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The Difference Between A Highly Sensitive Person & An Individual With Adhd

What is a HSP? Am I a HSP? Can you be both HSP and have Adhd? The former are questions I would come to ask myself as a late diagnosed Adhder.

I discovered my Adhd at 37, at work, while Coaching clients that had it. I realised, I was really good at helping women with Adhd, plus I felt connected to them and the niche of Adhd and so I decided to study it... then I realised: no shit Sherlock, it's because I have Adhd!

Sure, I noticed that I was different to everybody else. In my younger years, this was painful for me at times, but I just assumed it was because I was adopted as a child. Being an adopted kid is so rare, that I have only ever met three other adopted people in my almost-four-decades here! As the years rolled by though and I struggled with things that my friends didn't seem to. Experienced hardship, found it harder to get my shit together and just generally had to work really hard at seemingly simple things, I stumbled across some information that changed my life: Elaine Aron's work on HSP's aka - The Highly Sensitive Person.

Traits of a highly sensitive person according to the homepage:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?

  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?

  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?

  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?

  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?

  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?

  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?

  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy

I answered yes to a lot of these and soon discovered, during my twenties, that I am not only an Empath, but also HSP. It explained a lot. And it helped me to develop the boundaries I need in order to survive better in a world that isn't built for HSP's to flourish. But flourish we still can... through learning about ourselves and honouring our capacity, talents and gifts.

When I discovered I had Adhd over a decade later, I realised that a lot of my "Adhd traits" were infact the same as the HSP ones... could it be that it was just Adhd the whole time? And that I'd found other labels to stick that quelled the hunger in me to know why?

I took a deep dive and discovered, that being an Empath, HSP and having Adhd are not mutually exclusive... they can all coexist. And they do within me.

Here are traits that overlap with HSP's and ADHD:

  1. High creativity

  2. Conscientious

  3. Strong moral/ sensitive to social justice

  4. Strongly affected by others moods

  5. Highly perceptive

  6. Feels things very deeply

  7. Big emotions

  8. Sensory sensitivity

  9. Withdraws when overwhelmed

  10. Aware of subtleties that others do not notice

  11. Stressed by lots of things to do in short amounts of time

  12. Stressed by multiple requests thrown at them in one go

  13. Often people pleasers and perfectionists

  14. Sensitive to criticism

  15. Deeply attuned and empathic to the feelings of others

  16. Highly sensitive to environment

Traits that are purely Adhd:

  1. Disorganisation

  2. Poor short term memory

  3. Short attention span (unless it is area of interest, then hyper focus is possible)

  4. Distractibility

  5. Impulsivity

  6. Thrives in new, novel and highly stimulating situations

  7. Restless and hyperactive (sometimes internal, sometimes physical, sometimes both)

  8. Craves high stimulation

Traits that are purely HSP:

  1. Sensitivity to pain

  2. Sensitive to caffeine

  3. Deeply affected by art, taste, music and sensory experience

  4. Easily startled

  5. Tend to just 'know' why people are feeling a certain way when in discomfort

  6. Overwhelmed in busy environments

  7. Avoids violence, morose or bad news late at night (if self aware enough!) because this can dysregulate emotions, to the point they are unable to sleep or get rid of the feeling in their bodies

  8. Doesn't like change

  9. Craves low stimulation

I thought it was strange when I began connecting with a wider Adhd community, only to find that the majority drink caffeine like it's coming back in fashion (notice what I did there?) I can't drink caffeine without feeling like I'm going to have an anxiety attack. This is a HSP trait. I realise, looking deeply into this that Adhd and HSP coexist within me and though they have some overlapping presentations, they also have differences that create some interesting contradictions in me. I have had a few comments on these, asking if perhaps I am Autistic too? But I looked into it and it is actually the HSP traits that are contradicting with my Adhd. Something, that I'm sure many who do not know of HSP's at all, probably get confused with themselves.

Do you have Adhd and HSP? How do you manage the dualities? If you need any help, get in touch to book your free discovery call with me. I'd love to help you.

Wishing you a blessed and abundant week ahead!

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