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33 thoughts on “Difference between a Highly Sensitive Person and Borderline Personality Disorder

  • October 6, 2017 at 5:18 pm
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    Thank you so much for this clarification. As soon as I saw the title, I knew I had to read it. For almost 10 years I have self-diagnosed as BPD afraid of visiting a therapist for fear of confirmation of what already was on my mind. I have even told significant others of my self-diagnosis for there awareness and mine. Many only took advantage of this and used it against me after provocations. Possible narcissist I tend to attract them. Once, after having the term introduced HSP to me, I considered if I qualified as such. However, being deeply wounded as I was, I could only consider myself as “disordered”. This cleared up many doubts of mine of why I didn’t meet all the criteria for BPD even though I felt like one at times. I think that I could now go visit a therapist for guidance on how to be an HSP graciously. Thank you so much, this article possibly saved my life.

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  • October 8, 2017 at 11:24 am
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    “I bet there isn’t anyone who reads this article who can even count the number of times they have heard someone say “I cut so and so out of my life because he/she has BPD”, or “I had no choice but to go no-contact with my mother because she has NPD”, or that the ostracized individual is suffering from any one of the myriad of other diagnoses that get so cavalierly thrown around in our everyday conversations. This article does a nice job at summing up the precise reasons why arm chair diagnosing, whether it be by done by someone close to or who knows the subject of the diagnosis, and/or done by a therapist or other medical professional, should be strictly frowned upon and prohibited by the psychology profession. If the psychology profession wants to be taken seriously, putting an end to the out of control obsession with arm-chair diagnosing begins with them. ~Anue Nue

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  • October 8, 2017 at 12:45 pm
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    Although I do appreciate the comparison, as an HSP (and LMSW), I am concerned that you are labeling this trait as a diagnosis. Please see Dr. Elaine Aron’s work- “Processing Sensitivity (SPS, HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person) is not a condition, a disorder, or a diagnosis. It is a neutral trait that evolved in 20% of the human population and many non-human species as well, because it is a survival advantage in some situations and not in others. Their survival strategy is to process information (stimuli) more thoroughly than others do, for which there is considerable evidence. This can certainly lead to overstimulation and possibly efforts to protect one’s self against that. However, SPS is not a disorder, but a reasonable strategy.”

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  • October 8, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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    It appears my previous comment was not accepted. I wrote because I am concerned that the article is misleading in referring to the HSP trait as a clinical diagnosis. I simply ask that the author correct the content. This post is helpful on a number of levels but sadly it also reinforces the very misinformation that is stated to be a concern with online articles. Thank you for understanding.

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    • October 11, 2019 at 2:58 am
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      I think the dr knows best! Go somewhere else Julie. Both your posts are shown, dont worry. We got your attention seeking need

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  • October 8, 2017 at 2:19 pm
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    Despite being a separate condition, I’m curious whether it might benefit an HSP to learn some DBT skills to deal with the mood swings, intensity, and depression. Is there any research out there on this issue?

    If an HSP client shows up in therapy, what type of therapy interventions are beneficial?

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  • October 8, 2017 at 5:28 pm
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    Thank you for your reply. I understand your intent, but in “attempting to clear up a huge misunderstanding” you are actually creating a new one. I can pick out two sentences in your piece where you specifically call it a diagnosis. I only ask that you acknowledge and correct. Words are power.

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  • October 8, 2017 at 6:35 pm
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    Hello Christine. I hope you are having a great weekend. I am an therapist who specializes in working with HSPs and am also an HSP. This is not a disorder. The is very extensive research, conducted by Elaine Aron and others, that shows that it is an trait that 15-20 percent of the population is born with. Her is the link to her website where you will find all this research… http://hsperson.com/research/

    It is disheartening to hear another therapist saying this is a disorder, especially on this website. We in the HSP community have been fighting for our clients and ourselves to bring this truth of this trait forward. If you ever want to talk about this subject I would be happy to talk with you via phone or email.

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  • October 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm
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    I’m having a hard time commenting on the comment about DBT helping HSPs, so I will leave the information in this comment. (I’ve never said comment that much.. haha).

    DBT can be helpful, but the key to helping an HSP in therapy is for them to learn about their trait and to understand that their trait is not a disorder. BPD and being an HSP do have some similarities, but they are also very different. In my experience working with this population, many if not all, feel this that something is wrong with them and that seems to be the root of most of their challenges. The key to working with this population is empowerment and everything else is extra. Of course if there is a Diagnosis as well there is other treatment like DBT that is needed.

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  • October 10, 2017 at 8:25 am
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    Highlighting nuances, bringing them forward as diagnosis discounts much of the spectrum of accommodations possible (as coping stratagems) developed by sufferers of either HSP or BPD. If you have BPD, you can learn (defensively) to moderate your behavior, given enough time, negative reactions or desire to disguise your outbursts.

    In HSP cases, it seems to be less difficult to temporarily overcome our sensitivities, delay them long enough to find a safe place ‘bleed-off’ the pain.

    over years of incapacitation, caused by intense emotional reactions – its possible to shift to an alternate personality, allowing yourself to function, like “normal” people do. However, as mentioned – this is only a dissociative, temporary coping mechanism – but it will allow you function with less drama.

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  • March 22, 2018 at 10:02 pm
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    I have suspected my sister has BPD. She’s definitely a HSP though and always has been. In the last 10 or so years she’s threatened suicide more and more frequently. She’s also started cutting. Unlike many cutters, she tells everyone about it because she wants attention and a reaction. She can be quite cruel but never apologizes. I wouldn’t call her behavior rage, at least not in the way I would expect rage to be. I think she has BPD, but maybe she is just highly sensitive? She has characteristics of both. She hides her intense feelings from most people but she shares them with at least 10 friends/family members.

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  • July 24, 2018 at 7:46 pm
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    This article is very interesting whereas i have never heard of HSP. I think have always been quick to assume people have BPD but now can see the error in my ways. HSP and BPD although from a far seem very similar have differences. After reading this article i do have a question though, why in my years of studying psychology have i never heard of HSP. This is a problem considering my assumption of myself with BPD. Now after reading this article i have the knowledge to research more and evaluate my assumptions about BPD and HSP.

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    • July 24, 2018 at 8:36 pm
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      The DSM-5 has over 900 pages of diagnoses plus there are many others that did not met the cut. HSP is more of a character trait than a disorder so that might be part of the reason why.

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      • July 31, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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        HSP is neither a “character” trait nor a disorder. HSP’s have a highly sensitive nervous system – which simply put – means they have a nervous system designed to notice subtleties in their environment. It is a survival strategy (not a mental illness, personality trait, disorder, condition, flaw, problem…..etc. etc.). This strategy is inherited by 15-20% of the world’s population – which is too high a number to be considered a genetic mistake or flaw. Furthermore, this 20% HSP and 80% Non-HSP proportion has been observed in over 100 other animal species as well, suggesting that this 1:5 ratio is purposeful across all species.

        While I’m sure your intention for this article came from a good place (the desire to explain the difference between HSP and BPD) your lack of knowledge regarding sensory processing sensitivity has had the unintentional effect of describing HSP’s as a group of people that need to be fixed. Let me make this clear – THEY DO NOT NEED TO BE FIXED! Furthermore, everything you said about HSP’s is false and unfounded. I have no idea where you are getting your research from, but please check your sources.

        For example, sensitivity (with respect to the Highly Sensitive Person) is NOT “an acute awareness of their own emotions and the emotional energy of others” as you stated in your article (it is in reference to a sensitive nervous system). Yes, HSP’s tend to be empathic and feel deeply (but this is not what makes them sensitive). Empathy is a by-product of their innate ability to deeply process the world around them due to having a sensitive nervous system.

        You also noted in the comment section that HSP’s should receive treatment and suggest DBT. But again, being highly sensitive is not a “condition” that needs to be fixed. It is part of who they are. That’s not to say that Highly Sensitive People can’t also suffer from mental illness – but being highly sensitive (in and of itself) is not a flaw and you should NEVER and I mean NEVER imply that it is. Not understanding this distinction is HUGELY negligent coming from someone who is a licensed mental health counselor.

        What HSP’s need is a society that appreciates their unique ability to solve problems, interpret the world around them, consider the consequence of future actions (BEFORE it becomes an issue) and notice things that most people fail to see. What HSP’s need is acceptance so they don’t feel constantly flawed for having abilities that 80% of the world do not possess (and clearly don’t understand). HSP’s need Non-HSP’s to stop stomping out their light and calling them “too emotional” and “too sensitive”. HSP’s need to be loved and praised for their unique way of seeing the world around them because our society has done a fine job making of them feel like outcasts thus far.

        I urge you to look carefully at your work and make the necessary changes.

        And to all my beautiful HSP’s out there reading this – you are awesome and perfect just the way you are. Don’t let anyone (and especially not this article) make you doubt that.

        To Health and Happiness,
        Carmen Lisa

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      • July 31, 2018 at 11:37 pm
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        Hi Carmen, thank you for this comment. I have recently come to learn I am probably a highly sensitive person. I had a borderline mother growing up. I don’t think she and I could have been any different.

        I don’t think she understood her emotions at all. She was nothing like a borderline person described in this article. She had frequent outbursts, would love or hate (and seek to destroy) different people depending on which week it was, controlled who I was allowed to be friends with and talk to, and forced me to do extracurricular activities I hated and did poorly in/excluded me from things I was interested in. It was her dream to be a ballerina, so I was forced to take only that. Of course, I would lose her love and affection when I wasn’t good at it.

        She frequently called the police on people, including my own brother when he was a child, for no reason. She was disruptive and had tantrums when she didn’t get her way. She seem to lack insight into her own behavior/feelings and those of others. She was very abusive and I walked on eggshells around her for fear of receiving that abuse. She was intent on delivering revenge to those she believed had wrong to her. Most of the time, I could not point to a single thing they’d done to her- And she couldn’t either. She tried to get people fired from their jobs, etc. my brother had to hide his address from her when he went off to college and inform dorm security to not let her in if she ever showed up. As an HSP, I don’t identify with those Feelings or behaviors at all. I was parentified as a child, too scared to be disruptive, and labeled mature by teachers and other parents. I don’t think borderline people have great insight into their emotions/behaviors and I don’t think highly sensitive people have extreme outbursts like BPDs do. Most of what highly sensitive people experience happens internally. Sure, I can literally feel what someone else Is feeling and be moved to tears by it, but I can control that expression and reserve it for when I am alone- especially if to express myself that way would take away attention from them/ their message. Highly sensitive people don’t use others as supply. In fact, I often need excessive alone time to decompress from because I feel almost everything. It can be exhausting. Borderline people, on the other hand, seem to feed off of others’ energies.

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  • September 25, 2018 at 12:29 pm
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    I was diagnosed as bipolar in my 20s and medicated for 13 years. I weaned myself off medication in my 30s but I needed to be a hermit to deal with the world. Now in my 40s I learned I had excess copper in my system and due to changes in my diet and supplementation I’m feeling so much better, better than I felt most of my life. With this increase in health has come greater self knowledge and I’m pretty sure I’ve always been an HSP that learned very poor coping skills.

    There was a period where I related deeply to the BPD diagnosis, even though I rarely reacted impulsively. Actually I did behave this way for a period, but it was almost always when I was surrounded by people who had this trait themselves and I see now I was mirroring.

    I don’t relate with the comments here criticizing the article – I’m very grateful to see the two compared, regardless of what category they fall into I did not find it confusing. The stigma with BPD is real but it’d be wrong to stop there. We’re all humans and nature makes no mistakes. Understanding is what I hope we all strive for and if you understand these two concepts, no further clarification is necessary to show a comparison imo. Thank you for the article!

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  • October 5, 2018 at 5:38 pm
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    hallo just few questions :
    Does hsp cut them self ? or used to cut in young age ?
    Does hsp female use dope regular base also or smoking weed when pregnant and breast feeding ?
    Does hsp splitting ? i mean or black or white ;
    Does hsp drive cars reckless ?
    Does hsp have unstable relationships ?
    Does hps do unsafe sex ?
    Does hps have always the wallet empty and complain about ?
    Does hsp demanding a lot ?
    do they manipulate situations and never is their fault ?
    We just break up a relationship i mean she push me away , the problem here is that i have a 3 month old daughter with a woman which has been diagnosed with hps while pregnant after 3 times she saw a phsycologist , she went by my requires ,, the brother has also eating problems . i am really scare about my daughter …. and i think she bpd . Thank you for your time

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  • November 30, 2018 at 6:05 pm
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    Nope, still confused. I’m socially inhibited to boot and avoid expressing myself because I was bullied for who I was growing up, yet I have a very high pain tolerance and cut up my arms when I was a kid to deal with my mood swings, still want to though I don’t because 7 years is a long time to be clean, and though I’ve never been suicidal I think about it a lot and used to threaten it as a kid. And before you say see someone, I have a therapist and I’m very slowly improving with her, she just doesn’t like diagnosing me outside of the obvious depression and anxiety, possibly because I have such a long history of misdiagnosis (literally I have been officially diagnosed with 8 different disorders and only two or three hold water) and poorly performed psychiatry that has worked against my recovery and made me give up on psychiatrists altogether. It doesn’t stop me wondering what the fuck is actually wrong with me though and I feel like I can’t rest until I know for sure.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 1:26 pm
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    The worst combination of all is a highly sensitive person, who also diagnosed with BPD and is male. They insist they know what you’re thinking and why, then they abuse you with it. Our strengths (reliability and the ability to keep everything going when someone else is falling apart) is used as an excuse to bludgeon us emotionally. Why? Because we’re not as sensitive, so it really doesn’t matter. We couldn’t possibly be harmed. And if we are, well, we’re dandelions – we’re not worth even as much as a dime a dozen.

    Newsflash: even those of us who aren’t highly sensitive can be abused and crushed. Highly sensitive people can use their insights to hurt others too, if that makes them feel powerful.

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  • July 26, 2020 at 6:26 pm
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    Thank you Christine, a lot of people have had a false diagnosis…and have taken medicine for years and faught to get rid of of it and understand what it is to be a HSP.You do suffer and ask yourself for ages what does it mean..
    A lot of people don’ t understand the difficulties and the risks that you take..
    You are unable to defend yourself.You feel wrong…broken.Thanks for your precious help.

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