what is a highly sensitive person
Mindset

What is a Highly Sensitive Person? [18 Traits. How Many Do You Have?]

I have often wondered if I am a highly sensitive person. Have you ever thought about that? Has anyone ever told you were overly sensitive? What exactly do they mean anyway!

In my personal quest to find out if I am a highly sensitive person I learned a lot and will share it with you here. Hopefully, it helps you out as it did me!

Since we are talking about being sensitive it reminded me of a joke I heard the other day! Hope you don’t mind me sharing. What could be better than a joke about being sensitive!

Have you heard about the sensitive burglar?

He takes things personally.


A highly sensitive person is someone who experiences a high level of physical and emotional response to outside influences acting upon them. Often these outside pressures, from other people or the environment, can produce negative psychological feelings and even adverse physical reactions. But there can also be positive aspects of being a highly sensitive person.

Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person

  • Have a Great Sense of What Other People May Feel About Them
  • Outside Stimuli Greatly Influence Their Emotions and Physical Being
  • They Can Be Emotionally Drained Connecting to Other People So Deeply
  • Feeling They Carry the Weight of the World on Their Shoulders
  • Very Intuitive, Artistic, and Creative People
  • They Form a Deep Bond with People
  • Often Feel Overwhelmed
  • Very Selective on Who They Become Friends With
  • Uncomfortable in Large Gatherings or Being Out in the Public Eye
  • Their Feelings are Easily Hurt
  • Don’t Like or Engage in Small Talk and They Easily Get Bored
  • Often Have Low Self-Esteem and Feel Misunderstood
  • Can Be Defensive When Challenged and Hide Their True Feelings
  • They Worry About What Others are Thinking
  • Does Not Like Being Rejected and Will Work to Avoid This Type of Situation
  • Struggle Making Decisions
  • Love Animals and “In Tune” with Nature
  • Empathetic and Highly Caring for Others
Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person Checklist
Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person Checklist

Side note: There are actually tests to determine if you are an HSP.

Have a Great Sense of What Other People May Feel About Them

Based on my research and personal intuition, highly sensitive people (HSP), seem to ‘feel’ the world’s energy around them more deeply than most.

Have you ever had this running through your mind, “I wonder what they are thinking about me?” I sure have done that more times than I care to admit!

Highly sensitive people seem to do this on a regular basis.

Outside Stimuli Greatly Influence Their Emotions and Physical Being

HPS’s have a much higher sensitivity to sights, sounds, emotions, and other stimuli around them.

HSP’s are much more aware of the energies around them, which includes people and places. Have you ever heard the expression “I felt the negative energy as soon as I walked into the room”?

For a highly sensitive person, they can walk into a room and immediately feel a heaviness there that can literally wash over them much like waves in the ocean. They will suddenly feel a deep sadness or an intense anger but can’t seem to explain why.

Other times they can be at a music concert, and feel the high “vibe” energy around them. It’s as if the music is vibrating through their body.

My biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person.

Mike Tyson
My biggest weakness is my sensitivity. I am too sensitive a person.
Mike Tyson

HSP’s can be high sensitivity to almost everything. Whether it be a certain smell, sound, taste, or even simple details that others would never even notice.

Sometimes it can be over-bearing for them to even be in a waiting room at a doctor’s appointment because they can hear every single breath that the person sitting next to them is taking.

Around the corner, a highly sensitive person can hear every tap the receptionist makes on her keyboard as she is checking in another patient. This doesn’t mean they have supersonic hearing or vision.

Just, if you’re a highly sensitive person, you seem to have been born with a nervous system that processes all stimulation much deeper than others. It can be anything from sights, sounds, smells, and even textures that cause a reaction.

They Can Be Emotionally Drained Connecting to Other People So Deeply

Being highly sensitive comes with many advantages, but can also be very draining.

At times it may seem like a blessing to be able to feel things on a deeper level than others, to notice things that others would never pay any attention to, and the ability to connect with another person on such a deeper level.

On the other hand, it can become extremely draining both mentally and physically, which is why it’s important to practice self-care and learn coping skills if you are a highly sensitive person.

Physical exhaustion can lead to emotional stress. That is why many HSP’s make sure they have “alone time”, to ground themselves, and recharge their energy.

Grounding As a Technique to Recharge Your Body & Soul

Grounding oneself is a technique that involves doing activities that “ground” or reconnect you to the Earth. Some even say that electrical charges from the Earth can have positive effects on your body and mind.

Common Ways to Use Grounding

  • Close Your Eyes and Practice Deep Breathing
  • Putting your Hands or Feet in Water
  • Taking a Short Walk in an Outside Natural Setting
  • Walking Barefoot Through the Grass
  • Sitting on the Beach or Alongside a River Simply Listening to the Sound of the Water Around You
  • Hold on to Something (remember the Mood Rock!) and Just Focus on the Object
  • Go Outside and Close Your Eyes and Feel the Energy of the Earth Around You

Feeling They Carry the Weight of the World on Their Shoulders

Sometimes as an HSP, it seems as if you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders because you feel so much deeper than most.

Sometimes it seems every problem I run across I want to take on. I think that some how I can help or should help. Because it bothers me if I don’t!

This is not sustainable though and an urge I have to fight to keep my personal sanity. Don’t fall into this trap. You can help everyone.

“Am I too much for the world, or is the world too much for me?”
― Kelli Jae Baeli
“Am I too much for the world, or is the world too much for me?”
― Kelli Jae Baeli
Very Intuitive, Artistic, and Creative People

A lot of highly sensitive people are typically intuitive, artistic, creative, and empathetic.

Highly sensitive people make amazing counselors, therapists, writers, artists, and musicians due to their ability to connect with others on a much greater emotional level.

A highly sensitive artist or musician uses their gifts to portray feelings, or emotions through their art, which in turn draws in others because they can relate more.

They Form a Deep Bond with People

Counselors or therapists that are highly sensitive are able to form a deeper bond with their patients because they actually “feel” what that person is experiencing and going through at the time.

It’s as if they have experienced these things themselves although they haven’t. Because an HSP feel’s things on a much deeper level, they also tend to become overwhelmed at times.

They have the ability to feel or sense the emotional energies of others, and many times tend to “absorb” those energies.

Often Feel Overwhelmed

HSP’s many times tend to over-analyze every single thing around them. They are constantly trying to put the pieces together inside their own head’s.

This cause’s mental burnout’s because their minds seem to never shut off. They are constantly trying to figure out the why, the what, the how, and piece it all together. It can become extremely consuming at times.

“Even a moderate and familiar stimulation, like a day at work, can cause an HSP to need quiet by evening.”
― Elaine N. Aron
“Even a moderate and familiar stimulation, like a day at work, can cause an HSP to need quiet by evening.”
― Elaine N. Aron

There are a lot of ways to slow down your mind when it refuses to stop racing at maximum speed. One of those ways is to simply read a book.

Reading takes your mind off of all the thoughts running around inside your head, and puts you into an alternate world that isn’t your own.

Another great idea is to go for a short car ride or road trip somewhere. Play your favorite song, turn the volume up, and then roll the windows down.

It’s somehow refreshing to drive down the road singing your favorite song at the top of your lungs all while the wind is blowing all around you.

It seems to take you to another place in time where there are no worries, and it’s just you and the music.

Some HSP’s also use meditation to deal with feelings of being overwhelmed.

Mediation is a great way to solely focus on relaxing your mind, body, and spirit. It helps block out all of the negative energy around you and helps reach an emotionally calm, mentally clear stable state of mind.

Very Selective on Who They Become Friends With

Having a friendship or being in a relationship with a highly sensitive person could be one of the most meaningful relationships that you will ever experience in your life.

HSP’s are extremely cautious about who they allow into their lives. They crave a much deeper connection with someone; someone whose mind and soul they can delve into, figure out, analyze.

They desire friendships with others that are more open minded. They need friends to be a person that they can trust and will accept them as they are.

Does this describe you? Do you have a lot of friends or just a few close friends? I have always known a lot of people but can count on one hand the number of individuals I truly trust and call a great friend.

Don’t Like or Engage in Small Talk and They Easily Get Bored

I hate having to do small talk. I'd rather talk about deep subjects. I'd rather talk about meditation, or the world, or the trees or animals, than small, inane, you know, banter. Ellen DeGeneres
I hate having to do small talk. I’d rather talk about deep subjects. I’d rather talk about meditation, or the world, or the trees or animals, than small, inane, you know, banter.
– Ellen DeGeneres

Meaningful conversations mean the world to them because they are always eager to reach inside your mind and into the depths of your soul. Not that they really plan to do this, it is just how they are.

When interacting with someone that can be shallow, or without much personality, they tend to get bored easily, and ‘small talk’ types of conversations are draining to them. HPS’s don’t hate other people, they are just more selective as to whom they spend their energy on.

Often Have Low Self-Esteem and Feel Misunderstood

A lot of people consider highly sensitive people as being introverted, which is often not the case at all. They sometimes choose to self-isolate just to recharge their energy and unjumble their thoughts.

Highly sensitive people are often misunderstood by the world around them. They come across as being too sensitive, too shy, taking everything personally or to heart.

“I cannot understand what you do not say.”
― Kate McGahan
“I cannot understand what you do not say.”
― Kate McGahan
Can Be Defensive When Challenged and Hide Their True Feelings

Being defensive is one of the downsides of being a highly sensitive person. Many times they tend to take things more personally, and at times may become defensive.

They sometimes a hard time letting go of things, especially negative thoughts or feelings. They also have a tendency to hide their feelings and emotions.

HSP’s believe that they are stronger mentally and emotionally, so they try to keep negative feelings to themselves as to not burden others.

They may come across as defensive sometimes, and feel like they are being personally attacked when someone is giving them their opinion; whether that other person’s opinion is positive, or negative.

They Worry About What Others are Thinking

Another downside of being a highly sensitive person is that you want to be what is commonly referred to as a people pleaser.

Confrontation or conflict can be unbearable at times, which results in doing whatever is necessary to avoid it at all costs. Even if it means that they have to put their own needs aside in order to make the other person happy or to avoid upsetting them.

What other people think of me is none of my business. Gary Oldman
What other people think of me is none of my business.
– Gary Oldman
Does Not Like Being Rejected and Will Work to Avoid This Type of Situation

Part of worrying about what others think of you is the fear of rejection. Highly sensitive people DO NOT like being rejected much more than others.

They will go out of their way to avoid situations where they feel reject of them as a person is possible.

This could be a perceived rejection of their views on some topic, current events or even their ability to do something such as playing in a game or sport.

These are some of the reasons that many HSP’s are seen as introverts to the outside world. Disagreements with someone, confrontation, or even just the thought of being judged by someone causes them to over-analyze situations and prefer to stay to themselves.

Not because they don’t like people in general, but because they sense and feel the energy around them and always seem to be “standing on guard.”

Struggle Making Decisions

A lot of times HSP’s tend to have a very hard time making definite decisions. It seems like it takes them forever to make even the simplest decisions, such as what to cook for dinner.

It’s not because they are picky at all, it’s because they analyze every single angle of the decision that they are about to make and have thought out the entire pros and cons of that decision.

Highly sensitive people seem to have a much deeper depth of processing than most. An HSP’s mind processes every single piece of information or detail over and over again inside their minds.

the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker. Robert K. Greenleaf
“…the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.”
– Robert K. Greenleaf

This greatly magnifies the details they are trying to process and makes them seem to be on a much larger scale than maybe they actually are.

Kind of like when you want to make spaghetti. It’s pretty easy right? You just cook your noodles and meat, and then add your sauce to the mixture.

As an example, an HSP may be analyzing what sauces have specific ingredients that they have been craving, the textures of the different noodle types, and which type of meat to put in the spaghetti this time.

Sometimes it may be because they just want to be 100% sure that they are making the right decision (possible fear of rejections?), and that other people will be happy (trying to please) with that decision.

HSP’s fear the thought of making the wrong choice, and will avoid choosing until the very last minute because of this.

Love Animals and “In Tune” with Nature

High sensitive people seem to love animals and connect with them very well. I know I am the same!

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. Frank Lloyd Wright
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

Being around a dog or cat seems to provide a soothing for me that I don’t get anywhere else. It is almost as if I sense that they don’t judge, they are just looking for some love and in return give it back unconditionally.

So nice! Are you the same way? Do you share those feelings?

Being outside in nature also gives me a similar feeling. Finding a nice secluded spot where I can just close my eyes and simply focus on listening to the sounds around me is so calming. It makes those feeling of being overwhelmed disappear quickly.

So for me, outside stimuli acting on me such as the sounds and sights of nature are a wonderful thing! Looking up at the sunny blue sky on a nice warm day is very therapeutic and healing for the soul.

Empathetic and Highly Caring of Others

Many HSP’s also not only understand the emotions of others, but they actually experience the other person’s emotions by absorbing them as their own.

Do you know what an Empath Person is? Well, Empath’s tend to be highly sensitive people.

“Sensitive people care when the world doesn't because we understand waiting to be rescued and no one shows up.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“Sensitive people care when the world doesn’t because we understand waiting to be rescued and no one shows up.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Highly sensitive people are considered emotional sponges because of these traits. Some have the ability to walk into a building or structure and feel the residual “people energy” that once occupied that space.

Maybe there was a great loss, a death, or maybe great happiness that may have once been there. Every place has some kind of story to tell, and as a highly sensitive person, you can sense those things.

It’s a feeling of somehow knowing, but not always being able to explain exactly how you know.

Normal Personality Trait

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, being a highly sensitive person is a “normal” trait and found in 15-20% of the general population. So it is NOT a disorder according to Dr. Aron but the trait is also not well understood.

There are several common traits when someone is considered a highly sensitive person though. This is good to know to help you determine if you are an HSP.

Advantages of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Although at times being a highly sensitive person may seem like a very complex personality trait to have, it can also be an advantage of sorts that non-HSP’s will never experience.

Yes, there are advantages of being an HSP! Many advantages are simply from the list of traits I shared with you at the beginning of the article. You just have to take a moment and “see” how that can be.

Advantages of Being a Highly Sensitive Person Checklist

Seeing everything in great detail and analyzing every single thing about something, can uncover how the world is such a beautiful, and amazing place. People who don’t possess these traits may be missing out as they pass through life not “seeing” what you see as a highly sensitive person.

Details and creativity are what makes an artist’s story come to life, and provides you feeling and emotions when you look at it. It’s what a story teller’s writings make you feel like you are actually a character in the storyline, and you somehow are right there in the action of it all.

Highly sensitive people seem to be able to feel and see the ‘story’ of life sooner and at a deeper level.

It’s also what helps a counselor or therapist relate to their clients because they can sense or feel those emotions that the patient is feeling as if they are their own.

It gives them a deeper sense of understanding. A deeper sense of empathy with the experiences that person has went through. Being a highly sensitive person is an amazing gift to have.

They are the helpers in the world, the ones that see the good in everyone, and the ones that change our world for the greater good.

“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.” 
- 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.”
Anthon St. Maarten

If you should ever have the opportunity to gain an HSP as a close friend, just know that it could be the most rewarding experience of your life.

If after reading this you feel you are a highly sensitive person you can rejoice! It is not a negative. You are not alone and if you take the right perspective your traits as an HSP can truly be an asset and help you live a happier life.

That is our goal at Joy of Today. Doing our part to help others enjoy life to a higher level.

Thank you for reading and go enjoy your day!

Shelli – Joy of Today

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