Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity?

Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity? - HSP Health Blob
Source: saintBob – Flickr

As I stood in line waiting to order my cup of coffee, I reached for my phone in my purse. You know, just in case there were any new updates within the last 5 minutes since the last time I checked it.

I didn’t feel the need to check. I just did it. You might be thinking that yes, you do this, too. It’s like we are on autopilot sometimes. Or are we?

Avoiding Our Sensitivity

What if we aren’t? What if we know exactly what we are doing?

What if we are checking our phones—or eating when we’re not hungry, or watching another episode on Netflix, or {insert supposedly mindless activity here}—because feeling our sensitivity just feels like it’s too much?

Do you do this? Do you participate in little actions throughout your day to avoid your sensitive self feeling too much, feeling life around you?

Why We Numb Ourselves To Our Sensitivity

I get it. We HSPs know what it’s like to truly feel our way through life. It can get overwhelming. Eye contact with a stranger. Sitting too close to someone on the train. Returning a phone call we don’t want to make. Showing up to a stressful job. Meeting new people at a party. Heck, even being with our own families at a holiday gathering.

It can be a lot to handle. Because we feel life’s moments more intensely, the volume can feel like it’s turned up too high a lot of the time. Mere eye contact with a stranger can feel like it’s just too much to handle when you’ve already got an ongoing to-do list in your mind, plus you’re still dwelling on the conversation you had earlier with a friend that just didn’t sit well with you.

Because there’s already so much going on internally, numbing our sensitivity to the stimulation around us can feel like the most natural thing in the world to HSPs.

Sensitivity Does Not Have To Be A Trap

But what if that moment you’re missing is one that may change your life? What if you could have both—a lively inner world and a way to meet the stimulating present moment with courage and calm, at the same time?

It takes some heart to heart time with your intuition, regular practice, and compassion for yourself along the way, but it is possible. With practice, HSPs can slowly baby step their way out of numbing their sensitivity and begin looking at life around them with curiosity, offering it their attention even if it feels awkward. Even if it feels scary.

A nod to a stranger, a “How are you?” to your cashier at the supermarket, showing up to a networking event, not looking at your phone during time spent with a loved one—it may not seem like it, but these are all brave acts for the HSP.

They require us to feel multiple things at once. They ask us to get real with the world around us.

Checking our phones to avoid feeling the world around us is just one way we may be numbing our sensitivity. The ways are endless, and some much more destructive than others. Avoiding feeling too much by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, sleeping too much, eating too much, the list goes on.

Do you catch yourself numbing your sensitivity? If so, how do you do it? What is one small step you can take this week to connect to the world around you while still feeling safe and OK in your HSP skin?

Share with us in the comments below.


  1. says

    Thanks for this post. I never thought of things like checking a phone as being ways to avoid sensitivity. For me, I think I have a long way to go. I’d still rather “dull” my sensitivity. It’s easier, less scary, and less stressful that way.

    • says

      Loving your insight, Kelly. I feel that as HSPs we are “all in this together” and yet we all have our unique experiences. I used to fault myself for my sensitivity, and for me that goes hand in hand with the “numbing” as a way to be anything but feeling what I’m feeling when faced with overwhelm. Even in moments of overwhelm I practice mindfulness—moment to moment awareness—and remind myself that there’s nothing to be fixed, just parts of myself to be learned about and supported at a deeper level. At times it is the better choice to “dull” the sensitivity I feel, and then there are those moments when I want to explore this overwhelming moment just as I am without having to hide. It feels very vulnerable and scary to even just breathe into that moment as an HSP, without distraction. It’s a practice of accepting who I am, even if it feels risky.


  2. says

    I’m trying to separate myself from the headphones that I wear as a matter of course when travelling to and from work. Sometimes I play music or a podcast. Other times they are there to say “don’t talk to me.” It’s a work in progress. Depends on how my day is going…

    • says

      Hi Colin,

      You have to do what you have to do. This frenetic culture is hard on us. I am glad that you are protecting yourself.

      All the best,

      • says

        Thanks for sharing, Colin! I know what you mean. It’s wonderful to know yourself and what you need, day to day. I too use the headphones as a sign that I want to be left alone sometimes. :) Hey, it works!


  3. Kim says

    I thought I was just weird for checking my phone all the time, but I’m glad to see it was just a way of dealing with stress. I’ve also gained 20 lbs in the past year from stress eating. I’m an INFJ who recently came out of an emotionally abusive marriage, and I see I have been doing these things as a way of keeping myself occupied so I wouldn’t have to face the pain. Wow…I feel different already.

    • says

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for stopping by. An abusive marriage will result in emotional eating. I do not believe that it is a sign of your own weakness as many people like to iner. I think that abusive people drain our energies and when we eat we are trying to protect our life force from the damage we are experiencing.

      I am glad that you are making a new life for yourself. Keep me posted on your progress.

      All the best,

      • says

        Thank you for sharing, Kim. Food can absolutely be used as a way to cope with stress. It’s when we are turning to it on a regular basis to avoid feeling our way through emotions that we want to take a closer look at what is going on. I wish you all the best on your new journey forward.


  4. Jihad says

    Hi there …
    firstly , i thank you so much for this great artcile , that describe what i feel exactly all the time … I just have trouble in moving forward , i feel like i’am stuck in my position for a long time . Is that fear of failure if i move on ? plus , i keep repeating the same activities , the ones that i feel confortable with , but in the other hand , i feel stuck
    How can i get throught that ?
    Thank you :)

    • says

      Hi Jihad,

      You are experiencing a common problem. Many times the negativity we experience can cause us to have difficulty moving forward. I suggest taking baby steps and looking for actions that increase that serves the values of increased well being and quality of life. Then you can be secure that you are taking positive steps.

      Good luck!

      • says

        Thanks for reading and sharing here, Jihad! I like Maria’s comments about taking small steps to slowly start increasing positive changes in your life. I can relate to repeating activities we are comfortable with – and feeling stuck when it comes to changing things up. That can be scary. But it is certainly possible with small steps and a courageous heart. I believe in you!

        Best wishes,

  5. Stephanie says

    Interesting article that made me think – yes I do numb my sensitivity by checking my phone knowing there is nothing new… on the other hand, nowadays when I step into the elevators, out of 10 people, 9 are checking their phone or on their BB, so do they all want to ‘numb’ their sensitivity or are they just socially handicapped or simply shy ?
    My job is a desk job and unfortunately in an open space so there I do put on earphones just to block out the external noises/disruptions and calm down the sensitivity, and when I don’t have them and I get overwhelmed by my environment or can’t get out, I try to talk to myself and calm myself down by rationalizing my feelings and take a distance mentally from the scene.
    My main issue is taking things too personally, I’m so sensitive to comments, I get told to stop being so sensitive and I really would like to learn to deal with this ! If there is an article coming up on that then I would love to read it – thank you very much

    • says

      Hi Stephanie,

      Being in a cubicle is hard for highly sensitive people. I think using earphones is a great idea because you need to detach from everything else in order to focus. There is the idea in our culture that if something bothers us it is a fault in us that we are not strong or cannot cope. That is a macho model of a human that is totally wrong and unrealistic. However, it creates the idea that abuse is the fault of the victim and that sensitivity is a weakness – and these ideas are totally wrong.

      Sensitivity provides us with information. It is worth detaching your sensitivity from other people’s perceptions about it so that it can inform you. When you detach your sensitivity from other people then you can begin to assess people without letting your sensitivity be the basis of it. Sometimes we are very sensitive when others meant no harm, but more often than not, we are objecting to the rudeness and bad manners of others. It is OK to dislike others poor social skills. It is also a useful skill not to take those poor social skills as you distance yourself from them.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,

  6. Andy says

    I go into my head and into another space and time. I have friends who told me that I seemed spaced out sometime. And sometime I missed the first few words of a conversation just because I wasn’t mindfully present at that moment. Sometime I can get away with it, sometime I can’t. And I will have people telling me that I could be hard of hearing and should go have my ears checked. Haha.

    • says

      Hi Andy,

      I love that you have a sense of humor about it! Listening to our sensitivity takes a lot so it is natural that sometimes you will seem spaced out to others sometimes especially of they are engaged in chit-chat which we HSPs do not find all that interesting. We can only do the best we can so it is good that you are not taking it too seriously.

      All the best,

  7. Keith Bush says

    Namaste Kathryn, as for me I used to drink & do drugs just to keep my own feelings at bay,cause when i found out that i was hsp,empath & natural healer my world just never felt the same again,all the stress from the world just came on me so hard,I wouldn’t let my mom touch me anymore,I would distance myself from friends & family and wouldn’t leave my home i became an emotional eater.i just didn’t feel the love anymore,and to be a survivor of hiv+19 yrs,just made it that more worst for me,But now that I have started grounding myself and I got rid of the mind chatter,I can meditate better,I eat organic fruits & veggies,I am cutting back on my meat intake,and I have changed my lifestyle 360,I have more peace & I so am trying to get my Spiritual Healer-Advisor-Teacher-Medium Ship & Palmistry business off the ground,I heard a word one day telling me to stay sober & I could have whatever I wanted today is day 51..12-21-2014=4..and I am so proud of the work that your doing for all of us,a tear just come to my eyes.we arent alone after all.we all have support from each other.God Bless you Beloved,May your Holidays be filled with Joy & Laughter.light & love..i love you!!!

    • says

      Hi Keith,

      I am Maria and this is my website. I just saw your words and had to respond. I am very touched by your courageous story and your willingness to share it. I think loneliness is such a serious challenge for us sensitives. So many of us suffer from the pain of being perceived as different and therefore unwelcome. It hurts deeply. I am impressed by your 19 year HIV survivorship. I wanted to pass on to you that I have discovered an herb: Neem which supports the immune system and I have read that it is effective in helping with HIV.

      I hope your holidays are wonderful and that you have a fabulous 2015.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *