What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
According to Preston Ni M.S.B.A. with Psychology Today, a highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone who has acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli. A highly sensitive person may be an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between.
HSP’s are affected by so much more than the emotions and feeling of others around them. For instance, loud, sudden noises can be too much to bear, as well as bright, flashing lights, crowded places, and being presented with too many choices.
Are HSP’s and Empaths the Same?
If you are familiar with the qualities of an empath, you will recognize that many of the signs and symptoms are the same. But, there are some differences.
Most empaths are HSP’s, but not all HSP’s are empaths. The difference is that empaths actually feel within their own bodies the emotions of others around them. They can put themselves in other people’s shoes, and because of this, they find that people flock to them for comfort.
A non-empathic highly sensitive person is simply affected by the emotions and attitudes of people around them – sensing bad “vibes”, but cannot empathize or put themselves in that person’s shoes. They just become more or less irritated by negativity or become markedly happier when surrounded by positivity.
24 Signs that You Might be a Highly Sensitive Person
You might consider yourself a highly sensitive person if any or all of the following instances ring a bell.
1. As a child, you may have been ultra-sensitive to the plight of animals.
Hearing about abuse or injustices towards animals of any kind would send you into a downward spiral of despair. As an empathic HSP, you would have been able to feel the fear and emotions that the poor animals experienced as if you experienced it yourself. The idea that anyone could harm something defenseless was astounding and horrific. You would have given anything to save the world from such injustice.
2. Similarly, as an adult, one bad post on social media, or a news story about heinous crimes against animals and humanity can throw you into a tizzy.
You find it hard to get the images or words out of your mind. They swirl around in there for days on end, popping back up into the foreground of your thoughts when you least expect it. Leaving you feeling emotionally exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything else.
3. Tend to frequently be emotionally drained from taking on others bad vibes.
Just like empaths, HSP’s are extremely sensitive to other people’s emotional states. You can feel a bad vibe the second you walk into the room. If you haven’t learned to protect your own energy, the offending person’s bad juju rubs right off on you and can throw off your entire day. Leaving you feeling emotionally drained and unable to cope.
An empathic HSP can truly feel other people’s emotions and take them on as their own. They can put themselves in that person’s shoes and feel true empathy for their situation, wanting to help them overcome.
A non-empathic HSP simply takes on negative energy, then dwells on it until they about lose their mind. Once consumed by the bad vibes, they can only think of how it is making them feel and why it is making them feel this way.
4. You spend a lot of time daydreaming.
You might have been called a “space-cadet” many times in your life. HSP’s tend to spend most of their time in deep thought. Do you find yourself staring off into space thinking about all of the wonders of the world? Rolling ideas and inspirations around in your brain? Do you spend a lot of time contemplating why things are the way they are?
If you were upset by something, as mentioned in the above paragraphs, then maybe you spent your entire day staring out the window thinking about all of the horrible things happening in the world. Or worrying about your future or some stupid thing you said or did in the past.
5. You have a harder time dealing with confrontation than most.
One confrontation can cause you to become completely consumed by the argument. So much so, that you feel physically ill to the point that you can’t even eat. Or you overeat to numb your emotions.
The words spin relentlessly through your mind for days on end. You just plain can’t let it go, even if you were able to say the things you needed to say.
#3 sets in, then you find yourself aimlessly wandering around your house arguing in your mind with the offender over, and over again. There isn’t a single thing you can do to make it stop.
6. Criticism is your kryptonite.
Highly sensitive people are especially sensitive to criticism of any kind. Even constructive criticism feels like a dagger through the heart. You strive for perfection and being told that you may have produced anything less is one of the worst things you can imagine.
Unfortunately, this prevents many HSP’s from achieving everything that they are capable of, for fear that they will be met with criticism.
7. You are highly critical of yourself.
You may find that you are constantly comparing yourself to others and feel as though you fall short. The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.
No matter how hard you try, or how successful you become, you always feel as though you could be better, or do more. (FYI – you are enough)
8. Have a hard time sleeping.
HSP’s tend to have difficulties sleeping or staying asleep. When met with conflict, criticism, or just plain has a bad day, an HSP will tend to be wide awake and unable to shut off their brain.
9. You experience more tension and anxiety than non-HSP’s.
You tend to carry the world on your shoulders. All of the excessive overthinking piles up until you find yourself with an aching neck and shoulders, which then results in tension headaches.
You may even suffer from panic attacks pretty regularly.
10. Easily hurt by perceived wrongings of others.
People inadvertently hurt your feelings pretty regularly. It is hard for you to not take things personally, even if remarks were not meant for you.
When this happens, you may find that you tend to overreact and have a hard time letting go, even if you talk to the person about said perceived wronging.
11. You tend to either under-share or over-share your negative emotions.
Some highly sensitive people tend to have a hard time sharing their emotions and problems with others. Sharing their darker side makes them feel vulnerable to criticism and judgment.
But, unfortunately, without release, the negativity grows and grows until they practically tear their lives apart going on a rampage to avenge their hurt feelings. Every single thing that they have been holding in comes spewing out in rapid-fire, tearing down anyone that stands in the way.
On the other hand, some HSP’s tend to overshare their emotions and complaints. This can come off as overly dramatic and negative to some, while they simply are looking for a lending ear to voice their complaints to.
While it is healthy to talk about the negative aspects of your day-to-day life, constantly complaining does only bring about more negativity. There has to be a balance.
12. Struggle with feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Constantly worrying about how others perceive you physically? That is a totally normal issue that most HSP’s have.
You might feel like you just can’t quite fit in with anyone. While out in public you have a really hard time relaxing and simply taking in your environment and having fun. All you can think about is if your outfit looks alright. Are things bulging where they shouldn’t be? Does my hair look crazy? Did I do my make-up right? Are people offended by my appearance?
The thing is, no one else is thinking about it but your appearance. And, you are wonderful just as you are. Even if your hair looks crazy and you aren’t wearing the trendiest hipster attire. Learning to let that go can take many years, unfortunately.
13. You often feel uncomfortable in your clothing.
For many HSP’s, tight, restrictive, or scratchy clothing can ruin your entire day. If your waistband is too tight, or the fabric of your shirt feels stiff and rough, it becomes all that you can focus on throughout your day.
You find that you are constantly fidgeting with your clothing, trying to adjust it to make it more comfortable. And the second you walk in your door at home you start stripping down to put on more comfortable house clothes.
Because of this, loose, flowy, comfortable clothing is your best friend. No need to torture yourself!
14. It takes a while for you to open up to others.
Maybe it is a self-preservation mechanism, maybe you are shy, or maybe you have just plain been burned too many times in your life by “friends”. As an HSP it can take quite a while to let a new person gain your trust and really get to know the real you.
15. You are easily spooked.
HSP’s tend to be extra jumpy. Loud, sudden noises are the worst and make you feel like you could jump right out of your skin.
Or maybe you are washing dishes or busy doing something and are deep in thought, and someone walks up behind you and asks you a question. Do you often jump and scream as though an intruder has broken in? Even if you know other people are in the house?
16. Sensitive to the volume of your surroundings.
As a highly sensitive person, you may feel extremely irritated and uncomfortable in loud, noisy environments. For example, trying to have a conversation in a loud restaurant or bar is unnerving, and you would just rather not even try.
You might find yourself flinching when talking to a loud talker. Or the volume of the movie at the theater is way too loud for you to even enjoy the movie. Maybe you find yourself constantly turning down the volume of the television after someone else has been watching it.
You find that loud noises are terribly distracting and have a hard time focusing on any task at hand when surrounded by a noisy environment.
17. Light sensitivity
Can you stand to be outside in the sunshine without sunglasses? Do the bright flashing lights in dance clubs make you feel a bit crazy? Or maybe you find fluorescent lighting terribly offensive.
HSP’s are sensitive to bright lights and prefer to be in softly lit environments.
18. Tend to have chemical sensitivities.
HSP’s are more sensitive to chemicals than most. You may find that you have a hard time with:
- Chemically produced fragrances
- Traditional store-bought cleaning supplies
- Scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets
- Artificially scented candles
- Air fresheners
- Beauty products that contain fragrance, parabens, sulfates, etc.
19. You have a low pain tolerance.
With your heightened awareness of sensations within your body, as a highly sensitive person, you most likely have a pretty low pain tolerance.
Minor aches and pains affect you deeply, making it hard for you to concentrate on any task at hand. Headaches are always severe. Menstrual cramps can be almost unbearable. Stubbing your toe makes you feel like you want to die.
Not that all people don’t experience agony while they are in pain, it’s just that HSP’s tend to feel it a bit more than most.
20. Time constraints give you anxiety.
Feeling rushed is the worst. If you are an HSP, you most likely can’t stand to be on a time limit for anything.
Time tends to slip right past you as you get lost in deep thought, or are deeply concentrating on a project. Having someone standing there staring at you and waiting for you to get a move on just about sends you into a panic attack.
21. You are the reason they invented the word “Hangry”.
A lot of HSP are super sensitive to fluctuations in their blood sugar. You don’t get just a little famished. You get downright HANGRY (hungry and angry about it) and have yourself a little hissy fit if you don’t get something to eat in the appropriate amount of time.
It’s probably a good idea to carry snacks with you everywhere you go, so as not to release your demons on the world around you.
22. Too many choices are completely overwhelming
HSP’s may find that it is terribly overwhelming to be faced with too many choices.
Being asked to pick a restaurant to eat at can throw you into a panic. Then, trying to pick out something to have for lunch from a 4-page menu takes you absolutely forever because darn it, everything sounds good. How can you choose?
Grocery stores are ridiculous with their 100 different types of cereal and yogurt. Trying to find a movie to watch on Netflix can take an hour, then you are too tired to watch it by the time you finally pick it out.
Even something like choosing new bedding for your room can seem like an impossible feat. You have to live with it for a long time, and want it to be absolutely perfect. Because of this, you might not get new bedding for many months.
23. You are affected by the aesthetics of your surroundings.
Highly sensitive people can become easily depressed when not happy with the physical appearance of their environment. They prefer to surround themselves with beautiful things, colors that appeal to them, and items that have personal meanings.
An HSP will, without fail, always notice the beauty of the landscape or appreciate lovely design. Art holds special meanings and elicits raw emotion. Gorgeous flowers might stop you in your tracks. Maybe you can’t help but stare when you see the beauty in a person.
Whatever it is that you find beautiful, you not only perceive the beauty, you feel it to your core.
24. You feel music with your entire being.
Most people love music and regularly enjoy listening to whatever genre appeals to them. But and HSP not only loves to listen to music, they feel it to their very core. They can get lost in the melodies. Swept up in the sensations and emotions swirling through their entire bodies.
It doesn’t even always have to be about the lyrics. Or the melodies. HSP’s tend to associate each song that is special to them with a certain time in their past. As soon as a song starts playing, they are transported to the period in their life that they associate it with. This can be a positive, euphoric experience or a negative, depressing, or angering one. Either way, strong emotional connections are made.
Because of these strong connections, HSP’s also make wonderful musicians. Every performance is a display of their very soul, as the music consumes them.