You are highly perceptive of people’s emotions and are more sensitive than others about the world around you. Sometimes you struggle with feelings of awkwardness, feeling misunderstood or invalidated. You don’t always speak up for yourself because you’ve been told that you are “too emotional” or “too sensitive”. At times, you’ve even doubted your own reality – “Is what they’re saying about me true?”. If some/all of this rings true for you, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). You aren’t alone.
But what exactly does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”
It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.
There are challenges that come with being a HSP. It can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. Socializing or making new friends can be difficult. You’re not always sure if you should trust your instinct about someone, or if this is your “overly sensitive” head speaking.
Expressing yourself can also prove to be a difficult task for fear of being told that you are exaggerating or misconstruing a situation. Without the right support system or people around you, being highly sensitive can feel like an exhausting uphill battle.
Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person
If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:
- Are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
- Feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches, muscle tension, or experience digestive issues
- Become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light, and smells.
- Have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
- Become very emotional over the injustices of the world and sometimes feel helpless in making change.
- Often worry about what others think of you.
- Take things personally in situations that may have other explanations.
- Have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
- Avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
- Startle easily to loud noises.
Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person
So where’s the benefit of being highly sensitive? Are there any benefits at all? The answer is a strong and resounding YES! Here are just some of those perks:
- For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses.
- You’ll probably be the person more likely to notice subtle shades of color and texture.
- You can better taste the variety of flavors of complex cuisines.
- You’re someone who others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs, and emotions. This also makes you have the natural empathy that makes for great teachers, managers, and leaders.
- HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians, and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.
Learning how to understand your emotions and how to manage the challenging aspects of being a highly sensitive person is not only possible, it can result in you having a new, more enlightened understanding of the world around you.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.