Have you noticed that you feel more sensitive than other people?
Or perhaps you’ve always wondered why certain things seem to affect you more than others?
If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), a genetic predisposition found in about 1/5th of people, and also in the animal kingdom.
The term HSP was first used by psychologist Dr. Elane Aron in 1996, who discovered that Highly Sensitive People tend to feel things 3-5 times as intensely as other people.
Read on to find out the signs, and why being a HSP is a gift that you can enjoy and one that makes you a vital part of society!
1) People tell you that you are just ‘too sensitive’
If you, like me, are a HSP, then you will have been this way since you were a child.
You’ll likely have memories of being really affected if you were scolded in school, and noticing (perhaps throughout your whole life) that friends or family call you out on being ‘too sensitive’ or crying easily.
Although about 30% of HSPs are extroverts, 70% are introverts, and so you may have been told you were shy by parents or teachers.
As you’ve gotten older you may have found ways to deal with this, such as masking, avoiding things that trigger you, or taking deep breaths, but the knowledge that you are just more sensitive than other people will be something that you carry inside you.
2) You are easily affected by intense sensory input
Something that suggests you are highly sensitive is that things like intense sounds, smells and even pain, affect you more than others.
Do you cringe or cover your ears when you hear loud sirens or other noises? Do you find coarse fabrics very irritating, or bright lights painful and distracting?
Maybe like me, you find it difficult to look at people wearing very intense patterns such as clothing with a lot of neon colors, or polkadots.
Any of these things can be a sign that you have extra sensitivity.
3) You avoid violent movies and chaotic scenes
Heightened sensory sensitivity goes beyond just the physical, and so intense mental stimuli is also a problem for many HSPs.
Do you try not to watch violent or intense movies? Are you the one hiding your eyes when a lot of gore or unpleasantness is on screen? You may find that a disturbing book or film stays with you for a long time, while others have moved on.
Personally, although I loved Game of Thrones, I found myself averting my eyes for so much of it, and when it got to the season where there was a lot of torture, I stopped watching completely.
Luckily I had a good friend who would recap the seasons for me, showing me clips that wouldn’t upset me, but would give the sense of the story!
4) You feel overwhelmed when there is a lot going on
Similar to how a chaotic movie can be too much for a highly sensitive person, too much change or chaos is also unbearable for the HSPs.
Many HSPs make it a high priority to avoid intense situations.
You may find yourself getting extra stressed when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time, or even feeling annoyed when people try to get you to do too many things at once.
These are signs of overwhelm.
5) You sometimes urgently need to withdraw from the world
If the overwhelm gets too much, you find yourself feeling frazzled or ungrounded.
When this happens you may feel a deep urge to withdraw from the world, perhaps into your bed, a dark room, or some other peaceful place, with something comforting like a soft blanket, favorite pet, or a hot water bottle.
From there you can rest and recover, ready to face the world again!
6) Other people’s moods affect you
While some people seem oblivious or just don’t really care if others are in a bad mood, if you are a highly sensitive person, the chances are that you are very much affected by this.
Just being in a room with a cross or angry person may feel unbearable to you.
On the plus side, if your friend or partner is happy or celebrating, you will find it (usually) easy to be swept up in their joy or pleasure.
This sensitivity to others also gives you a super power when it comes to other people’s needs, as the next section shows…
7) You find it easy to make others feel comfortable
As you are so aware of subtle things in your environment and how other people are feeling, you are likely to have a special talent for making people feel at ease. You notice if you can improve the atmosphere or ambience of a room or space.
This might be lighting candles or adding some flowers to a room, or bringing someone an extra cushion.
Or it might simply be that you are the friend people turn to when they need a shoulder to cry on.
8) You are conscientious or a perfectionist
Conscientious HSP souls approach their tasks with a methodical approach, carefully considering each step and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
Do you possess an unwavering commitment to your work, paying meticulous attention to detail and leaving no stone unturned?
Do you try hard to avoid forgetting things or making mistakes?
Conscientiousness and perfectionism means you are likely to do what you say you will, and get things done on time, and done properly, (unless you are just too overwhelmed!)
9) You have a rich, complex inner life
Highly sensitive people are usually deeply moved by the arts, music and food, and may have ecstatic moments that regular people do not reach, perceiving deep beauty, sensitivity, sensuality or delicate but wonderful tastes.
You are also likely to have a lot going on within you, a wellspring of interesting thoughts, hobbies, daydreams and imagination.
That’s why you aren’t easily bored when alone.
Why being a Highly Sensitive Person makes you essential to the world
If you resonate with this article, you probably are an HSP.
Like me, you’ll likely find it hard to imagine that the majority of these signs don’t affect everyone, but it’s true – I’ve gotten various friends to take the HSP test to check!
HSPs make up 1 in 5 people, and studies from nature show us that being a highly sensitive individual is not a disorder, but rather an important survival trait for any species.
Read on to discover reasons why it is not only ok, but actually great to be a highly sensitive person:
You can protect others
We HSPs are a bit like the canary birds in a mine, we are vigilant and will be the first to notice subtle but important changes in our environment.
This means that we can use our abilities to help ourselves and other people!
You get to enjoy special things
While the world may sometimes feel overwhelming, being a highly sensitive person brings a lot of benefits, including a depth of experience and an enriched connection to your surroundings that other people will never know.
Your sensory experiences are vivid and detailed.
Whether it’s the delicate fragrance of a flower, the gentle touch of a loved one, or the subtle shifts in someone’s emotions, you can gain more pleasure than others do, from the simple things.
Your empathy draws people to you
Your empathy makes you an excellent friend or therapist, and you are likely to be able to offer unique insights in a caring way.
You will probably have some deep connections in your life, and truly meaningful relationships.
You can express yourself deeply through artistic pursuits
Many artists are HSPs because their heightened perceptions and deep emotional experiences fuel their creations.
They possess an innate ability to capture the essence of emotions and translate them into various forms of art that touch the hearts of others.
You are intuitive
Intuition flourishes in the lives of highly sensitive people, allowing you to pick up on subtle cues and read between the lines.
Imagine a compass, helping you to navigate life’s complexities with clarity and wisdom – this is an inbuilt gift you possess!
You trust your instincts, making decisions that align with your deeper understanding of yourself and the world.
If you are an HSP, the world needs you!
Want to find out more about being an HSP? And learn strategies to make life flow more easily?
Visit Dr Elaine Alon’s website for the official test and take a look at her YouTube channel to learn more about your tribe!