Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Can Make Sex More Difficult
Great Sex Ep 14: Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Can Make Sex More Difficult
High sensitivity shapes the emotional experiences, perceptions, and interactions of approximately 20% of the population, spanning across diverse cultures globally.
From intimacy to communication, the deeply felt emotions and heightened responses to sensory inputs influence how highly sensitive individuals engage with their partners. This trait often leads to a preference for deep, meaningful connections, while also making them susceptible to feeling overwhelmed.
This episode is truly insightful as I am joined by Elizabeth "Biz" Cush – a women's life coach, licensed counselor, and the brilliant mind behind the Awaken Your Wise Woman podcast. Her holistic approach integrates body, mind, and spirit, fostering a beautiful, enjoyable life for her clients. And in this episode, we delve into the impact of high sensitivity on relationships and sex life.
Highly sensitive people and their unique traits.
Highly sensitive people (HSP's) refer to a genetically predisposed trait, with about 20% of the global population being classified as highly sensitive people.
Highly sensitive people process sensory input—whether noise, smell, taste, touch, or emotions—differently. This distinct sensory processing results in a deeply emotional experience, a preference for profound connections, and a deeper and more deliberate processing of information before forming opinions or feelings about it.
Interestingly, being highly sensitive doesn't strictly align with introversion; one can be an extrovert and still be highly sensitive, needing both social interaction and recharge time.
With respect to relationships, being in a relationship where one partner is highly sensitive and the other isn't can sometimes lead to conflict, especially in scenarios where the highly sensitive individual feels overwhelmed or anxious in crowded or noisy settings that the non-sensitive person enjoys.
Are you a highly sensitive person?
To identify if someone is an HSP, tests and quizzes are available, such as the one on Dr. Elaine Aron's website. Dr. Aron has conducted extensive research on this. Take the self-test here: https://hsperson.com/test/
Being an HSP impacts sexual relationships.
Navigating sexual relationships as a highly sensitive person, particularly for highly sensitive women, poses unique challenges. The HSP personality trait, an aspect of the nervous system, renders individuals acutely aware of various sensory inputs, often impacting their experiences in intimate relationships.
For highly sensitive women, the intricacies of their sensory processing sensitivity can deeply influence their sexual relations. Although HSPs can enjoy sex, this acute awareness can lead to a heightened vulnerability to negative emotions and feeling overwhelmed, particularly in scenarios where their partner's desires may conflict with their own comfort levels.
Non-HSPs need to understand the unique needs of their HSP partners.
Balancing the needs and desires of the self and the romantic partner is a delicate yet crucial aspect of enjoyable sex for those with a highly sensitive nature.
Highly sensitive individuals can sometimes feel overwhelmed. They experience heightened sensitivity to smells, making cleanliness particularly important for their partners. According to Biz, even the texture of fabrics could affect physical closeness.
Communication regarding what types of touch feel good and what feels overwhelming for HPSs is important, as touch can be both beautiful and intense. For highly sensitive individuals, touch can be both wonderful and potentially jarring or even painful if unexpected.
HSPs tend to value gentle touch, connection, and their partner being emotionally responsive as building blocks for a deep emotional bond in their relationship.
In intimate relationships, the need for deep connection and profound conversations can lead to disconnection if not reciprocated or understood by the partner. HSPs need their significant others to understand what being an HSP means, and that sometimes their HSP partners will need alone time and quiet to enhance their well-being and mental health.
Non-HSPs also need to learn how subtle shifts in their behavior can help their HSP partner feel safe and emotionally connected. Moreover, many HSPs require more time to feel aroused and be easily distracted by sensory input, which can significantly impact their ability to stay present in the moment and enjoy sexual experiences.
The heightened need for intimate connection is particularly notable for highly sensitive individuals, potentially necessitating a deep emotional connection with their partner before engaging in sexual intimacy.
Highly sensitive people and ADHD.
Biz and I explored potential connections between high sensitivity and conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Sensory Processing Disorder given the overlaps in symptoms amongst all three conditions and the many intriguing parallels within neurodiversity.
HSPs can easily become distracted during sex. Sensory inputs, like sound, noise, or smell, can be overwhelming and can disrupt the moment, causing an HSP to struggle to return to the present during sex.
Distraction during sex, especially for women, can derail them from staying aroused. Losing feelings of pleasure and arousal can cause them to need additional time and gentle stimulation to reach orgasm. For many HSPs, mindfulness techniques can help them to stay present or regain focus when distracted.
HSPs may have a hard time saying "no" to sex.
Because HSPs are acutely sensitive to the emotional cues and needs of their partners, they often find it challenging to turn down sexual intimacy, even when they aren't in the mood for sex. Their desire to accommodate their partner's sexual desires so they don't feel rejected, even at the expense of their own comfort, stems from their deeply empathetic nature.
HSPs are acutely attuned to their partners
Additionally, any potential emotional detachment from their partner during intimate moments can profoundly affect the highly sensitive individual, creating a sense of disconnection or concern that further complicates their ability to fully engage in the shared experience. This heightened emotional attunement makes it more difficult for them to disconnect from their partner's emotional state, impacting their own arousal and sense of intimacy within the interaction.
While the highly sensitive trait often amplifies their experiences, including the emotional and sensory dimensions of physical intimacy, it's important to establish a conducive environment for enjoyable and fulfilling sexual relations.
Open communication is essential, even about the challenging aspects of sex. Communicating one's own needs, creating a space that acknowledges and respects the sensory intricacies, and fostering an understanding of the unique dynamics surrounding sensory processing sensitivity are vital components of fostering a healthy and gratifying sexual relationship for highly sensitive individuals.
Quiz to discern if you are a highly sensitive person- https://www.elizabethcushcoaching.com/
(direct link to quiz: https://quiz.tryinteract.com/#/642afffa627e94001491e91c)
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