What Causes The HSP Trait?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Fotosafarines

What causes the HSP trait? In the 1980’s the findings of an important medical study were released.  The study laid a biological and scientific basis for understanding the highly sensitive trait.

Dr. Norman Geschwind, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, conducted a study of 3000 people with Dr. Peter Behan, a neurologist at the University of Glasgow.  He was attempting to discover the correlation between left handedness, learning disorders and genetic diseases.  The report, titled  “Cerebral Dominance” revealed his findings.

Apparently what causes the HSP trait is stress during pregnancy which sets a chain of events in motion that results in changes to the development of the child.  Higher levels of testosterone in the mother caused by stress cause the fetus to develop differently because the testosterone creates reserve lateralization of the brain. Reverse lateralization of the brain slows the left brain’s development as a result of the increased testosterone and advances a greater developed right brain.

One result is that brain functions may be located in atypical places in the brain -an example would be language skills changed to a location in the right brain;  speech problems may be a result.  Another result is a greater chance of  left-handedness, a known characteristic of highly sensitive people.  Since each side of the brain controls the opposite handed, handedness located in the right brain results in left-handedness – an HSP effect that is more pronounced in males than females.

The study that Dr. Geschwind did with Dr. Behan showed left-handed people were 2 and 1/2 more times more likely to have autoimmune disorders and 10 times more likely to have learning disabilities.  Near relatives of left-handed people can also be affected and may acquire HSP traits.  Apparently there is a familial genetic basis for these conditions so that any family member can be right handed and also experience learning difficulties, autoimmune disorders and other human genetic diseases because the family has a history of left-handedness and the highly sensitive trait.  It is possible that what causes the HSP trait in some individuals is a familial genetic condition, possibly from a prior generation where stress during pregnancy resulted in the birth on an HSP child.

It is amazing that stress can be so powerful that it can cause a human being to become a different person – that it can effect such a powerful change in a human being.  Violence and the threat of violence are bad enough under ordinary circumstance.  When they occur during pregnancy, a human being can be born with a variety of sensitivities as well as any number of genetic diseases.  That’s a lot of damage!  What causes the HSP trait is stress.  In a world of 7 billion people, reducing stress would seem to be a humane solution to the consequences of excess stress.


  1. Vinod says

    Hi there,

    Today at th age of 30, I feel like i m a LOSER,worthless,because i didtn have a steady job for the last 8 years.Because,I cant stand office politics,and I had lost jobs three times.I can never forget those shocking moments of my life.Neither I can forgive myself in taking birth as a HSP.I have been considering to commit suicide.

    • says


      You have the problem that all HSPs have. Our nervous systems because they take in everything cause us to be more aware and therefore honest. The world you live in does not reward honesty very well. So you feel out of sync and as if you have failed when you have not.

      What’s to forgive about yourself? What you need is to align your life with the natural honesty of HSPs and find a path for yourself. It generally means living simply and finding some form of self employment. The current economic system is very challenged right now is very challenged so not having a steady job is not unusual. Do you have an interest where you could apprentice? Or something perhaps related to the environment – in sync with your values?

      If you need therapy please get it. You could contact http://www.marykayparkinson.com. Mary Kay is an HSP working with HSPs.

      I hope this helps. Let me know how you do.


    • says


      One thing that I forget to mention: we are all here for the change – The Great Turning as Joanna Macy described it. I believe she wrote about it and you can find information on the internet. Finding a place for yourself in it will help give your life meaning.


    • says

      Hi Raquel,

      I have not heard that breech birth is a cause. It is thought to be inherited at this point. I do not know to what extent trauma or stress cause the sensitive trait because I think those issues have not yet been researched. So I would consider it an open question.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,

  2. Figures says

    So what, this really IS damage, damage passed down generationally? The sins of the father yadda yadda? So if our parents hadn’t been messed up themselves we’d be normal well adjusted people instead of temperamental basket cases? Unprocessed trauma and stress making some people weaker than others? Go team.

    So will there be more and more of ‘us’ as conditions societally speaking become even more insane (stressful)? Is it like a huge buildup? Sometimes i wonder about Autism in this vein too.

    • says

      Thanks for writing.

      There is a big difference between unprocessed trauma and the HSP trait. The trait exists from birth. It gives you a set of skills and abilities that non-sensitive people do not have and some challenges in handling it. Unprocessed trauma can be in anyone, sensitive and non-sensitive alike.

      Although sensitivity has been found in more than 100 species, we are still at the beginning of our learning process about sensitivity. I think that sensitive people are at the forefront of an effort for humans to become a more compassionate species.

      All the best,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *