The Highly Sensitive Person

Have you often felt that there was something wrong with you, that you are different from everyone else, and way too sensitive? If so, you may be highly sensitive, and believe it or not, this is good news. HSPs have some amazing superpowers!

Like many HSPs, I was very hard on myself and suffered a lot thinking that there was something wrong with me for most of my life. I thought I needed to be more like “everybody else”, to fit in better and believed that if I did I, and those around me would suffer less. While I have never liked being “pegged” or “labeled”, learning more about the HSP trait has been validating, eye opening, and incredibly liberating for me. Working with a therapist who really understood the HSP personality was also a game changer.

Quick HSP Self-Test
  • I experience things very deeply, both with my own or another’s emotions and moods, music, art, nature and environments.
  • I am highly tuned to my environment and notice subtleties and nuances others often miss.
  • I am good at reading people, and often know whether they are comfortable or not, and what they might help them with.
  • Withdrawing to my own space away from everyone and everything is very helpful, and often necessary in order for me to recharge and reset.
  • Many things can be overwhelming to me, from fast paced environments, loud sounds, bright lights, crowded places, strong smells, or scratchy clothes, to scary or violent movies or images.
  • People often consider me to be sensitive or shy.
What HSP Is, and Is Not
  • HSP is not a disorder, but a personality trait.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people, or 20% of the population is a Highly Sensitive Person.
  • About 70% of HSPs are Introverts, but not all introverts are Highly Sensitive People.
  • Most HSPs are also Empaths, but these terms should not be used interchangeably, as there are some differences.
  • HSP is also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS).
  • Elaine Aron Ph.D, researcher of SPS, coined the term “Highly Sensitive Person” and wrote the first book for the general public on the subject; The Highly Sensitive Person. Since that time she and others have written more very insightful and helpful books.
  • While HSP and Autism may share some similar sensitivities, studies show that these two have distinctly different brain activity.
  • Some HSPs can have mental health issues including PTSD just like anyone else, but it is not a defining characteristic.
  • Despite a common misconception that being highly sensitive can cause difficulty in relationships, HSPs actually show high levels of empathy, compassion and awareness for the needs of others and are usually motivated to help others be comfortable.
  • The HSP’s brain allows them to experience life more deeply and vividly, with awareness and attentiveness to their environments, to changes in their environments, and to others.
  • There are 3 genes within the neurochemistry of the brain that are responsible for the HSP’s superpowers. These are casually referred to as “the sensitive gene”, “the reward chemical”, and the “emotional vividness gene”. The way that each of these genes functions in the HSP’s brain is unique.
  • Having the HSP trait is considered an evolutionary advantage by some, in that HSPs are especially good at perceiving the complexity of people, situations, and environments, helping them respond in highly attuned ways for the benefit of all.
  • If everyone were an HSP it would not be a particular advantage. It is seen as an advantage in part because there are only 20% of the population with this trait.
Self Care Tips for Highly Sensitive People

Don’t apologize for who you are and appreciate your differences! We make life a lot harder when we don’t accept the way we naturally are. There is no need to be apologetic about being a highly sensitive person. Differences are one of the things that makes our world a more beautiful place to be. While we cannot always expect others to understand us or know just what we need, we make life much better for ourselves by understanding and accepting ourselves as we are.