on April 8, 2007

11. Boo! I'm totally normal. Once again. Damnit.

One day - ONE DAY - I'll have some sort of problem, and it'll be the best pseudo-psychological-physically-manifested health problem you guys ever saw!!!!!

And I'm going to make sure that the cure for it is chocolate.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:54 PM on April 8, 2007

But the knee-jerk reaction against it here is as a common as penny, and indicative of nothing.

I for one am happy to see the naysayers here. (Perhaps overly skeptical people are their own disorder?)

In any case, if it wasn't for them we'd all be a pack of rubes discussing the latest results of our Scientology stress tests and discussing the nature of Xenu.
posted by vacapinta at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2007

The HSP Store freaks me out.
posted by isopraxis at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm actually surprised at how much variance there is in the test results from people here.
posted by grumblebee at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2007

Yes, we need 10 skeptics for every 1 credulous person. alas, it's generally the other way around.
posted by grumblebee at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2007

Your general position seems to be that "fixing the mind" is a good thing.

Yup, affirmative, you bet. And I'm sure you would agree, if you were using the term "fix" in the same fashion as me.

If person X has a peronality trait/character flaw/moral weakness (pick your name), and it fucks with their life (a little, a lot, in between, who cares), even though it is the "norm," what is the problem with taking a pill that makes it fuck with their life less?


Yes, there are problems of diagnosis and side-effects and bad doctors and bad patients and etc., but all of that is beside the point.

In fact, nobody is discussing the mysticism of the consciousness here.

No, not directly. But lets say your head hurts -- you take a pill to lessen the headache. No big deal.

Now, let's say your "life" hurts because of an it's-all-in-your-head mental trait X. If a pill is available, and you take it, you find that your hurt is lessened. Medical doctors agree, via valid testing methods.

You have a knee-jerk reaction against that.

Doing so is attributing something mystical or quasi-mystical to the mind that you probably don't to the body, I suspect. Yes, you won't like me calling it mystical -- but I do on purpose. Because it gets your attention. I see very level-headed people, grounded in empirical methods, get all mushy and mystical when they start talking about psychology and pills.

posted by teece at 2:04 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, Asperger's is rather the opposite of the so-called Highly Sensitive Person. While the HSP, for instance, is acutely aware of environmental, social, and empathic cues, someone with Asperger's has difficulty recognizing social and emotional cues, like tone of voice or facial expressions, and responding appropriately. Both, however, may have trouble with being easily overly stimulated and unable to filter multiple stimuli.

(I scored a 22, by the by, but of course I knew that, since I'm highly sensitive.)
posted by pips at 2:09 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why are we so obsessed with cataloguing ourselves?
posted by humblepigeon at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2007

But if something is seriously affecting someone's lifestyle or happiness, I don't think telling them to "get over it" helps. They would if they could.

Not necessarily--not everyone works on themselves the way you do. And the discomfort of social stigma is a one of the tools people use to decide if the effort is worth it.

My discomfort with the naming everything as a syndrome or using the disease model is my concern that what lies behind it is the desire is to remove any personal responsibility from all human actions. I think sometimes when I hear someone say "I have condition XYZ" what I hear is "I have condition XYZ and you have to deal with it while I'm do nothing about it". Sometimes we work on ourselves, trying to improve, get along better, enrich our lives, other times we indulge our weaknesses and make excuses for ourselves. I'm not excluding myself.

There are crippling conditions, genetic or otherwise, that people have that they can't do anything about. Then there are behaviors and acts of volition, that people can fully control. And somewhere between there are tendencies, conditions and predilections that require management and understanding.
posted by tula at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2007

I should add, you can change "pill" to self-help* book or behavioral therapy or whatever in my last post. Any thing that makes someone's mind "better" is good, and pills are included in that. Judging better is hard, yes, harder than with physical ailments, but not impossible. But it's just plain wrong the way some people will trumpet the value of behavioral therapy (or other things) to treat a mental issue, but balk, and even be outright hostile, to the idea of a pill doing the same.

Even if the medical evidence is clearly in favor of the pill working, too. It's a lingering stigma with health and life issues of the mind that bugs me. Or maybe I'm just overly sensitive ;-)

* Yes, there are medically proven self-help books. They're rare, but they are out there. I'm talking about methods that are empirically proven, not Bob-Fly-By-Night Self Help Seminar. For instance, Burns' Feeling Good Handbook for the treatment of depression.
posted by teece at 2:14 PM on April 8, 2007

I agree with you 100%, teece. If something is bothering you about yourself and a fix exists, why not take it?

There are two complications:

1) peer pressure that leads people to "fix" aspects of themselves that aren't broken (other than the fact that they don't match some absurd ideal). I don't even have a totally negative feeling about this. I'd take a drug (if it didn't have serious side-effects) that would make me as smart as Einstein. But in real life, things don't always work this way. People get shamed into changing themselves in ways that don't necessarily make them happy or healthy.

2) Putting children on meds. Kids can't decide for themselves whether or not they're impaired or just eccentric. So specialists define what's healthy and then parents make decisions, based on what the specialists say. I can't think of a better system, and I DO think that a lot of good comes from this system, but it's not all good. Specialists are influenced by other forces besides pure science.
posted by grumblebee at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2007

1) I never take pain killers for headaches. That isn't the point, BUT YOU DON'T KNOW ME. :)

If person X has a peronality trait/character flaw/moral weakness (pick your name), and it fucks with their life a little then I've a huge problem with taking a pill to *fix* it.

I'm an argumentative bastard with huge issues about authority. I'm off the norm on this particular scale, but there's NO WAY IN HELL I'd want anyone who suffers that same mental anguish to take a pill for it.

The thing is, that once you draw a line which says {x} is normal then you're only a step away from trying to fix it. And once you fix everyone to that norm, it's game over. It's our differences which make the world such a marvelous and rich and fucked up place.

And in case you're thinking, "No, that could never happen. People will still be allowed to be different" then think again. The Homogenisation of the beauty industry pushes whole communities to try to make themselves identical in terms of size, shape and look. Your suggestion points along the same path.

I'm happy with the fucked up artists who've enriched my life and my slightly crazy friends who make my life fuller and more interesting.
posted by seanyboy at 2:18 PM on April 8, 2007

I know someone who has been a member of an HSP support group for several years. She says it's a relief to find others who understand what it's like and I can see how that would be true, but I don't see any improvement in what she describes as her symptoms. If anything I'd say she's gotten worse, back in the bad old days she'd have been described as "hysterical" and nowadays maybe as a hypochondriac. So grumblebee, I'm not at all sure you can be rid of it the way you're hoping to be.
posted by cali at 2:19 PM on April 8, 2007

Why are we so obsessed with cataloguing ourselves?

Because we're obsessed with cataloging everything. The brain is "wired" to find patterns.

I think sometimes when I hear someone say "I have condition XYZ" what I hear is "I have condition XYZ and you have to deal with it while I'm do nothing about it".


Bad: I have syndrome X.

Good: I have syndrome X, and here's what I'm doing about it. Or I have syndrome X, and I don't know what do do about it. Can you help me?

Bad: Get over it.

Good: Here's how you can get over it. Or I don't want to hear about your problems, whether you can get over it or not. (Not great, but at least it's honest.)
posted by grumblebee at 2:20 PM on April 8, 2007

This is basically a crappy, pseudosciency variant of Sensory Defensiveness, which is one type of Sensory Integration Dysfunction, as mentioned by Powerful Religious Baby.

Sensory Defensiveness is a common element in autism-spectrum disorders, although it can also happen by itself or as a result of PTSD, etc. I recommend the book "Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight" by Sharon Heller as a good guide for living with it. Sensory Defensiveness is not well known among most medical doctors or psychologists, which is apparently why crap like HSP gets some traction, but it's well understood by occupational therapists and many autism researchers.

I'm definitely sensory defensive, which makes many of my previously unexplainable behaviors actually make sense. Eye contact, rough clothing textures, too many conversations going on at once, certain food textures, and other things all overwhelm me and occaisionally cause me to shut down and become generally non-responsive while I have an anxiety attack (which is rather embarassing socially).

Anyway, check out Sensory Defensiveness if you match some of the stuff in that test. However, I REALLY fail to see how having a "rich, complex inner life" can possibly be seen as a bad thing.
posted by JZig at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

grumblebee: Exactly!
In that case the get-over-it people are just assholes.
posted by tula at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2007

I'd also like to add that psych-pills, although necessary in some cases, wreak a profound change on the mind. It isn't a case of making yourself 10% more happy. It's more like a giant roulette wheel you spin with a number of differing personalities on offer. "It's landed on personality z-9854. That's better than the personality you got with the last pill so we'll keep it. "
posted by seanyboy at 2:26 PM on April 8, 2007

I did a PsycINFO search on "highly sensitive person" and in terms of peer-reviewed work got the Arons' original 1997 article and three studies using their HSP scale. Nothing on fMRI work. I have to agree with myeviltwin that other researchers don't seem to have found it worth their while to further pursue that theory.
posted by needled at 2:26 PM on April 8, 2007

seanyboy, from my perspective it looks like you and teece are talking apples and oranges.

You're saying if something about you bothers SOMEONE ELSE, fuck 'em. You are under no obligation to change.

He's saying if something about you bothers YOU, why not fix it?

Sorry if I've misrepresented either of you.

I also realize that the distinction can be blurry. If I'm bothered because I'm "too fat", am I really bothered because I'm bothered or because I've been brainwashed into being being bothered?

Such issues must be grappled with by each person individually. But there is a difference between what people think of me and what I think of myself. And not everything I think about myself stems from peer pressure.

I also think you oversimplify by (only) blaming the fashion/beauty industry. If kids are brought up right, they can watch ads without succumbing to them.
posted by grumblebee at 2:28 PM on April 8, 2007

In that case the get-over-it people are just assholes.
Are you even paying attention?
posted by seanyboy at 2:29 PM on April 8, 2007

*rolls eyes*

Sounds like B.S. I mean obviously some people are emotionally sensitive, but I seriously doubt it correlates to different sensitivity to perceptory differences.
posted by delmoi at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2007

I took the test and got a 20. Sure, I've been labeled "sensitive" my whole life, but I'm not sure it's something that needs a medical-sounding description. Especially since a lot of the items on that test seem like things most people would have. I mean, who doesn't get stressed out by having a lot going on, or having to do twenty million things at once?

Eh. Not sure what I think about it yet.
posted by linuxlovemuffin at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2007

I agree, delmoi. I don't think I'm especially emotionally sensitive. I am hyper-sensitive to what I see, hear, taste and smell, but I don't see how that has any connection to my emotional life. If anything, it's emotionally blunting, because (for instance) my senses are heightened without being nuanced. I'm constantly upset over bad smells and tastes, but I'm not very perceptive about the differences between one wines. I hate too-loud or too-quiet noises, but that doesn't mean that -- if a sound is within my tolerance threshold -- I hear it in a "deeper" way than anyone else. I don't.

This is why I said earlier that I see ZERO positive traits to this syndrome.
posted by grumblebee at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2007

seanyboy: you seem to be fundamentally confusing something. Nobody is going to force you to take a pill in this country unless your are completely batshit insane.

I would not support that at all. You talk about a problem in the way people view mental illness and conformity etc. You do NOT talk about a problem with pills helping people.

Separate issues. Same with grumblebee's to provisos.

Here's a metaphorical analogy:
If you put wires with 120 volts of potential difference through your house, you can power lights and things.

That's my point.

Your point is this: but the wires can shock and kill people!

My retort: yes, they can. And we need to deal with that when we install and use these wires, and teach people about them.
But don't forget the wires (née pills) are very useful to us. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Pills can make people "better" in their heads, in very small ways and in very large ways, for minor things and for huge things. That's a fact. It's a very useful fact. You are wishing to ignore that fact to do away with the (possible) negative consequences of that fact. I don't want to ignore that fact: I want to explore it fully, so that society can use it to it's greatest benefit while minimizing or eliminating those negative consequences.

I don't want you to ever take a pill you don't want to. I also don't want you to be so vociferously negative about the reality that others will want to take psych-related pills.

I'd also like to add that psych-pills, although necessary in some cases, wreak a profound change on the mind. It isn't a case of making yourself 10% more happy. It's more like a giant roulette wheel you spin with a number of differing personalities on offer.

This is so broad a statement as to be meaningless.
posted by teece at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2007

You're saying if something about you bothers SOMEONE ELSE, fuck 'em. You are under no obligation to change. He's saying if something about you bothers YOU, why not fix it?

I'm saying that there's huge societal pressure to conform, and as long as the desired norm is represented as an ideal then people are going to try and mold themselves to that ideal. I'm saying the reason not to fix it is because for the most part it's the concept of an ideal that makes us want to change & to try and match that ideal is destructive.

teece is probably fine, but in his halcyon "drugs that work" reality what's actually going to happen is that every teenage girl from here to Sydney is gonna be buying the "Paris Hilton" personality. I object to that on an individual and societal level.
posted by seanyboy at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2007

From reading more about this stupid HSP thing, it looks like the definition of a Highly Sensitive Person is "someone who is sensory defensive, but also has low self-esteem, so has to be reminded all of the time that they're special".
posted by JZig at 2:38 PM on April 8, 2007

It would be interesting to hear from people who have read the book and did not relate to it or did not feel like it applied to them. I've skimmed through it twice, once in high school and once in college, and both times felt like it was written for/about me. But maybe it just captures feelings that almost everyone has?
posted by pril at 2:39 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

In that case the get-over-it people are just assholes.
Are you even paying attention?

Huh? I was having a little exchange with grumblebee, and being a bit ironic.
posted by tula at 2:40 PM on April 8, 2007

Because we're obsessed with cataloging everything. The brain is "wired" to find patterns.

Also, the brain is capable of understanding that it is wired to find patterns. Which means we can move on from pattern recognition to develop more complex fields such as mathematics - including analysis and statistics, neither of which I'm seeing much of in this site and thread.

As it is, all I see is fuzzy logic, feel-good inclusivity (you are not alone! there are others like you!), a profit motive and a lack of numbers. To me, these are not the characteristics of science - but more those of late-night infomercials.
posted by vacapinta at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sure, I've been labeled "sensitive" my whole life, but I'm not sure it's something that needs a medical-sounding description.

I'm hip with all the criticism in this thread. I'm interested in HSP, because it seems to describe me, but I'm very skeptical for many of the reasons already mentioned.

But I'm flummoxed by linuxlovemuffin's attitude. I don't want to pick on him (her?), and there's no need, because several people have said similar things.

It's fine if you find this particular theory to be bullshit, but it's odd to say "do we really need to look into a oft-noted pattern?"

Isn't that the heart of science? We observe patterns in the world, we develop theories about them (some good, some bad), and we gather evidence to support or refute those theories.

Maybe this isn't what you meant, linuxlovemuffin (and others), but it sounds like you're saying, "Do we really need to research everything?"

My answer is "yes," if we want to further humankind's body of knowledge.
posted by grumblebee at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2007

I scored 27, and there's no reason that anyone on metafilter should actually score less than that. Particularly those people who comment very rarely. mea culpa, I'm at this place right now because of the massive glarbled idiocy of the rest of the world (I have no need to be Harrison Bergeronified).
posted by oonh at 2:44 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm not against all psych-meds at all. It is you who is fundamentally confusing something.

Hence my quoted-by-you phrase "I'd also like to add that psych-pills, although necessary in some cases..."

Your electricity metaphor is plain insulting.

You miss my fundamental point that there is a desired behavioural construct from which any deviation is classified as abnormal. I do not believe this. Early on in this I spoke about a continuum of OCD.

You're asking (for example) if someone at the very un-OCDish end of this continuum should be allowed to take meds to move themselves to normality. It's a valid question, but it misses my whole point about the tightness of range of the percieved normality.

Ask yourself this. Should I be allowed to go to a doctor for psychotherapeutic drugs which would give me OCD? If I wanted OCD - to see what it was like. By your logic, I should be allowed to do this. Drugs to make me more sociopathic so I have a better chance of making it in business?

I would say no. Libertarian issues aside, people should be discouraged from doing this.

In fact I see this as less bad than the nightmare you're proposing. Get the under-classes hooked on meds that make the bleak nothingness of cubicle life and a brave new world more bearable. No ta.
posted by seanyboy at 2:49 PM on April 8, 2007

Now I'm all drunk and ready to fight and starting to insult people. I'm leaving this thread to the bright and the careful.
posted by seanyboy at 2:51 PM on April 8, 2007

The test itself is rather malleable, like the majority of similar crude checkbox tests, since it depends on what you decide each question is relative to (i.e. your estimation of normal, in your current mood, filtered by your preconcieved desired outcome). Which renders the test useless for even hinting at a kind of diagnosis. At best these tests can show you things you probably aren't, if you are an edge case who barely registers at all. (for example, I could score myself anywhere between low-medium and high just by playing with interpretations of the questions).

I am fascinated though, by the massive growth of identification of heavily overlapping mental disorders. Simplifying somewhat, each disorder is categorised by symptoms defined by key spectrums (which themselves overlap) like introversion->extroversion, apathy->compulsion, etc. But because many disorders overlap so much with others, one individual's complex pattern of symptoms (or personality traits, as you prefer) will often fit many disorders' criteria; to quote grumblebee, "Aspergers? OCD? ADD? HSP? Just a fucking nutcase?"

I suspect that for the majority of reasonably-functioning people this approach to self-improvement is next to useless; a naive, reductionist view of the human mind, based on an uncritical model of mental health long overdue for obsolescence.

Its easy to be a critic though, unfortunatley I don't have any great solutions or anything. But I suspect moving beyond this crumbling artifice of a model of mental health will require abandoning the idea of trying to file individuals away in neat disorder categories, and moving toward a new way of modelling disorder, that embraces ambiguity, complexity and individuality. At the very least, it'd be nice to have an approach that doesn't tell everyone they're ill, broken, and unnormal.

I also wonder if it wouldn't be kinda easy to overturn existing thinking with some broad-based, large-scale experiments and attentive data-mining by some stats wizards, to show that the current approach of attempting to place people in neat categories is statistically bogus, and looking more closely at what is normal: general distributions and variations of spectrum scoring, and analysis of different testing procedures. Or maybe there are loads of people working on this, I haven't really looked into it.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think I just heard someone say "thud"
that's the last comment. I promise.
posted by seanyboy at 2:57 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm saying the reason not to fix it is because for the most part it's the concept of an ideal that makes us want to change & to try and match that ideal is destructive.

My problem is with you're phrase "for the most part."

I agree with you that societal pressure is a horrible, horrible thing. But it's like you've become a single-issue politician. Yes, people take pills for bad reasons. No, that doesn't mean that taking pills is bad.

Do you think that ALL unhappiness stems from societal pressure? If we took away these pressures and everyone felt free to be whoever they wanted to be, do you think they'd be happy?

If so, I disagree. Social pressure is a HUGE source of unhappiness, but it's one of many huge sources. I've been a loner (by choice) most of my life. I've rarely been upset about my social standing; I've rarely cared about what other people thought of me. Still, I've often been deeply unhappy. And I've known quite a few others like me.

As we evolved, we've become biologically hardwired to get upset about certain things. Are you saying that if someone finds it upsetting that voices tell him to kill himself, that's just peer pressure and he should learn to live with it?

Yes, sometimes people get misdiagnosed and prescribed drugs they don't need. Yes, sometimes people are drugged for just being eccentric. But not everyone.

Most of the people I know who are on meds are on them because, without the meds, they can't get out of bed in the morning or they hear scary voices. Are you seriously saying that scary voices that tell you to kill yourself are normal and if you think otherwise you've been duped by society?

Also, and here's the part where you'll most likely disagree, we're programmed to be social creatures.

Let's say that I realize that I AM upset about some aspect of myself purely due to peer pressure. Surely what I should try to do is to rationally weigh the costs and benefits of different solutions. (With professional help, if I can't be rational about it on my own.)

MAYBE I should learn to live with it and realize that I don't have to be like everyone else to be happy. MAYBE -- in this instance -- it would be easier to just fix the problem.

Should I go on a starvation diet because all me friends are doing it? No. Should I say "thank you" to the host of a party because everyone else is doing it? Yes.

Should I wear certain clothes because everyone else is doing it? Maybe. It depends what will make me happiest.

Like you, I want to live in a diverse world. But I don't think it's anyone's personal responsibility to sacrifice themselves to make it diverse.

And though it's commonplace (amongst liberals who came out of the 60s) to complain that everything is becoming homogenized, that's not true. Historically, this is one of the most individualistic times ever. People are still "sheep" in many ways, but that will always be the case. But if you want to see REAL human sheep, get a time machine and travel back to the middle ages.
posted by grumblebee at 3:01 PM on April 8, 2007

to grumblebee:

Maybe this isn't what you meant, linuxlovemuffin (and others), but it sounds like you're saying, "Do we really need to research everything?"

That wasn't really what I meant, but I don't think I expressed myself all that well in that comment I made either. I more meant to agree with the people whose pseudoscience-sense was tingling. There just seemed something off about it.

I've got no problem with people researching whatever they want. The more the merrier. But something about this particular concept of HSP bugged (maybe it's the name, which is kinda hokey, or perhaps it's something else, I'm not sure), and that's all I really meant to say.

You might want to look into if you have something like Sensory Integration Disorder or Asperger's, if you think you have those. I've known a fair number of people with them, at least online.
posted by linuxlovemuffin at 3:15 PM on April 8, 2007

Are these people really overgrown Indigo Children?
posted by LarryC at 3:22 PM on April 8, 2007

22 on that test. Though it's hard to tell where some of these things come from ... the excessive startle reaction, for myself, anyway, could just be the PTSD. As could the semi-panic attacks from busy/noisy situations. And the withdrawn, shy demeanor. Uhm, really, quite a bit of it could be.

Plus, "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" sounds way cooler than "Highly Sensitive Person".
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:22 PM on April 8, 2007

No worries, folks. There is no "pill" that will change your core personality traits, like whether you're an introvert or extrovert, as yet. Studies have shown that even babies, for instance, are one or the other (introvert or extrovert); in long term studies, these findings remain consistent as well. It's, therefore, something of a mute argument. Evolution, one might theorize, has allowed for a variety of approaches to the world and ways of interacting that influence the populations' survival as a whole. We can, none-the-less, adapt, to the best of our abilities (martini, please).

(Plus, I've met you grumblebee, and I found you quite charming.)
posted by pips at 3:42 PM on April 8, 2007


Hey I am sorry to know you are in trouble, hope somebody will be able to help you reduce them.

What I have understood so far :

1. light, sound, sensory stimuli must be "exactly fine" with you or you will feel _compelled_ (compulsory action, can't help it) to adjust it

2. when you are focusing your attention on something (reading book requires focusing, "concentrating" attention to a single object for some time)
a. if you become aware of something, you attention is immediately captured by it
b. you are compelled to do something about it

Does that happen only when you are trying to focus ? Like, imagine you are on the subway and you are just riding..what if the recepits lies on the floor BUT you were not reading nor really trying to focus on anything ?

What would be your sequence of toughts or sequence of sensations ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:59 PM on April 8, 2007

22. This resonates with me: high stress levels; problems coping with crowds; introverted behaviour; feeling overstimulated in certain contexts; flipping out when bosses look over my shoulder; many other examples. (Nothing remotely resembling OCD, which I have encountered.)

My instant reaction is not that this is a syndrome or condition that needs treating, but that this describes a cluster of behaviours that a lot of us recognize as a package. The problem is that this package is usually deemed outside the boundaries of normal behaviour -- i.e., I'm overreacting to things that, if I were "normal," wouldn't get to me. Suck it up and all that. I know how I work; it's been a challenge to get other people to accept it. Maybe that's all that's needed.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:04 PM on April 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Does that happen only when you are trying to focus ?

Interesting. I never thought about that before, and it's hard to tell with me, because I'm pretty much always trying to focus on something (my wife jokes that I don't know how to "just be").

It's certainly worse when I'm trying to focus.

(Plus, I've met you grumblebee, and I found you quite charming.)

Thanks, pips. That's nice to hear.

I wouldn't call myself charming, but I do think that if you problem that can manifested itself socially, you owe it to other people to find a way to deal with those manifestations. Sometimes that's impossible, but you have to at least try.
posted by grumblebee at 4:27 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee, interesting post. Thanks. I think it took balls to talk about your issues here, I respect your honesty and courage in doing so.

Though I'm not an HSP, I've known a number of people who are, Recently I had a stroke and for a few months I had a lot of HSP traits. Everything was too much, lights, sounds. Had to take life incredibly slowly and carefully. It seems plain to me that HSP traits may well be related to any number of neurological or psychological conditions or situations.

It's maddening the idiots who think that when someone doesn't have the exact same mindset as they do, makes them entitled to say "get over it" or "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" or any such unempathic, narrow-minded, uneducated, blindered bullshit. I used to be an idiot like that, until I experienced clinical depression and couldn't "just get over it" or pull myself up by imaginary, non-existent bootstraps or any other such malarcky. Nothing like learning about things the hard way, it's humbling.

In any case, there's info to back up that the HSP concept isn't merely some ugly, pseudo-science, denigration used for "weak people".

Environmental sensitivity [pdf]

Luvox (an anxiety/compulsivity med).

People with Asperger's who are highly sensitive.

Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast. Book.

Cortisol has a role in Highly Sensitive People.

Sensory defensive disorder.

The Sensory Processing Disorder.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction, treatment.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD on Wikipedia.
posted by nickyskye at 4:35 PM on April 8, 2007 [6 favorites]

This (HSP) sounds to me very much like what used to be termed neurasthenia. As the linked Wiki article states:
[19th c. neurologist G.M.] Beard's definition of "neurasthenia" described a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, impotence, neuralgia and depression. Americans were supposed to be particularly prone to neurasthenia, earning it the nickname of "Americanitis" by William James. It was explained as being a result of exhaustion of the central nervous system's energy reserves, which Beard attributed to civilization. Physicians of the Beard way of thinking associated neurasthenia with the stresses of urbanization and the pressures placed on the intellectual class by the increasingly competitive business environment. Typically, it was associated with upper class individuals in sedentary employment.
Hands up, and roll away from the keyboard, posters!
posted by rob511 at 4:38 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm technically an HSP, having scored 16. I wish I were less "sensitive," and I'm probably not the only one. FWIW. Maybe there's a reason those rooms are dark, quiet and padded.
posted by davy at 5:16 PM on April 8, 2007

grumblebee, I'm the poster child, too, without being a carbon copy of you, of course.

I appreciate quiet things very, very much. Subtle things. (Okay, and Elvis Costello, too, but not too loud. I had to wear earplugs even at his concerts.) I appreciate listening to different bird songs and identifying the signals and communication processes they are going through. I don't like to be moved at high speed, either. I like to note every detail and appreciate it, hence my love of canoeing. I wish motors had never been invented. When that shithead starts his Harley a couple houses down, all the birds fly away from my yard at once. I hope he whips around a gorgeous corner and crashes into a rockface and dies, and I will smile when I read about it in the paper. Or perhaps a head-on twofer, in which he takes out some loudcarpunk who hasn't pissed in the gene pool yet. (Never said I was necessarily emotionally sensitive, dammit.) I was born for another time. If we lived on the savannah still, my hearing would be useful, because I'd be the one hearing any creature coming first. I don't watch TV or put up with audio advertising, and I rarely play music that is at all loud, so the world in general is far too loud and jangly for me. If I did just get used to this fucked up world, it would be blocking out or deadening myself to the things that are important to me. I'd rather not.

If some people can be supertasters and have more taste buds than others, it strikes me that people can have different amounts of neural material and different sensitivity of it. Sensitivity can be good, but in this world, not so much. Clearly we have different physiological vulnerabilities in many other areas, many of which have been identified by genetics. I think poo-pooing nerve sensitivity can be put down to a bias because it goes against everything western culture stands for, everything most people enjoy: louder, faster, harder. Oh, and more dangerous, too, please.

It's a long time since I read that book, so I couldn't comment on that in detail, but I thought she had done some population studies on objective different responses. Shrug.
posted by Listener at 5:28 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I just got one.
Sensitive about environmental changes.
posted by Balisong at 5:55 PM on April 8, 2007

Scored 15.

>It goes against everything western culture stands for, everything most people enjoy: louder, faster, harder.
I went to a Maple Leafs game for the first time in twenty years. I loooooooovvvvvvvvvved the sound of the skates cutting into the ice and the puck hitting the sticks, but aiee, bombarded with the flashing adverts, music exploding at full volume, smelling hot dogs and beer and faux-buttered popcorn. Eeesh. I felt ill by the second period.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:06 PM on April 8, 2007

Ugh, but I wish I hadn't bothered to read about this today. Buncha psychobabble.

what's your point, phil? Just shitting on me? Fuck you.
posted by Listener at 6:22 PM on April 8, 2007

Great, now the internet is going to become awash with self-diagnosed HSPers, just like it was when Asperger's was popularized.
posted by Falconetti at 6:23 PM on April 8, 2007

6 here. But I see jonmc and myeviltwin at 5 and PeterMcDermott with a 3. I am the hothouse violet of the insensitive set.
posted by jfuller at 6:32 PM on April 8, 2007

I was sensitive and prone to overstimulation when young, but over the years overcame a lot of the negative aspects while holding onto the positive.

While no longer distasteful, the environments that many people seem to need for stimulation (clubs, e.g.) still sort of paralyze me. But I can now drink coffee without having flashbacks.

Certainly a lot of us found ourselves seeming remote or "shy" at parties, and never really understood what was going on. On the flip side, the ecstasy of listening to fine music more than repays.
posted by Twang at 6:44 PM on April 8, 2007

Another bipolar type two here, who identified with what this woman was talking about.

I just figure people like us are wired a bit differently. For me it is an advantage, being an artist and songwriter. And I can read people like a book.

But I am also easily overwhelmed by too much noise and action. Take me to Joe's Crab Shack and I'm a blithering mess in minutes. (If you have never been to one, it is the most overstimulating restaurant you can imagine.) Another local restaurant went from my worst nightmare to a pleasant place to dine, simply because they decluttered their wall decor.

I think this condition does exist. It's simply another set of traits, like skin color, eye color, and height.
posted by konolia at 6:57 PM on April 8, 2007

I'm not sure if it's a very well disciplined science, but I score 27, or 100%

With the modifiers of "stimuli I don't enjoy" "stimuli I'm not in control of" or especially "loud, unpleasant stimuli I wasn't expecting" where appropriate.

Because paradoxically I love being overwhelmed with stimuli I've selected or enjoy.

"Flashing lights, sounds, colors, designed to produce[...]"

Nice music, big nice loud soundsystem = good.

Nice music, nice big overdriven, badly tuned or too loud soundsystem = sheer unbridled compulsive terror. All the way to the point that I've physically forced my way into sound booths and mixing board stations to very energetically and vocally force them to tune their gear right on the pain of pain.

Very bad music, any soundsystem = I will ask you to stop. Rudely. I can't help it. I'm sorry. Or I'll actually put earplugs in, which I carry with me everywhere for this and other reasons. Or I'll just leave, which is usually the best option. I can tolerate nearly any reasonably good music, but if it's sheer disposable crap pop music of any genre I will become very upset.

I've said this before in AskMe: I can hear the difference between a 44.1 Khz CD and a 48 Khz DAT, as well as other sample rates. On most consumer CD players (without fancy supersampling or DSPs) I can actually hear the resolution of the sample grain on a standard redbook CD like a high, whiny sandy hiss and it drives me fucking crazy. I don't really care if you don't believe me or that you think that it's physically impossible - I thought so too. But I live with it, and know it to be true. I've tested it many times.

I actually seem to prefer nicely compressed files because the chunky artifacts and encoding errors seem to break up the constant whine of a standard redbook CD.

Also, I see more colors than most. Discerning between fractional Pantone shades in nearly any light is child's play. I can easily identify individual colors in a 24 or 32 bit color space, and I think I can safely say that I could probably do the same in a theoretical extended-gamut 48 or 64 bit color space.

I know all this because I actually have applied these skills in various graphics-related jobs. I was always the go-to guy for a difficult color match, able to call out which values to add or subtract in either CMYK or RGB to get as close as possible.

So, yeah. Sensitive.

But there's more to "sensitivity" or senses in general than one would imagine, and it certainly isn't an automatic pre-qualifier for any sort of special specialness or anything. Fuck that.

There aren't really any direct or linear ramps or discrete systems to anything in the human system. We're very complicated systems that interact in highly complex ways internally but also externally with the environment.

The variables, as they say, are unquantifiable, and despite how much you'd like to believe that your mind and thoughts are independent of your environment you'd be terribly mistaken. Everything from your diet to light to specific frequencies or tempos of sound and music alter you like a drug, and there's well known, hard sciences that describe these things, fields of science from abstract psychology to neurochemistry and neurobiology, and fields that haven't even been formalized yet.

It is the core of what makes music and art so powerful to us - it is software. It is drug, or plugin, or patch for the brain and psyche that we intentionally modify ourselves with - and in so doing, we may invoke or evoke memories or thoughts or modes of emotion.

So. More refined sensory organs or a more sensitive CNS is one thing, but it won't do any good unless there's increased cognitive capacity to process it.

Sensitivity is a direct function of intelligence. The more intelligent you are, the more you can parse, process, replay, model, synthesize and otherwise experiment with your senses and integrated thought processes. This also leads to new ways of sensing things, direct hacks and observational skills above and beyond the biological.

I am (humbly) a very intelligent human being, as far as "intelligence" as defined as "pattern recognition sensitive". I hover on the edge of a sort of autistic response to pattern recognition, spatial thinking and visualization that overwhelms me just about once a day, if not more.

None of this makes me wise, productive, functional or useful. That takes a great deal of work elsewhere, in different modalities of thought and self-awareness and socialness. Painfully learned softskills.

But pattern recognition requires no training for me and people like me. It just happens. Patterns light up in day-glo neon with big flashing arrows pointing at them. With these inexplicable mental "tags", I spot anomalies, errors, as well as the unusual, beautiful or interesting in a similar manner as well.

I'm the one who finds the smouldering cigarette and prevents a fire because I could smell it from two houses away because of the smell of melting synthetic upholstery batting. I noticed it because it smelled "wrong". I note when the specks of dust change on my desk. I become easily ensorceled by Brownian motion and fractal behaviors.

The older I get and the more I learn and the more patterns I detect and manipulate and analyze in my mind, the sum total of the quantity, type, scope and scale of easily detectable patterns grows by orders of magnitudes - not unlike complicated many-to-many vector networks - not unlike the very neural networks that are our brains.

And that's probably part of it - networks of neurons. Doing the pattern recognition thing, this game of intelligence, wires and rewires the brain itself like a hyperactive switchboard. Successful, productive "routes" are saved and noted for later and combined with other previously existing routes, making even further new tools for recognizing patterns. In particularly engrossing situations, I can "feel" this stuff happening many hundreds or thousands of times per second.

Now, if I've begun to irritate you by way of the depths of these recursions, the dithering or diversion, or the complexity of the experiences and thought models or intensities that I've described - it is intentional and meant to give you a taste of what I go through as a self-described excessively sensitive person.

Because that's what my existence is like all the time. Except instead of one channel of singular monologue, imagine sometimes several channels or a half dozen channels of endlessly streaming linguistic thought interacting with each other and many more channels of ceaselessly chattering sub linguistic, symbolic or abstracted thought.

Yeah, I hear voices. It's called consciousness and self-awareness and the virus of symbolic language and the very backbone of thinking itself.

So, intelligence supports, augments and is part and parcel of sensitivity.

But that still doesn't mean the extra-sensitive person "sees" correctly. If the pattern recognition skills of a given person aren't tuned or receptive to, say, facial expressions, there will be a net deficit in face-to-face social functionality.

Worse, if the pattern recognition sensitivity is tuned to something inappropriate or destructively interfering, said "intelligent" pattern recognition sensitivity actually will add "noise" to whatever tasks or functions are at hand. Because whatever isn't "signal" usually ends up being "noise", even in the most dynamic systems.

And speaking from experience, I don't really have much control over which modalities of pattern recognition will be applied when or where, but there's latitudes of "tuning" rather than say a true "switching".

Given that lack of control over the sensitivity, I'm not surprised by the number of people who are overwhelmed by vastly different things.

To close: there's some science in there, but it's not very rigorous or dynamic or holistic. Worst case they're on an interesting path or tack.
posted by loquacious at 7:06 PM on April 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

>what's your point, phil? Just shitting on me? Fuck you

Egads. I thought I was agreeing with you. Apologies for quoting you.
posted by philfromhavelock at 7:18 PM on April 8, 2007

Thank you for posting this Grumblebee. I have always known I was a hypersensitive person with a brain that processed differently than most. Now I know I am an HSP! I am smiling here.

I prefer JUST being hypersensitive.

As a child I am sure I had alot of issues with this, but...hey...that was then and this is now. For most of my adult life, I came to see my hypersensitivity and unusual brain processing as a "gift" of sorts. Granted, I am an extrovert, and that single trait made it easier for me to "fit in". ( I do NOT discount hypersensitive introverts' additional burdens.) And to those not hypersensitive? The last in parenthesis comment is an example of just how a hypersensitive's mind works. Multiply that tens of times over in a single day. Hypersensitives notice and think about what most do not, while wishing they didn't notice SO much.

The key question on that test was the one that many made fun of....the question about having a "rich, complex inner life". Now THAT question speaks TOTALLY to self-esteem.

When we feel good about ourselves, we can handle being different than most. When we feel bad about ourselves we do silly things....and I believe this is when seanyboy comes back for another last comment?

I introduce to you...SEAN...e, my boy! Go for it, son! I am with you tonight.
posted by Penny Wise at 7:37 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

I notice that many here are assuming that "HSP" is being marketed by Ms. Aron as pathological, something to be treated. However, it seems clear from the linked website that she is presenting HSP not as a disorder, but as a perfectly normal personality trait shared by a fair sized minority of the population. She's not saying that being an HSP is inherently troublesome, but that society's lack of understanding and acceptance for that personality trait can cause problems for HSPs.

I don't know about the numbers and research cited, but from a purely personal standpoint I can say that my own personality traits fit those that Ms. Aron describes to a "T", and yes, it sometimes does result in clashes with persons with different personality types who assume that their own type os superior in some way.
posted by mahamandarava at 7:50 PM on April 8, 2007

I scored only slightly higher than jonmc, making me only slightly more sensitive than a toilet seat. I am about as sensitive as toilet paper.

Now where is the self-evaluation to find out if I'm more like the ass-scratching stuff in a public restroom, or if I have the luxurious quality of Charmin?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:20 PM on April 8, 2007

mahama, what is being discussed has nothing to do with superior or inferior, better or worse. Or at least I hope not.

Personally, I was put off by her "test", but really turned on by the fact that some scientific study was going into her theory, as was loquatious.

If you hang out on the internet long enough, you more than likely see EVERYTHING as marketing.....because percentage wise, it is sadly so.

Hypersensitives hope to have enough time to check out fact from fiction and wheat from SILO after SILO of chaff. Sad truth, we don't have the time, nor the willingness after awhile. We get sidetracked by the din of coins crashing....theorhetically, of course.

The reason I loved the study so much was because it spoke to hypersensitives seeing some context to all this bullshit.

We are here to make you look good,....for now, anyway.
posted by Penny Wise at 8:33 PM on April 8, 2007

Nope. I think it's that Highly Sensitives can now claim to be a Natural Aristocracy, so much more refined by nature than hoi polloi, instead of the whining wusses we really are. And maybe to make ourselves seem even more l33t and f33t some of us may take to mincing around with parasols to shield us from the too-bright sun and sporting designer-labelled hearing protecters against those chittering crickets. What's the point in being ever so superior in discernment if in deportment we may be confused with those who view Judge Judy reruns?
posted by davy at 9:16 PM on April 8, 2007

Consider too the kind of invidious distinction already made between some tabloid celebrity who gets to be a "self-medicating bipolar" unlike that crazy wino on Market treet. What criteria will we use to make the difference between HSPs and ordinary neurotics clear? Will they include an absence of added aroma, perhaps? "Even unscented castile soap is too much for my delicate nose dear, I bathe in nothing but pure distilled water." (Translation: "I smell like a wet hog because I'm better than you.")

And a too-bright sun, I said? Heh, a full moon is too bright for me, obvious lunacy aside. Protect me, jonmc!
posted by davy at 10:21 PM on April 8, 2007

lol It would take someone like jonmc to protect u davy after what u said!

This is what you need to know. Most hypersensitives have figured out a way to deal with their "gifts". Periodically, hypersensitives even learn to say "fuck YOU" Not so often though, cause we deal in context, bigger picture issues.
posted by Penny Wise at 10:59 PM on April 8, 2007

I scored 34

and a half.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:02 PM on April 8, 2007

5. I am a muddy, battered, combat boot of a person.

posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:58 PM on April 8, 2007

This trait ... has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait)

Four seconds on Pubmed shows that this claim is false.
posted by dgaicun at 12:35 AM on April 9, 2007

127; I make a point to avoid junk science quizzes in real life and on the Web.
posted by ed at 1:53 AM on April 9, 2007

(who, other than those with low self-esteem, answers no to "I have a rich,complex inner life."

Ummm....extraverts? My life with other people is rich and complex. My inner life consists mostly of wishing I didn't spend so much damn time on Metafilter.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:20 AM on April 9, 2007

You have indicated that 26 of the items are true of you

Wow. This doesn't even touch pseudoscience. What's the term? Schlock? Self-diagnosis based on arbitrary, insubstantial evidence. There are legions of books like these in the stores; make yourself feel better based on nothing! If any of it were close to true, I'd have developed telekinesis by now.

"We Psychologists" Oooohhhhh..... I'm impressed.
posted by mr_book at 5:40 AM on April 9, 2007

A belated Thank You to grumblebee for posting this thread. It's damn nice to know I'm not the only one out there. If it's bullshittery to others, so be it. 44 years in my skin says it isn't, and who *doesn't* feel better knowing there are others like them, regardless of the attribute? Cheers, HSP's.
posted by yoga at 5:52 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Grumblebee is evidently being annoyed by what he lives as a compulsory condition..interestingly GB you say
because I'm pretty much always trying to focus on something (my wife jokes that I don't know how to "just be").
I'd underline _trying_ to focus. For instance, when I read or study I am annoyed by wispering, chatting, squeaky doors..but their frequency and intensity is also relevant...if they happen every now and then, I will not pay much attention.

It seems to me GB is annoyed by "the shoe" the way I would be annoyed by a roomful of people talking while I am trying to read a book : so much I would leave the room. Yet interestingly in some situations I found the book subject to be so interesting I was almost oblivious to others, until the sound grew over a certain level at which point I just can't focus.

I think it would pay to understand why you don't _always_ reset the seat, adjust the volume, do whatever. I'd try to notice concomitant circumstances ( would you be bothered if there was an odd shoe in a closet nobody can see ?) ..sometimes the difference are so evident we discard them ...for instance doing that only at night, at not during the day.
posted by elpapacito at 8:21 AM on April 9, 2007

I scored 27, and there's no reason that anyone on metafilter should actually score less than that.

Please to explain. I was surprised no one took that bait.

grumblebee: I'm pretty much always trying to focus on something (my wife jokes that I don't know how to "just be").

Someone mentioned it above. Try meditation. Read some koans. Yoga, etc. Learning how to notice everything you are sensing, register it, and let it go has been an essential life tool for me.

I've felt "too sensitive for this world" most of my life. Not exactly the same thing as HSP, but similar. It has gotten *much* better since meditation. I don't talk about it much at all, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case it might help anyone.

I scored a 15, btw. I thought the "test" was highly subjective. But maybe that was the point.

I would have scored higher, but I LOVE loud music done right. Done wrong (scuzzy sound system blasting Boot Scoot Boogie) and I become physically ill. I think there's something "sensitive" in being able to appreciate details in a wall of reverb. I've seen some amazingly great noise bands in student ballrooms and small bars/clubs. Usually alone. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:34 AM on April 9, 2007

I'm always fascinated by the debate between snowflakes and toilet seats. Extroverts are always saying, "If your experience of the world isn't exactly like mine, you're a fucking whiner." Introverts are generally forced to live by the extrovert's rules, because they're not wired to fight. Earth to the extroverts: every human being is unique and therefore experiences the world in a unique way. Get over it.
posted by divrsional at 11:10 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

divrsional, US culture (and perhaps some other -- but not all -- cultures) favors extroversion, but I think you're being a bit unfair. For every extrovert that thinks people like me to to get over their special-snowflakeness, there's an introvert who thinks extroverts need to stop being so superficial.

It's a huge problem that PEOPLE can't understand or appreciate other mindsets, but it's not just an extrovert problem.


elpapacito, thanks for coaxing me to specify and debug. Having thought more about it, I think I'm only bothered by out-of-place shoes when I'm trying to focus on something specific (besides the shoe). So you're right. Everyone has focus-killers. But for me, they are much more subtle than for "normal" people. (I can't pay attention to a movie in a theatre if someone is quietly whispering. This is true if I can hear the whisper at all. Even if it's so quiet that I can't make out the words.)

You'd think this would be easy for me to figure out, but, like I said, I'm not a sit-by-the-water-and-zen-out kind of guy. When I sit by the water, I focus on a seagull or something. And if there's a twig out in the middle of the water, I have trouble focusing on the seagull.

My daily schedule is usually something like this: get up and watch TV or listen to talk-radio while dressing and eating; listen to my iPod (usually an audio book) while I walk to the subway; read a book while on the subway; iPod again for walk from subway to work; I work as a programmer, writer and teacher, so while I'm at work, there's always something or someone very specific to focus on; after work, I repeat the iPod/book/subway thing on the way home; home is about talking to spouse, reading or watching TV until bed; if I'm in bed but can't sleep, I listen to an audiobook.

All the above activities are accompanied by -- and interrupted by -- environmental adjustments (e.g. moving shoes) to make the activities possible.

I'm pretty miserable if my mind isn't continually focused on something. I've been told by a gazillion people to mediate, and I'm trying. My problem is that, while focusing on breathing or a mantra, I continually have to get up and move something, or (if I close my eyes so I can't see my environment) adjust some body part or article of clothing that's bothering me. I've heard that this stuff is normal when you first start meditating, so I'll stay with it.

Oh, and a shoe in a closet doesn't bother me at all. (Unless I'm in the closet with the shoe.) My wife wonders why, since I'm so obsessed with stray objects, I'm such a slob. But it has nothing to do with neatness. I don't care whether my apartment is messy or neat (at least in terms of this discussion). I just care about tiny visual, tactile, audible, etc. distractions when I'm trying to concentrate.
posted by grumblebee at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2007

Throughout 1988 and 1989, I had a picture of Morrissey in my locker. Am I in?
posted by everichon at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2007

Snark aside, I recognize the traits in the OP and ensuing discussion as my own. Count me as one of those leery of any attempt to reify that set of traits into a Thing that maybe even needs Treatment. That's not to say it's not subject to little-t treatment, which in my case amounts to knowing what works for me and judicious application of beer and wine.

That said, it is fun commiserating with fellow highly-strung wussyfolk, and I appreciate the lot of you.
posted by everichon at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You put me down, grumblebee, where do you think you're moving me¿
Loved your shoe story. It was moving.

] oh come on, it was irresistable [
posted by alicesshoe at 10:13 PM on April 9, 2007

I think I get some of this too, but it's odd since at various times I can tune just about everything out. I often focus on small, subtle details of something, particularly when I find them supremely beautiful or elegant.

And then there's stuff like alicesshoe's upside-down question marks that stick in my craw and make me want to hit something.

loquacious's pattern-matching stuff made me think of how whenever I see a pattern of wallpaper or tile, I simply *have to* scan it visually until I can see exactly where it repeats. I enjoy doing it but it's an obsession, and I can usually crack a pattern in a handful of seconds (if that), at which point I get a little internal frisson of glee. If I have cause to look at ceiling tiles for any length of time (such as at the dentist, or in my dorm room in college), you can bet I'll have the tiles all figured out quickly. ("This one is rotated 90 degrees clockwise from the Reference Tile, this one 180, that one 270").

I find the backlash against this concept both amusing and disturbing. It's like some people are feeling threatened or something. So very odd.
posted by beth at 3:58 AM on April 10, 2007

The criteria for HSP don't describe me, but they do describe my boyfriend incredibly well. I'm going to check out some of the recommended reading in this thread.

Thanks, grumblebee, for the post and continued insightful comments.
posted by limeonaire at 5:00 AM on April 10, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed -- stop with all the "fuck you"-ing and/or take it to metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:48 PM on April 11, 2007

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