It all added up. Sensitivity to loud sounds, harsh light, emotional climates, and over-stimulating situations? I’d just discovered something amazing: I’m a highly sensitive person.
For years, since childhood, I had always believed there was something terribly weird, different, strange, or broken about me. New situations easily overwhelmed me. Strangers set me on edge. Loud sounds made me jump out of my skin. And even the slightest amount of coffee or alcohol sent me into a tailspin.
If you can relate to this level of sensitivity, you might be a highly sensitive person.
The life-changing reality of this label is that it helps you to accept that (1) you’re not crazy, (2) there’s nothing wrong with you, and (3) you’re not alone.
What Is A Highly Sensitive Person?
Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are individuals who are genetically predisposed to higher levels of mental, emotional, and physical sensitivity. It is speculated that around 15-20% of our population is wired differently and therefore experiences life in a much more intense way than the average person. HSPs differ from neurotypical individuals in that they are more deeply impacted by sights, sounds, smells, tastes tactile sensations, and emotions.
19 Signs You’re A Highly Sensitive Person
The mother of the discovery, Elaine Aron, has been researching the highly sensitive person for over 20 years now. As such, she has a finely tuned list of traits and behavioral quirks that define a highly sensitive person. I’ve refined some of these traits below. See how many you can relate to:
1. I’m aware of subtleties and nuances in different environments, e.g., a tap dripping too loudly, a light bulb burning too brightly, etc.
2. I’m easily overwhelmed by the senses. Loud noises, strong smells, tastes, and light affect me negatively, e.g., the pounding music of nightclubs, loud busy freeways, and strong perfumes.
3. I need to withdraw from busy days and take a break, or a nap, by myself.
4. I’m overly sensitive to pain, e.g. needles, sports injuries, insect stings, etc.
5. I become spooked and startled easily.
6. I like to take my time, and not overload myself with too many activities as it drains and overwhelms me.
7. I prefer to avoid violent TV shows and movies.
8. I find it hard to adapt to changes in my life.
9. I tend to ruminate and process information deeply.
10. I’m empathic. I’m aware of the way people feel around me, and when any slight change occurs in them.
11. Emotional environments tend to affect me deeply.
12. I’m often perceived as being introverted or shy.
13. I’m profoundly moved by nature, the arts, or music.
14. I tend to be more philosophically and spiritually orientated.
15. I feel unusually strong emotions.
16. I avoid and deeply dislike confrontation of any kind.
17. I prefer to not be observed when fulfilling tasks: it unsettles me.
18. I tend to avoid situations that are too intense or chaotic.
19. I seem to process the world at a very deep level.
HSPs, Emotional Intensity, And Giftedness
Perhaps one of the defining qualities of being an HSP is how emotionally intense we are.
We feel everything in an intense, passionate, and sometimes devastating way. This intensity often leads us to become artists, visionary leaders, innovators, mentors, healers, and therapists.
But this is a bittersweet trait we share because while it helps us to live life with passion and intensity, it can also isolate us. We may be misunderstood, criticized, underpaid, undervalued, taken for granted, alienated, and generally perceived as being “too much.” We may be classified as neurotic, melodramatic, thin-skinned, or generally finicky – and mistreated because of it.
Yet, despite the many challenges we face, our intensity and giftedness as highly sensitive people also open the doorway to potentially transcendent and cosmic adventures. For example, many people who are highly sensitive undergo spiritual awakenings and various mystical experiences. Because we are naturally sensitive and more in tune with the undercurrents of life, we often find ourselves having paradigm-shifting insights about the nature of reality.
In fact, many highly sensitive people are also naturally gifted empaths and old souls who gravitate toward various spiritual pursuits that explore the meaning of life and how to experience spiritual Oneness.
Regardless of whether you’re spiritually inclined or not, you will have the insatiable need to live authentically and find your true purpose.