What Does It Mean To Be A Highly Sensitive Person?

“You’re too sensitive! You feel way too much!”

If you’ve ever heard that from someone, then you may be interested in learning what it really means to be a highly sensitive person (HSP).

Let me start by saying being sensitive is not a negative trait. If others have belittled you for feeling “too much” or being “too emotional”, know that their perceptions were skewed. They may have been downright rude in judging you.

The term “highly sensitive person” was coined by Elaine Aron, a psychologist who has done a lot of research on the topic. She describes HSP’s as having higher “sensory-processing sensitivity” (SPS). Essentially, this means that it’s not a “personality flaw”. It’s actually a biology factor.

If you’re a highly sensitive person, you may:

  • Be sensitive to your emotions. You feel things deeply.
  • Have a stronger reaction to things like noise, light, hunger, pain, strong scents
  • Have a tough time multitasking. You like to focus on one thing at a time.
  • You may pick up on other’s emotions
  • You tend to enjoy solitude
  • You may be hypersensitive, scanning to be sure you are safe
  • You may have increased anxiety, or a dysregulated nervous system
  • You have a tough time watching violence
  • You have an uncanny ability to deeply appreciate things (nature, beauty, etc.)
  • You have an extra strong reaction to criticism
  • You have a deep, rich, complex inner life
  • You may feel ultra empathetic

 

A Strong Energy Antenna

Essentially, if you’re highly sensitive, your brain is wired a bit differently neurologically.  It’s like your energy antenna picks up on signals that many others don’t. 

For example, someone who is a HSP may pick up on a dog barking a few miles away, making it tough for them to fall asleep.  Their partner may not hear a thing. Or the person who can walk into a room and feel dense, heavy energy that causes them to feel nauseous, while their partner doesn’t feel a thing.

Highly Sensitive People Statistics

According to Psychology Today, around 15 to 20 percent of the population identifies as being highly sensitive. To determine if you are HSP, Elaine and Art Aron developed a Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) back in the 90’s that helps you identify if you are highly sensitive. 

You can find it here: Highly Sensitive Test

Tips For Highly Sensitive People

If you or someone you know identifies as highly sensitive, know that you’re not alone. And, there are plenty of things you can do to manage life as an HSP, using it to your advantage.  The more you learn about HSPs, the more you’ll be able to embrace your sensitivity level and adapt to it.

As with any personality trait, there are strengths and weaknesses.  Let’s focus on the strengths and recognize that you have an uncanny ability to “sense” a lot of things others simply can’t.

It’s like your superpower!

Here are some valuable tips for navigating life as an HSP:

  • Embrace the arts and music. Many HSPs report that they love diving into the arts and music and find it therapeutic.
  • Enjoy deep, meaningful connections.  Isolating may not serve you well.  Find one or two people to form deep, meaningful connections with and enjoy such rich friendships.  If you can find someone else who is HSP, that’s even better. You’ll be able to relate well and understand each other better.
  • Practice self-care regularly. Enjoy a healthy diet, get adequate rest, limit caffeine, and take adequate time to yourself to get refreshed and revived.
  • Seek out a therapist if you’re truly struggling with being highly sensitive.
  • Recognize the things that overwhelm you. Then, do your best to stay away from them. (harsh movies, loud noises, crowds, etc.)
  • Be up front with your loved ones about your sensitivity levels. This can help you feel more relaxed around them, and help them understand you better.
  • Have solid boundaries.  It’s easy to fall into the “people pleasing” behaviors as an HSP. Be sure that you can say “no” when you truly don’t want to do something.  And, don’t feel bad about it. What you want and need matter.
  • Have a safe space to call your own.  You may need some quiet down time regularly. Setup a safe space somewhere at home or in your yard for “me time”.  Turn off your phone and simply enjoy peace and quiet in a space that’s solely yours.

When Being Highly Sensitive Causes Problems

If you’re a HSP and you’re experiencing problems you haven’t been able to handle on your own, reach out for help. There are therapists that specialize in the HSP field, and they can help you learn how to navigate life in helpful ways.  Do some research online to see if there is a specialist in your area, or look into telehealth options. Many therapists are offering therapy online via video chat these days, which is wonderful as this gives you more options.

If you’re a highly sensitive person, embrace this trait and celebrate your unique wiring.  Learn more about how you can enjoy the favorable characteristics and manage any you deem as troublesome or negative.

It’s alright to be highly sensitive.  Be uniquely you without apology.

Let’s end with an encouraging quote by Anthon St. Maarten:

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.” Anthon St. Maarten

 

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