Prevalence of Highly Sensitive Personality and Its Relationship With Depression, and Anxiety in the Saudi General Population

Cureus. 2023 Dec 2;15(12):e49834. doi: 10.7759/cureus.49834. eCollection 2023 Dec.


Background Highly sensitive personality (HSP) occurs in those who experience stronger processing of emotions and responses to both internal and external stimuli; this, in turn, could cause persons with highly sensitive personalities to suffer from affective disorders such as depression and anxiety at higher rates. This study aimed to measure the prevalence of highly sensitive personality and its relationship with depression and anxiety among the Saudi general population. Subject and methods This cross-sectional study was conducted among the general population in Saudi Arabia. A self-administered questionnaire was sent to the target population using an online survey. The questionnaire includes sociodemographic data (i.e., age, gender, marital status, etc.), the Highly Sensitive Person Scale to measure the degree of sensitivity, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) to measure anxiety and depression. Results Of the 438 participants, 72.6% were females, and 48.9% were aged between 18 to 25 years. The prevalence of HSP in this study was 29%. Abnormal levels of anxiety and depression were found in 29.5% and 19.9%, respectively. Significant relationships were observed between HSP in terms of anxiety (p<0.001) and depression (p=0.001). It is interesting to note that a previous diagnosis of mental disorder was identified as a significant risk factor for HSP, anxiety, and depression. Conclusion There was a high prevalence of HSP in our population, which was significantly associated with anxiety and depression. Further, female participants were more likely to exhibit HSP and anxiety but not depression. These findings highlight the importance of prevention programs intended for highly sensitive persons with associated mental conditions.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; general population; highly sensitive personality; sensory processing sensitivity.