How emotional and physical abuse can lead to emotional sensitivity

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The connection between emotional sensitivity and abuse

What would happen if a child witnessed a horrible car accident?
There is a very big possibility that this child might fear driving for sometime especially if a close person to him died in the accident.

When our brains experience a bad event they register that event so that they can alert us when a similar experience is likely to be repeated. In other words the fight or flight response is launched because the brain is anticipating some kind of danger that it registered before.

All of this can happen to the normal person who was never abused before. But what if abuse changed the structure of the brain in such a way that many of the ordinary situations seemed like life threatening ones?

The answer is , as you might have already guessed, the development of emotional sensitivity.

In my previous article How emotional abuse affects the brain i explained how the structure of the brain can change as a result of the continued abuse a person gets subjected to. As the structure of the brain changes in a certain way a person can become emotionally sensitive.

Why abused children usually become much more sensitive

Studies have shown that the brain of a person who suffers from continues abuse can change its structure to help that person adapt to the abusive event. In one study it was found that women who were sexually abused were more likely to develop some kind of numbness towards sexual pleasure.

Because the brains of those women changed the structure of the areas responsible for sexual desire those women became less interested in sex. By doing so the brain believes its protecting those women from further sexual abuse. (see also How psychological factors affect sexual desire)

So what does this has to do with emotional sensitivity?
The brain of a person who got abused will want to prevent the person from experiencing emotional pain once again and so by making itself more sensitive to external stimuli the brain can detect potential threats earlier.

Ever wondered why you sometimes feel afraid while a friend of yours feels nothing?
It's because your brain might have adapted to look for potential threats more than your friend's brain did.

If robbers stole money from your house more than once then wouldn't you install a more powerful alarm system?
This is exactly what happens to the brain as it goes through any kind of unpleasant experience.
By equipping itself to deal with possible future threats the brain believes its protecting you from them while in fact its just making you emotionally sensitive.

A broader view

Ectomorphs , or people with naturally slim bodies, are believed to have a more sensitive nervous system. Yes it's understood that the body shape is determined by genes but could it be that the defensive mechanism the brain used, because it wanted to protect the person from pain, triggered those genes in such a way that it resulted in an overly sensitive nervous system?

If your parents constantly scared you when you were a little child by worrying about everything then there is a great possibility that your brain might overdevelop the regions responsible with fear and anxiety so that it helps you spot the potential dangers in the world.

So what's the takeaway?
Your over sensitivity might be nothing than your brain's adaptation to the bad past experiences you have been through.

So can those brain changes be reversed?
Fortunately there is a lot that you can do. In the Solid Self confidence program i explained how you can overcome the effect of the past childhood experiences and how you can get over this over sensitivity you developed.

2knowmyself is not a complicated medical website nor a boring online encyclopedia but rather a place where you will find simple, to the point and effective information that is backed by psychology and presented in a simple way that you can understand and apply. If you think that this is some kind of marketing hype then see what other visitors say about 2knowmyself.

Want to know more?

How to survive in a rough world with a sensitive nervous system

why your world revolves around your psychological wounds

Understanding highly sensitive people

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