Research in the last ten years has yielded information on the genetic factors behind sensitive personalities. Two genes are responsible for whether we are a "dandelion", an "orchid", or something in-between. Two "dandelion" genes will make a "dandelion" type personality, i.e. unaffected by environmental stimuli, two "orchid" genes will create an "orchid" type personality, i.e. absorbent of environmental stimuli, and one of each will create a part "dandelion" - part "orchid" personality. The "dandelion" is resilient and the "orchid" is sensitive.
People who are born sensitive in a warm and nurturing environment where their emotions are managed well, are very fortunate, as their gift of sensitivity can be cherished and will greatly enhance their lives. This is because sensitive people experience the world with stronger emotions, are more receptive of external stimuli, which can also lead to heightened senses. They can easily experience a strong sense of joy, or excitement, or even get a stronger imprint of what beauty lies around them. Although all this sounds great, there is a bad side to this. If positive emotions and experiences can have a stronger impact on them, so can negative, and they can have devastating effect. And here is where the difficulty lies and where I would like to draw attention to, with regards to mental health.
Sensitive people who have been brought up in a non-conducive environment and who's emotions have not been managed effectively or even ignored are set-up for an incredibly difficult start to life. Difficult and big emotions emotions will be experienced with great intensity. Overwhelming will be easily brought on. A harsh attitude can have a huge impact, trauma can be easily inflicted, painful emotions will be unbearable. Infact, difficult emotions and negative experiences can have such a destructfull effect this may deprive the individual from being able to experience anything positive. This can happen in a few ways. The person has become overwhelmed by the those powerful emotions and can't overcome them. The pain with experiencing such emotions is too much and one choses to "turn those feelings off". But as a result all feelings are turned off and one feels "emotionally numb". In attempting to stop feeling "bad" and trying to use logic or thoughts to override emotions, somehow "blocks" manifest in various areas of our experience, and as a result we can't move forward or absorb any positive or enhancing experiences.
All this makes me think of how prone sensitive people are to mental health illnesses. With that in mind, how would it be to take into account the possibility of a sufferer's sensitive nature when treating mental health illnesses? How different would the approach to diagnosing someone be, if one were to consider the sensitive nature of the sufferer? Would there be more compassion before deciding to label someone with borderline personality disorder? Would the healthcare provider be more mindful about discussing with the patient how they felt about being labeled with a disorder? Would the sufferer feel less isolated, different or excluded when having to deal with their mental health? And what about the stigma of mental health? Wouldn't considering the importance of the environment on people with sensitive personality allow for a more compassionate view to mental health?
Here are some useful links if you are interested more in the subject:
The Orchid hypothesis
All in the Mind: Orchids and dandelions
Is your child an orchid or a dandelion?