Feeling Too Much

How emotion shapes extraordinary sensitivity.

Sensitivity on a Spectrum - Part 5

How individual differences relate to health

Medical science is making huge strides in discerning how closely connected nature and nurture are in shaping individual personality. Likewise, we have more evidence than ever before that mind and body are not separate but more appropriately viewed as two sides of the same coin. Emotion seems to underlie all of this since, clearly, feelings go on inside of us but are inevitably linked to what goes on outside, too - what people say to us, how well or poorly we're treated, what shifts or changes we're subjected to.

Science is also coming to realize that everyone is different. Some people are thin boundary - orchids, high reactors, HSPs, call them what you will. Thick boundary types, on the other hand, are more staunch and perhaps more resilient but everyone is affected in her or his own way by emotional ups and downs. Some of us may be more ‘in touch' with what we're feeling at any moment, others less, but all of us are feeling something all the time (or we wouldn't be alive).

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Dr. Ernest Hartmann's boundary concept provides a truly useful framework to capture this most salient personality difference and relate it to health. Despite the fact that conventional medicine is moving toward a model of personalized medicine that relies on genetic testing, the simple, short-form Boundary Questionnaire, or BQ, offers unprecedented insight into who you are and the sorts of illnesses you may be prone to. (You can take the BQ immediately below - it typically requires less than 10 minutes to complete and score.) Furthermore, a range of cost-effective CAM therapies has now been evaluated against boundary type - so a menu exists allowing you to select the treatments most likely to benefit you.

It's an exciting time to be a sensitive person - or a person of any kind!

#          #          #

The Short-Form Boundary Questionnaire

This questionnaire is meant to gauge an indicator of personality known as "boundaries." There are no right or wrong responses. Consider the statements below merely as prompts intended to sound you out on where you are right now in your life.

That being said, please rate each of the statements from 0 to 4 (0 indicates "not at all true of me"; 4 indicates "very true of me"). Try to respond to all of the statements as quickly as you can.

1. My feelings blend into one another.     0 1 2 3 4

2. I am very close to my childhood feelings.     0 1 2 3 4

3. I am easily hurt.     0 1 2 3 4

4. I spend a lot of time daydreaming, fantasizing or in reverie.     0 1 2 3 4

5. I like stories that have a definite beginning, middle and end.    0 1 2 3 4

6. A good organization is one in which all the lines of responsibility are
precise and clearly established.     0 1 2 3 4

7. There is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place.     0 1 2 3 4

8. Sometimes it's scary when one gets too involved with another person.     0 1 2 3 4

9. A good parent has to be a bit of a child, too.     0 1 2 3 4

10. I can easily imagine myself as an animal or what it might be like to be
an animal.     0 1 2 3 4

11. When something happens to a friend of mine or to a lover, it is almost
as if it happened to me.     0 1 2 3 4

12. When I work on a project, I don't like to tie myself down to a definite
outline. I rather like to let my mind wander.     0 1 2 3 4

13. In my dreams, people sometimes merge into each other or become
other people.     0 1 2 3 4

14. I believe I am influenced by forces that no one can understand.          0 1 2 3 4

15. There are no sharp dividing lines between normal people, people
with problems and people who are considered psychotic or crazy.
0 1 2 3 4

16. I am a down-to-earth, no-nonsense kind of person.     0 1 2 3 4

17. I think I would enjoy being some kind of creative artist.     0 1 2 3 4

18. I have had the experience of someone calling me or speaking my name and not being sure whether it was really happening or whether I was imagining it.     0 1 2 3 4

Obtaining Your Score

To obtain your score, simply add up the scores (0-4) for all questions - except that the scores for questions 5, 6, 7, and 16 are scored ‘backwards' (i.e., for these questions an answer of "0" is scored as 4,    "1" is scored as 3, "2" is scored as 2, "3" is scored as 1, and "4" is scored as 0).

Scores below 30 are considered definitely "thick" and scores above 42 are considered definitely "thin." See where you are on the spectrum below:

0         9         18         27         36         45         54         63         72


Michael Jawer has been investigating the mind-body basis of personality and health for 15 years. He is the author of The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion.


Subscribe to Feeling Too Much

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?