Sensory processing sensitivity among mental health graduate students and mental health professionals
Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), a biological trait, impacts about 20% of the general population. Previous research has focused on characteristics of the trait and mental health outcomes. This study investigated whether mental health graduate students and mental health professionals had higher SPS than students and professionals in other fields. It also explored what variables might moderate the relationship between SPS and general wellbeing, career wellbeing, and mental health wellbeing for this population. Two hundred and sixty participants completed an online survey to measure SPS and wellbeing. In addition to descriptive statistics, a frequency distribution was conducted to measure the prevalence of low, medium, and high sensitivity individuals among the sample. Sensory Processing Sensitivity was compared to trait negative emotionality to explore differentiating the two traits. SPS scores for participants who identified as graduate students or professionals in a mental health field were compared to those who were not. Gender was tested as a s moderator of the relationship between SPS and the three domains of wellbeing, and additional analyses were conducted exploring demographics variables as moderators of the relationship between SPS, and the three domains of wellbeing. Significant results were found for (1) the relationship between SPS and trait negative emotionality, (2) the comparison between mental health students and professionals and students and professionals not in these fields, and (3) the direct impact of gender, sexual orientation, age, income, years of education, degree earned, status as a student or professional in a mental health field, years of service in a mental health field, and all three domains of wellbeing on SPS. Age and years of service were significant as moderators of the relationship between SPS and mental health wellbeing, and years of service in combination with mental health wellbeing also significantly moderated the relationship between SPS and mental health wellbeing. When participants had higher DASS (higher depression, anxiety, and stress) and higher years of service, then they also had higher SPS scores. Results are integrated with prior literature and implications for research, practice, and policy are noted. Strengths and limitations of the study are discussed.