Amy Rollo: “Highly sensitive people notice everything”

More empathy from everyone is needed. We know that almost 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. This means, that society needs to do a better job understanding their peers. Instead of telling someone they shouldn’t feel a certain way, try responding with curiosity. For instance, ask, “help me understand why this matters so […]

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More empathy from everyone is needed. We know that almost 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. This means, that society needs to do a better job understanding their peers. Instead of telling someone they shouldn’t feel a certain way, try responding with curiosity. For instance, ask, “help me understand why this matters so much to you.” True curiosity is almost always healing.

As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Rollo. Amy is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of a mega group practice in Houston, Texas, Heights Family Counseling. Additionally, she is able to practice psychology independently in the state of Texas as a Licensed Psychological Associate with Independent Status and is Licensed as a Specialist in School Psychology. Amy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University and a Master’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Southern Methodist University. She is in the process of completing a doctorate degree, studying at Texas A&M University-Commerce and Northcentral University, specializing in child and adolescent counseling and marriage and family therapy, respectively. Amy frequently works with individuals and families to help build relationships and to better understand themselves and each other.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

I am a triple licensed psychotherapist and owner of a large group practice in Houston, Texas. I work with families and often help couples understand each other, parents understand their children, and individuals to better understand themselves. Many people who learn about Highly Sensitive People feel relieved that there is finally something that describes themselves or loved ones.

Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?

A highly sensitive person is a personality type and not a disorder. Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) is a hereditary condition and actually occurs in 15–20 percent of the population. While many HSP feel things deeper, HSP runs much deeper than just being easily hurt or offended. HSP notice things more in their environment and will deeply think about things before reacting. Decisions are purposeful for them. HSP are very empathetic and can be influenced and impacted by other people’s mood.

Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?

A common characteristic of a highly sensitive person is that they do feel a tremendous amount of empathy for others. This can be an incredible strength, as many highly sensitive people have an intuitive knowledge of what to do when someone is uncomfortable.Highly sensitive people also feel hurt when they hear negative remarks toward others. They are also deeply conscientious and often do not get swept away in gossip or other things that would be against their moral code.

Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?

Because highly sensitive people feel the emotions of others more deeply, they also tend to feel negatively toward violent movies or the news. In fact, many highly sensitive individuals will avoid the news or other shows that depict emotional or physical pain. For many, it is hard for them to separate entertainment from the pain. It just is not fun for them to watch these shows.

I am a therapist who works with highly sensitive people, but I also have a son and husband who are highly sensitive people. It took me years to learn why my son enjoyed watching the same show over and over, and why he wanted to know what would happen in new movies before watching. The repetition helped his emotions, as he was not overwhelmed with a scary part in a movie because he could anticipate it coming. In order to help him, we read through all the Harry Potter books before watching the movie, and he was able to enjoy the movies so much more, as his emotions could relax because he knew what to expect.

Can you please share a story about how a highly sensitive nature created problems for someone at work or socially?

Highly sensitive people are great employees. They care about others, often want to please and demonstrate good work. However, HSP work best when they are not overwhelmed by task demands. They often thrive in routine and can become irritated or stressed when under too much pressure or when there are too many changes in their routines and task demands.

As a business owner and therapist, I understand that many people do not like change. However, I remember one employee in particular who became very distressed when changing a system at work. It was just too much to handle at once. I quickly realized that change and too many work demands were the issues for this highly sensitive person. We were able to work together to break up the demands into smaller achievable steps while also providing space to relax and cope on her own. Highly sensitive people often need time in their day to be by themselves. This time is extremely important and when there are many social demands in the office, it can be extremely tiring for highly sensitive people.

When does the average person’s level of sensitivity rise above the societal norm? When is one seen as “too sensitive”?

As a therapist, I do not believe someone is too sensitive. In fact, researcher, Dr. Elaine Aron, describes being a highly sensitive person as a strength if parents foster this strength correctly. Emotions are normal, experiencing sensitivity is normal, but how we show our emotions can be problematic. Highly sensitive people should not minimize what they are feeling, but instead, learn appropriate coping skills. Many highly sensitive people learn to take a lunch break in the middle of the day away from others to relax, to read books at home to recharge, go to a yoga class after work to melt away the emotions, etc. It is not the feeling of the emotion that can be problematic, but how the emotion is dealt with.

I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives one certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?

Being a highly sensitive person can be a superpower once you know what you are experiencing and understand how you cope best in life. Highly sensitive people are often not impulsive, as they take their time to make a decision. They are great at decision making, as long as you give them time to process the information. Highly sensitive people can also make great employees and bosses, as they can experience empathy and seem to understand innately what people need to thrive or solve problems.

Can you share a story that you have come across where great sensitivity was actually an advantage?

My husband is a highly sensitive person and incredibly successful in life and business. It took having our son who is a highly sensitive child, to realize that my husband is a highly sensitive person. It was definitely an aha moment. I often hear him on the phone with other colleagues. If he has to give negative feedback, he first tries to understand and empathize with his colleague. He rarely shouts but is calm no matter the stressful situation. I overhead him recently explain to our son that our son “has a superpower he hasn’t learned to tame yet.” He elaborated that to our son, he can feel what others feel and see things happening before they happen because he is aware of everything in his environment. It is true, being a highly sensitive person is an incredible gift to the world when we truly accept people for who they are and not try to change them.

There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?

While being an empath and highly sensitive person are closely related, there are differences. For instance, not all empaths are introverts, whereas most highly sensitive people are. Empaths also experience people’s energy and can feel it in their bodies. As a therapist, I caution my clients when their empathy for others is placed above their own needs. They begin to allow themselves to be taken advantage of because they understand why the person is doing what they are doing. Therapy is often very helpful for both highly sensitive people and empath to help with communication and assertiveness.

Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?

I think everyone should be more mindful of who they are following on social media. It is best practice to follow people who inspire you or create positivity in your life. If you notice that you feel more negative after following certain people or the news, stop following them. There are enough positive accounts out there to make social media a positive place for a highly sensitive person.

How would you advise your patient to respond if something they hear or see bothers or affects them, but others comment that that are being petty or that it is minor?

No one has the right to tell you how to feel. Your feelings are real and valid. However, not everything needs to be a fight. If you see something on social media, you can simply unfollow, you don’t have to enter a fight by commenting. This is a great practice in life, to know when to simply walk away.

What strategies do you recommend to your patients to overcome the challenges that come with being overly sensitive without changing their caring and empathetic nature?

Dr. Elaine Aron views being a highly sensitive person as a strength. It’s not a disorder and you do not need to change. There will be challenges that come with this personality type, but through therapy and understanding of yourself, you can really hone into your strengths. Therapy can help with emotional regulation or distress tolerance skills. These are skills that help you when you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions. I often tell my clients that simply naming an emotion they are experiencing and recognizing where they feel it in the body is a huge step in controlling the emotion. Daily movement helps everyone with stress. It completes the daily stress cycle and is highly recommended for a highly sensitive person who might experience extra stress.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?

A highly sensitive person is not someone who cries too much or is overly emotional. The personality trait describes how a highly sensitive person experiences their environment and others. It is not a mental health disorder and definitely isn’t a negative trait.

As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?

More empathy from everyone is needed. We know that almost 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. This means, that society needs to do a better job understanding their peers. Instead of telling someone they shouldn’t feel a certain way, try responding with curiosity. For instance, ask, “help me understand why this matters so much to you.” True curiosity is almost always healing.

Ok, here is the main question for our discussion.

Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Highly sensitive people do not want something sprung on them. They do not enjoy surprises. For instance, I love to impulsively plan a vacation or home remodeling; however, a highly sensitive person needs time to process the information. I once came home with paint for a weekend project to paint the bedroom. I couldn’t understand why my husband responded with stress and irritability. For him, he likes to plan his weekends ahead of time and needs time to process changes in his plans.
  2. Highly sensitive people do not like to do multiple things at once. For me, I might have a cell phone in hand responding to an email, talking to my kids, while planning dinner. Highly sensitive people want to do one task at a time.
  3. Highly sensitive people are usually introverts. While they can be social and enjoy people, they need time alone to recharge. You need to make sure there is time in the day that they have to recharge by themselves.
  4. Highly sensitive people often require more sleep. For them, this is time to recharge away from others. Don’t be surprised if your highly sensitive spouse or child sleeps more than usual, or sleeps more after a stressful day.
  5. Highly sensitive people notice everything. They will walk in a room and see that a picture has been changed, or a lamp has been moved. They are very aware of their environment

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Neurodiversity is a beautiful thing. Understanding that differences are not weaknesses. If we, as a society, could get rid of the word “normal” and just learn that everything can be normal.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find us at to read more counseling blogs.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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