Highly sensitive person, sensory processing sensitivity are associated with type 1 diabetes

Highly Sensitive Person is a scientific term. The scientific term is ‘sensory-processing sensitivity’. Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a recently proposed construct that refers to a genetically influenced tendency to more strongly and deeply process a variety of information including the arts, caffeine, other peoples’ moods, hunger, and pain. Highly Sensitive Persons are born that way. These processing differences are genetically based, present at birth, and located in the central nervous system.

Highly sensitive people are not necessarily prone to more negative emotional states, but they may be more sensitive to negative parental environments and are more prone to negative affectivity when exposed to negative environments.

The last two decades while working with people who are opt to develop Hashimoto’s and those diagnosed with Hashimoto thyroiditis, I’ve observed that those people strongly process information and much more often were Highly Sensitive Persons.

The role of stress as a pathogenic factor in autoimmune diseases is discussed in the literature, and it is presumed that neuroendocrine hormones triggered during stress may lead to dysregulation, altered or amplified cytokine production and activation of an autoimmune disease. Furthermore, this response can trigger the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system, which may further enhance the expression of sensitivity genes.

Currents study examined whether sensory processing sensitivity is associated with an autoimmune disease such as diabetes mellitus type 1. The study objectives were to compare SPS levels between a group of adolescents with type 1 diabetes and a comparison group (without autoimmune diseases) to investigate whether adolescents with type 1 diabetes have higher SPS levels than those in the comparison group, and to compare the frequency of the sensory processing sensitivity trait within each group. Research suggests that individuals with the sensory processing sensitivity temperament are more likely to experience higher stress levels and illness symptoms. The current study suggests that they may also develop an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes, as autoimmune diseases are associated with a highly activated sympathetic nervous system. Moreover, everyday type 1 diabetes experiences and environmental influences may increase the expression of temperamental genes, which might be reflected in higher sensory processing sensitivity levels.

The study shows that sensory processing sensitivity is associated with type 1 diabetes. Though a longitudinal research is needed to evaluate whether sensory processing sensitivity is a risk factor for the development of type 1 diabetes; expanding the research to other autoimmune diseases, as Hashimoto thyroiditis is also suggested.

Do you recognize the sensory processing sensitivity and the highly sensitive person in yourself? Let me know, by leaving your answer below.

With love,


Benham, G. (2006). The highly sensitive person: Stress and physical symptom reports. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(7), 1433-1440. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2005.11.021

Goldberg, A., Ebraheem, Z., Freiberg, C., Ferarro, R., Chai, S., & Gottfried, O. D. (2018). Sweet and Sensitive: Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Type 1 Diabetes. 38. doi:10.1016/j.pedn.2017.10.015

Shepshelovich, D., & Shoenfeld, Y. (2006). Prediction and prevention of autoimmune diseases: additional aspects of the mosaic of autoimmunity. Lupus, 15(3), 183-190. doi:10.1191/0961203306lu2274rr

Shoenfeld, Y., Zandman-Goddard, G., & Stojanovich, L. The mosaic of autoimmunity: Hormonal and environmental factors involved in autoimmune diseases.The Israel Medical Association Journal, 10(1), 8-12.

3 Responses

  1. As a Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism patient, I found this incredibly refreshing and interesting. I identify as a HSP too and in speaking with the thyroid community (others with these diagnoses), it seems many others do too. I’m hoping we’ll see more information about the link between HSP and thyroid conditions in the future.

  2. I too am a Hashimoto’s / Hypothyroidism patient, and often times get sensory overload, in fact it happened to me today at a meeting. Between the bright fluorescent lights, getting questioned about my illness, and having to drive 45-minutes to get to the appointment, I totally had a meltdown in the car on my way home. I often times feel this way but not always. I’m good at hiding it. I was in my prior life before Hashimoto’s a very organized person, a multi-tasker, and now I am a ball of nerves and get overwhelmed and anxious very easily.

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