Highly Sensitive People Revisited

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 7, Number 3

March heralds the beginning of spring. Winter is over and with it the snowbirds will soon leave for their homes up North. March is also National Nutrition Month to remind us to make healthy choices by eating smart and having more physical activity. Passover, Easter, and the summer are just around the corner. It seems like this year is moving quickly. We remind you to take the time to slow your life down, enjoy some quiet moments, and appreciate what is really important to you.

In this March E-Letter, we present information about Highly Sensitive People (including children), our Ask the Doc question relates to Adult ADHD, and our email of the month is about why teachers drink: high schoolers answer GED questions. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

Ongoing Group Therapy. Dr. Jim Kaikobad currently runs a support group designed specifically for teachers. A similar group is forming for those who also find great frustration in their jobs. If you are interested in more information, please call the office at 954 755-2885 and ask for Dr. Kaikobad.

Qualified Supervisor. Dr. Joel Kimmel has been certified by the State of Florida to supervise mental health counselors seeking supervision to meet the licensing requirements. If you or anyone you know needs a qualified supervisor to meet these requirements, contact Dr. Kimmel for further information.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. We have been certified by the Department of Children and Families, State of Florida, to offer the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, this 4 hour class is state mandated for divorcing parents of involved children. This course is intended to teach parents about the effects divorce has on children, to lessen the impact of difficult transitions, and to improve the ways they communicate with each other and their children. Our course is provided live and in small groups. Please contact our office at 954 755-2885 for further information.

Low cost counseling: Denise Champagne, M.S., is offering low cost counseling as a mental health intern. She is currently seeing patients and is available to take on new patients. This allows those individuals who cannot afford treatment to obtain it and allows her to get the required training. If you or someone you know is in need of counseling but just cannot afford it, please call the office and ask for Denise. All treatment provided by Denise will be reviewed and supervised by Dr. Kimmel.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month revisits a topic we covered several years ago about people who seem to be more sensitive to stimuli than others. Originally described by Carl Jung, the term Highly Sensitive Person was coined by Elaine Aron in 1996 to describe those individuals who seem to overreact to loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, tags on clothing, crowded places, and emotional scenes. Aron believes that these reactions are due to differences in biological functioning in their nervous systems. HSP tend to be very aware of subtleties and nuances in their environment and seem to lose control when they feel overwhelmed. They may become quite emotional and tend to take things personally. They also tend to be hard working, conscientious people who like to have organization in their lives. They can be very intuitive and “feel” when something isn’t right or when others are being deceptive. They may have rich internal lives and imaginations and feel strange or weird and different from others. HSP who get stressed out may be unable to function and need to retreat to a quiet, calm place to regroup. Their nervous systems get overwhelmed and can create serious immune and other health problems.

On the positive side, Highly Sensitive People are imaginative, creative, and curious. Because of their compassion and empathy, many become helping professionals.and are quite sensitive to the moods and problems of their clients. Many are spiritual with an awareness and appreciation of music, nature, and the arts.

Highly Sensitive Children require a greater understanding than many other children. While they may seem to be cranky and defiant, they may be reacting to an overwhelmed nervous system. They are often shy and feel quite different than other children. They may have few friends and do not feel like they fit in. They tend to be gifted and creative but can get overwhelmed easily by new situations, changes, crowds, noises, and the emotional distress of others. Parenting a Highly Sensitive Child requires the ability to view their sensitivity as a gift rather than a frustration. Parents need to use structure and firmness gently and have clear limits for behavior. They must remember that their child is not being willful but reactive to distressing stimuli. Harsh discipline needs to be avoided but gentle firmness will help their child feel more in control. Creating calmness and having understanding will be quite helpful to the Highly Sensitive Child.

We offer the following information on Highly Sensitive People:

We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally.— Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

What to Know!

  • Highly sensitive people, HSP, have the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity or as Jung originally described it, innate sensitiveness; one in 5 people are HSP
  • HSP, was coined by Elaine N. Aron in 1996 who described these individuals as people who process sensory data more deeply and thoroughly due to biological differences in their nervous systems
  • HSP get easily overwhelmed by stimuli and are stressed by bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, fabrics, touch, electromagnetic devices, crowds, and many social situations
  • HSP get stressed out when overwhelmed and often retreat to a quiet room to seek relief and comfort
  • HSP are very uncomfortable when they perceive that things are getting out of control; they often get a sense of control and well-being when alone in a dark place, or around nature
  • HSP can be very reactive to the stimulation in their environment as well as to internal stimuli, feeling like something is not right or out of place
  • HSP are often very anxious and can react to other people’s moods taking things very personally
  • HSP are also exceptionally intuitive, caring, and compassionate; they are very empathetic and often become helping professionals
  • HSP can be very intelligent, creative, imaginative and curious with an appreciation for music and the arts
  • Highly Sensitive Children, HSC, often prefer quiet play, want the tags pulled off their clothing, ask a lot of questions, notice a lot of details, seem to be able to read minds, and may be shy or highly emotional
  • HSC are usually gifted, creative, and empathic but can get overwhelmed easily by crowds, noises, changes, new situations, and the distress of others
  • Parenting an HSC involves having a greater understanding than with most children including:
    • creating calmness but using structure and firmness with clear limits
    • seeing their sensitivity as a gift and not a frustration
    • having empathy and focusing on their strengths
    • remembering they are reacting biologically and not willfully
    • avoiding harsh discipline and being more accepting

What to Do!

  • Surround yourself with calm whenever possible
  • Get enough sleep to soothe your senses and help cope with an overwhelming world
  • Eat healthy foods regularly throughout the day and limit alcohol, drug, caffeine intake
  • Wear noise-reducing headphone
  • Plan Decompression time
  • Have a quiet, safe place where you can retreat to get away from people and noise
  • Structure your life to give yourself time and space to get things done
  • Seek professional help if you are overreactive and highly emotional

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

RW writes: My husband tells me I have ADHD and we argue a lot about it. I made it through school, am raising 2 children, and also work as a teacher’s aide. How could I have it? He says I don’t listen to him, don’t get thing done, and am always late. I feel tired all the time and we argue a lot. This is my third marriage and sometimes I think what’s the use? Might I have ADHD?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies….That is a very hard question to answer based on the information you have provided. Yes it’s possible you have ADHD but you also may just be overwhelmed with time management difficulties. You have a lot of responsibilities and stress which may be affecting your overall functioning. Raising 2 children alone demands a lot of time and attention. Combine that with a job and a marriage places a lot of demands upon you.

However, your husband’s comments are interesting. His complaints are very descriptive of adults who have ADHD. He says you don’t listen to him. This may be reflective of inattention on your part which is a hallmark characteristic of ADHD. Not completing tasks and starting one activity without finishing another are other characteristics. Certain responsibilities such as being on time for appointments, paying bills on time, and remembering where you put things are typical of people with ADHD. People with ADHD also have a history of multiple job changes, marriages, and underachievement. You do not have to be hyperactive to have ADHD but signs of inattention and organizational difficulties may indicate that you have undiagnosed Adult ADHD.

I would suggest that you consider the possibility that you may have Adult ADHD and consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation. If you do have ADHD, medication and certain cognitive strategies may be quite helpful in making your life more manageable and possibly reducing arguments at home.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Betsy B. for sending us the following email:


The following questions are from a GED examination. These are genuine answers from 16 year olds:

Q. Name the four seasons
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink
A.  Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants
like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists

Q.  How is dew formed?
A.  The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs

Q. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes
A. Premature death

Q. What is artificial insemination?
A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow

Q. What is the fibula?
A.  A small lie

Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A.  Nearby

Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.

Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?
A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look like umbrellas

Q. What does the word ‘benign’ mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight

Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shriek wears on his head

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till April…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

If you no longer wish to receive future e-Letter reminders, please send an email to drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com requesting to be removed from this list.

If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this e-Letter to your contacts and friends.

Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.