Historically, psychology has based its personality studies on the factors evaluated in the five-trait model and other models derived from it. The “Big Five” model defends the existence of five major personality traits that every person possesses and manifests them in a certain percentage.

The openness to experience , the responsibility , the extraversion , friendliness or kindness and stability are the five traits assessed in this model and in a large number of clinical assessment and screening instruments that have been developed subsequently.

The sensitivity and repercussions of not including it within the personality models

But what if another new feature could be added? We are talking about the sensitivity .

Elaine Aron was a pioneer in investigating this personality trait. She herself, based on her own experiences as a person who manifested the trait and after contacting other people who believed to be highly sensitive, began to investigate the common characteristics among them and the implications that the manifestation of this sensitivity had in their lives. With the results of this research, in which he found that about 20% of the population could be included in this category, he coined the term “highly sensitive people” or “PAS”.

Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People

Highly sensitive people begin to show signs of such sensitivity from the moment of birth, babies with this trait find it more difficult to sleep, they are affected by being surrounded by a lot of stimulation (noises, light, people, etc.), they tend to have more fears and as the child grows up a great deal of creativity and intuition can be appreciated in them. They are also very empathetic towards the suffering of others, polite, kind and considerate.

Physiological characteristics have also been observed that differentiate between PAS and NO-PAS infants , such as the fact that highly sensitive children have a higher heart rate and, under stress, their pupils dilate earlier and their vocal cords tighten more rapidly, emitting higher-pitched sounds. In addition, at the brain level they have a greater activation of the right hemisphere (emotional) and have higher levels of cortisol and norepinephrine (Aron, 1996). Subsequent studies using neuroimaging techniques have also revealed increased activation of the amygdala and frontal lobe.

Empathy, intuition, intrapersonal intelligence…

In adulthood these traits that have been observed during childhood acquire their maximum expression. PAS people are highly intuitive and emotional, with great empathy for their own and others’ emotions.

They are creative people who are attracted to the arts and knowledge, both on an intellectual level, they have an almost unlimited capacity to learn, even without being aware of it, and on a personal level, since they are usually people with a great knowledge of themselves and a very rich internal world , which sometimes makes them seem introverted, although it doesn’t have to be like that.

Is it a good idea to include sensitivity in personality models?

Why is it important to recognize sensitivity as another feature to be considered in personality models? The answer is simple. The PAS people who speak of their sensitivity refer above all to the incomprehension, both personal and of their close context, and refer to having felt in a position of minority, of constant struggle against a world that surpasses them, until the moment they discover that they possess this trait and can make a personal reflection from the knowledge of it, identifying and reconciling themselves with their sensitivity.

On the other hand, at the clinical and evaluation level, the group of people who possess the trait of sensitivity has been poorly evaluated and diagnosed. They have received inappropriate treatments and have been “catalogued” with diagnostic labels that did not correspond to them.During childhood, highly sensitive children are misdiagnosed with autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders.

During adolescence, a time of very intense personal changes for anyone, but even more so for a hypersensitive person who already finds it difficult to reconcile the internal and external world, problems of depression, isolation or drug use may appear, which may lead to depressive, anxiety or addiction disorders in adulthood. And all of this is due to a lack of knowledge of the personality trait that defines them, their sensitivity and their lack of inclusion in the explanatory models of personality.

Bibliographic references:

  • Aron, E. (2006). The gift of sensitivity. 6º Ed. Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Obelisco.