How do you distinguish between a highly sensitive child (HSC) and an Empath? And, what is the importance of knowing the difference? According to Dr. Elaine Aron, one of the pioneers in studying sensitivity, “The highly sensitive person/child (HSP)/(HSC) has a sensitive nervous system. They are more aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings and are more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
Empaths take the experience of the highly sensitive child much further and to another level. They can sense subtle energy and absorb it from other people. Highly sensitive children don’t typically do that. They often have trouble distinguishing someone else’s discomfort from their own. Also, some empaths have profound spiritual and intuitive experiences which aren’t usually associated with the highly sensitive child.
Being a highly sensitive child and an empath are not mutually exclusive: you can be both at the same time. Many highly sensitive children are also empaths. To put it simply- empaths pick on up energy whereas highly sensitive people pick up on sensory stimuli.
The Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
A highly sensitive child feels things deeply and can easily be overstimulated in their environment. They are often overwhelmed by sensory overload. They may get upset by things that seem minor to you. You may also be frustrated by their fear of new things, people, and situations. Treating a highly sensitive child too harshly can make their sensitivity worse. The plus side, highly sensitive children are often gifted in many ways; compassionate, empathetic, creative and often intellectually above the normal range. HSC don’t just hear the words coming out of other people’s mouths, but they also catch on to subtleties in gesture and tone.
Characteristics of HSC and Empath:
1. Sensitive to noise, the taste of foods, smells/odors, certain colors or color combinations, or touch.
2. Doesn’t like to be in crowds. Needs downtime to process after being in a large group. They may leave a room full of family or friends to withdraw in their room to be alone.
3. Quiet, shy, introverted, withdrawn.
4. Self-absorbed and self-focused.
5. Slow to connect with others. Participates in group activities only after getting to know the other children, the environment, and the dynamics. Or, after they have been invited into the group setting.
6. Prefers to be alone or with 1 or 2 other children.
7. May be exceptionally intelligent.
8. May have learning disabilities.
9. May need more structure and instructions than is typically required for children to learn.
10. Introspective. Uses words and sentences beyond age level. Asks thought provoking questions.
11. May be perceived as a slow learner only because the child needs to understand the depth of something first.
12. Detailed oriented.
13. Thinks outside the box.
14. Good memory, may have photographic memory. Walking dictionary.
15. Doesn’t like change.
16. Skin sensitivity—clothes may itch, labels in clothes are uncomfortable, seams in socks are irritating, doesn’t like the beach because of the grittiness of sand.
17. Reacts quickly to environmental toxins, including cleaning products as well as toxins in the air. May have multiple chemical sensitivities.
18. Feels the emotions of others as if these emotions were their own; feels responsible for others’ emotions. Child may seem to overreact.
19. Cries easily.
20. Doesn’t like conflict. Has a strong sense of justice.
21. Can be easily overwhelmed.
22. Doesn’t learn “social rules” as fast as other children. Often so direct that they can be viewed as lacking tact.
23. Loses sense of time.
24. Seems to read your mind. Knows what you want before you ask.
25. Aware of what’s happening to other family members.
Your child is dealing with overwhelming emotions that they are just not mature enough to cope with. But listening to their fears, reassuring them and giving them plenty of love and hugs will go a long way to helping them cope with these emotions. It will also make sure they grow up knowing how to handle their gift and use it effectively as adults. I wrote a blog post sharing tips for the empath. READ HERE!
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need support, Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org