Highly sensitive but anxious

By Douglas Eby, Talent Development Resources

Everyone can experience stress and anxiety in various ways, but having a more “finely tuned” nervous system, with greater sensory processing sensitivity, can make highly sensitive people more susceptible to anxiety.

For example, a research study found that people who have an exaggerated “startle” reflex may find it harder to regulate emotional arousal.

A report said, “Their sensitivity may, in combination with other hereditary and environmental factors, make them more prone to anxiety disorders.” [Genes affect anxiety and startle response.]

In my podcast interview with psychiatrist Judith Orloff, I asked her about anxiety relief. She noted, “Creative people are extremely sensitive. Neurologically, they are very finely tuned and open to all kinds of energies from the outside, so it’s important they protect themselves and not be overwhelmed.”

Part of the problem with anxiety is labeling our arousal as “bad” anxiety, when it may be overstimulation or intense emotional and intellectual and physical energy levels that psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski termed overexcitability.

In her article Theory of Positive Disintegration as a Model of Personality Development For Exceptional Individuals, Elizabeth Mika notes that “because Dabrowski equated development through positive disintegration with mental health, this allowed him to reframe various psychological states commonly considered pathological, such as anxiety, neurosis and depression, as not only largely positive, but, in fact, necessary for personality growth.”

Creative Intellect

“Over the last 12 years, through working with over 130,000 high anxiety sufferers, we have been able to collect data regarding character traits, genetics and environmental factors which has enabled us to characterize the typical profile of a person who has a predisposition to high anxiety conditions.

“Our data shows us that anxiety sufferers all share a superior level of creative intellect.”

That is from the article Creative intellect as a marker for genetic predisposition to high anxiety conditions by Charles Linden.

Anxiety can impact creative people at an early age.

The photo is Elle Fanning in the movie Phoebe in Wonderland – from post Our high sensitivity personality: normalcy, wholeness, acceptance – the story of a very creative and sensitive girl who shows behavior that some adults in her life think indicate mental health problems, perhaps anxiety.

With highly sensitive people, having “acute awareness” and entelechy can lead to distress over social conditions, to existential dread or depression if we are not embracing our talents enough.

And “extraordinarily high standards” can show up as perfectionism.

What to do about anxiety?

What seems to be anxiety may be just a higher level of arousal, excitability, emotional intensity – which can be okay, even more or less ‘normal’ for high ability or highly sensitive people.

At times when I feel too “jittery” and anxious to be working as effectively or happily as I want, I occasionally use the homeopathic preparation PureCalm.

Also, I use (about once a week) the Holosync program from Centerpointe Research Institute, which induces deep relaxation.

For another treatment of anxiety, see the info page on The Linden Program.

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