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Are my symptoms related to my High Sensitivity?

We often talk about high sensitivity in terms of psychological, emotional, and behavioral traits, but it’s so much more than that. High sensitivity is fundamentally a unique way our body functions, which can sometimes lead to physical disturbances. Let's dive into how certain everyday physical problems might be linked to your sensitivity.


HSP physical symptoms

Neuroscience and High Sensitivity

First things first, let's clear the air. Neuroscience has given us a solid understanding of high sensitivity and its related symptoms. These insights aren't just whimsical ideas - they're backed by science. So, if someone suggests that your experiences are "all in your head," feel free to share this knowledge with them!


The unique wiring of Highly Sensitive People

Research shows that highly sensitive people (HSPs) have a distinctive neurosensory system, meaning our brains and bodies respond differently to stimuli compared to the majority. This isn't abnormal—think of it like having freckles or red hair. It’s just a unique trait.


Our sensory systems capture more detailed and intense information because our "filter system" isn't as selective. Imagine our sensory filter as a spaghetti strainer compared to a coffee filter—everything passes through in much more detail. This heightened perception makes our experiences more nuanced and intense, but it also means we can get overstimulated more easily.


The Nervous System: The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic players

To understand how this affects us, we need to look at our autonomic nervous system, which is divided into the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS). 


- SNS: Think of this as your body’s accelerator. It kicks in during stressful situations, preparing you to fight or flee. It's our accelerator pedal, so to speak. It activates to speed up your heart rate, deliver more blood to areas of your body that need more oxygen or other responses to help you get out of danger. The SNS also signals the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. On the other hand, the SNS slows down all functions that are not necessary for survival, such as digestion and elimination.

  

- PNS: This is your body’s brake. It controls physiological processes during ordinary situations. It is responsible for rest, relaxation and cell regeneration. It stimulates the digestive system, slows our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. It is ultimately the warrant of health, healing, digestion, immunity, reproduction, tissue growth and repair, and ultimately elimination


You will ask me: "What does this have to do with high sensitivity?"

Well, the autonomic nervous system of highly sensitive people is more easily and more often in sympathetic mode than parasympathetic. Oops!

Yes… Oops because if we spend more time in the SNS and not enough time in the PNS mode, this could have consequences on our health or well-being.


Common issues linked to High Sensitivity

So let’s look at the different issues that can result from the different functioning of our neurosensory system…and the hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system.


A quick side note before continuing: Before attributing any symptoms that I am going to list to your high sensitivity, first consult your GP, and carry out tests to rule out any organic pathology.


Now, let's explore some common issues HSPs might face:


1. Digestive Problems

Digestive issues are common among HSPs because the PNS, which aids digestion, isn’t active enough. This can lead to symptoms like stomach aches, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome. Stress hormones also affect our gut microbiota, causing imbalances and leading to further digestive troubles.


2. Anxiety

Our gut produces about 70% of our serotonin, the hormone responsible for mood stability. If our gut is out of balance, it can affect serotonin production, leading to anxiety and depression. HSPs also have a variant of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR), making us more sensitive to environmental stressors.


Anxiety can also come through our way of thinking.

Highly sensitive people use their brain more often and more easily in the mode called the network thinking or tree-like thinking.


The network mode of thinking (or tree thinking) is a mode of thinking that is open, which is free and which we generally use when we are doing nothing. It is opposed to the executive network mode that we use when we are focused on a task. It is our network way of thinking that enables creativity, imagination and intuition. But it can also cause anxiety. 


3. Pain Sensitivity

HSPs often experience pain more intensely due to nervous hypersensitivity. Even minor stimuli can cause significant discomfort, making us more susceptible to conditions like fibromyalgia.


4. Weaker Immune System

As we saw when we talked about digestive disorders, it often happens that we have an increase in intestinal permeability. That is to say that the wall of our intestine, which is made up of small cells stuck to each other via junctions called tight junctions. Normally these junctions only allow vitamins and micronutrients to pass, and what we need. But if there is intestinal porosity, the gap between cells is greater and results in proteins passing into the bloodstream that shouldn't be there. This will therefore trigger a response from the immune system.


And if it happens often, we are faced with an over-strain on the immune system. And that can have many consequences, including: allergies, much more frequent ENT infections, skin problems like eczema, and even in some cases, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory rheumatism and chronic fatigue.



5. Chronic Fatigue

As we have just seen, it can be caused by several factors.

The first one is our sensory sensitivity… processing information non-stop can be overwhelming and exhausting for our body and our brain. That’s why so many HSP often say, I wish I had a switch off button.


The second one is of course, as we’ve seen it earlier, caused by the consequences of digestion problems when these problems trigger deficiencies or are associated with immune disorders. This will also be a great source of fatigue…. 

The body is busy digesting continuously… It lacks vitamins and minerals… We get sick more easily… we may suffer from allergies which are also a great source of fatigue, and in addition, as we are in a state of stress due to hyperstimulation, we consume even more vitamins and minerals. It can become a never ending story.


Finally! The sleep of highly sensitive people is often impaired due to anxiety and this will add an additional layer of fatigue. We therefore find ourselves with permanent, chronic fatigue, in the face of which we no longer know how to act.



Embracing and managing High Sensitivity

It’s clear that high sensitivity isn’t just a psychological trait - it has physiological implications that can affect our daily lives. But don’t worry! Understanding our sensitivity better and learning to regulate our nervous system can help us live more comfortably.



Summary

High sensitivity involves a neurosensory system that is more receptive and easily overloaded, often leading to nervous system imbalances. This can result in physical disorders like digestive issues, anxiety, pain, immune system problems, and chronic fatigue. The key to thriving as an HSP is learning how to regulate our nervous system to mitigate these challenges.


So, let's embrace our sensitivity, learn to navigate it, and turn what might seem like a challenge into a strength. Here's to living well and understanding ourselves better each day!



 

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