Telltale Signs You Are A Highly Sensitive Person

Telltale Signs You Are A Highly Sensitive Person - HSP Health Blog
Frightened © by Simon Blackley

Do you like solitary pursuits?

Do you get overhelmed easily?

Do you hate small talk?

Even if you do, how do you know you are a highly sensitive person?

Traits Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Highly sensitive people get the sense at a young age that they are different. They don’t fit in. They are not interested in the same things that other people are interested in. They are not motivated in the same way.

This profound sense of being different is life long. It does not go away, and can cause pain when the sensitive’s differentness is treated badly by family, peers, and early authority figures.

There are many reasons that the highly sensitive person will get the message that they are different:

  • physical sensitivities like loud sounds, too much noise, light and tactile or touch sensitivity may cause discomfort or pain, which is not necessarily true of non-HSP’s.
  • a highly sensitive person often needs time to themselves to rest after interacting with others. Non-HSP’s often recgarge with other people.
  • social interaction can be draining unless it is for a short time, with a few people in a quiet setting. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with big noisy social engagements.
  • the highly sensitive person hates small talk, something that non-HSP’s thrive on.
  • competition and the highly sensitive person are like oil and water. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with competition.
  • highly sensitive people are sensitive to the feelings of others and have a tendency to absorb the feelings of others causing much discomfort and unhappiness.
  • HSP’s are known for their empathy. Empathy in sensitives is more than a feeling for others – it is an active way of knowing the world .
  • HSP’s are right-brained. Non-HSP’s are more left-brained and  analytical.
  • HSP’s can have strong psychic and intuitive abilities.
  • HSP’s dislike pressure, which non-HSP’s accept more easily.
  • HSP’s need egalitarian social and work environments. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with hierarchical and competitive systems.
  • highly sensitive people do not like someone standing over them.
  • HSP’s need a simple lifestyle. Non-HSP’s are  more comfortable with busyness, stuff and activity including multitasking.
  • HSP’s need stillness. Non-HSP’s often avoid stillness.
  • many highly sensitive people are introverts.
  • HSP’s often feel a deep connection with nature and all the creatures in it.
  • highly sensitive people can be deeply spiritual.
  • many HSP’s will have physical conditions and allergies of one form or another.
  • HSP’s can form deep bonds with animals.
  • harm and abuse of all kinds are harder for highly sensitive people to heal.
  • many HSP’s dislike rrelationships and find them difficult based on values and lifestyle.
  • a highly sensitive person belongs in occupations that bring out the best in them: healing and creative occupations are among the best for HSP’s.
  • HSP’s intuition and sensitivity causes them to have profound insights and has the potential over time to lead them to great wisdom.

Deciding That You Are Highly Sensitive

Dr. Elaine Aron who pioneered the category of the highly sensitive person has written extensively about the highly sensitive trait. Her books are must reading for anyone wanting to know more about the trait – it is her life’s work. She estimates that 15-20% of people on the planet are highly sensitive. That is a huge number of people: more that 1 billion! Therefore it is highly likely that you may be sensitive or know someone who is.

There are many HSP quizzes online including the one on Dr. Aron’s site which you can take that can help you decide if you are highly sensitive.

However, in reading this list, you will notice how you feel around others: enhanced or drained, your relationship with nature and stillness, your values and attitude about competition and the type of environment that suits you the most. These are telltale signs that you are sensitive. If you are, you have an important journey ahead learning about yourself, and what you bring to the world.

Many see the highly sensitive person as vital to the changes we are making in the world, and I believe that it is true. The wisdom and empathy of HSP’s is badly needed.

So although being highly sensitive has been treated as a curse, it is now finally being seen as valuable as it should be. As our problems get worse and the need for wisdom and creativity rises, being a highly sensitive person will finally be welcomed in the world.


  1. says

    I appreciate your posts very much. In this one, I will have to say that I do disagree with a few points. HSP’s can have a variety of differences in the way they interact with the world. I’m an HSP, and I am “opposite” of a few items in the above list. For example, I enjoy movement, not stillness. I am very analytical along with some creativity – I see this same trait in my daughter who is very highly HSP. I enjoy being with people.. albeit in one on one or small groups, not big boisterous gatherings. So, the above list may be true for some, and yet HSPs certainly and do have a very large variety of traits which may or may not agree with the list. I’m sure this information, just like Dr. Aron’s site, is not meant to be an exact or exhaustive list, but rather a “guideline” to help deepen our understanding of HSPs. Thanks again for all you posts.

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by! I am glad that you are enjoying the posts.

      You are right that this article does not cover all of the traits of highly sensitive people. For one, it does not cover the high sensation seeking HSP’s who are fewer in number from what Dr. Aron writes.

      When I write about the HSP trait I am usually discussing “basic” traits, because so many people are just discovering that they are highly sensitive. Personally I think there is a lot of variation between highly sensitive people. It seems natural to me that HSPs who are so deep will also be very different. (David Ritchey gets into that in his work. I don’t know if you are aware of him; he is coming out with his new book soon.)

      I think you are right that many HSPs love people but can only take so much. I know I fall in that category and prefer smaller gatherings myself. However, I love stillness because that is where I rest.

      I think that you make a good point about how analysis and intuitive creativity coexist in HSP’s. I read somewhere that the corpus collosum in the HSP brain is such that we have a greater communication between the left and right side of the brain. I do not know how true that is, but it makes sense to me and so I expect HSP’s to have many capabilities beyond the basic HSP one’s.

      Having analytical and creative capabilities seems normal to me. Since we are so aware of nuances, then we need to understand them and to me that takes us where it takes us – whether it’s an analytical or intuitive journey – I think both are fine. I like seeing HSP’s develop themselves.

      Feel free to stop by any time, and I love hearing your questions, insights and concerns. All the best!

  2. says

    This is amazing. How did I get this far and not know about this ‘condition’?

    It’s like my brain has feelers. Music can disable me. The other day I was out for a walk when an ambulance siren blared in the distance. My startle response jumped into action and I checked things out. After I had dealt with this intrusive sound, I noticed that other walkers were just now becoming aware of the siren.

    Thank you for your informative and provocative piece.

    Paul Matthews

    • says

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for stopping by. People who are highly sensitive often feel that in being different there is something wrong with them. Often we get that message overtly or covertly and assimilate it.

      I sounds from your self observation that you may be a highly sensitive person. I startle often myself. You may want to check out Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, and also check out the website of Ted Zeff. Dr Zeff specializes in highly sensitive men and boys.

      If you are seeking relief from anxiety I highly recommend that you consider he Ayurvedic herb, Ashwaghandha.

      Let me know if I can help you further.

      All the best,

  3. says

    why do I hate small talk? – can’t stand superficial la-di-da with this colour cutex has to go with that colour lipstick!
    I also hate talking in general – is because i’m verbally deficient in “talking on the go”?

    • says

      Hi Magda,

      Most HSPs hate small talk. I think that there are a lot of reasons for it including the superficiality and the feeling that important things are left unsaid. I know I often feel a loss in most talk of real engagement, of the serious issues being on the table and so it is a feeling of being socially alone in the conversation that creates pain and sadness. So many of us avoid the small talk. There is nothing wrong with you – you are not satisfied by small talk and that is OK.


  4. Linda says

    I cannot recall how many times in my life (56) that I am to emotional or to sensitive. In my mind when I would hear this I would think “and this is a bad thing”. But of course over time I did began to see it as being a weakness. It has and still continues to be very empowering as I read more and more on HSP.

    I can really relate to feeling social awkward because I was unable to converse in small talk. A quote I heard early in my life that has stayed with me, I can not recall from whom it came but is “We speak of everything that is nothing and of nothing that is everything”.

    • says

      Hi Linda,

      We have all heard that we are too emotional and it is a very invalidating message. I think we may get more of that feedback since emotions are frowned upon in our driven macho world. I became very quiet myself although I kept seeing things that others were not noticing so I did not entirely see it as a weakness. I love the quote; it is so true, unfortunately. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      All the best,

  5. says

    Thanks, Maria, for another helpful article. Solitude can help fuel our creativity as HSPs. Musician Ani DiFranco produced her album “Educated Guess” entirely on her own. An interviewer asked, “Your approach, your energy on the current tour and on the new album seem different. Why is that?” DiFranco replied: “The difference is solitude. I have it in my life now…” – From my post: “Nurturing creativity in solitude”

  6. Patricia Likakis says

    Hi, Maria and thanks for these posts. I have always been told that I am “too sensitive” and learned to deny my feelings which did more harm than good. Last year, during a time of multiple family crises, I came across a newsletter with the title “Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?”. I couldn’t believe someone had finally identified the personality and given it a name! Then I “happened” to come across Elaine Aron’s book at a book festival and now it seems blogs are showing up left and right with information. I now embrace my sensitivity and have learned to not feel guilty about setting my boundaries. We are each unique creations and when we learn to love and accept ourselves as we are, we will become more loving and accepting of each other. Looking forward to reading the newsletter and your posts.

    • says

      Hi Patricia,

      Welcome! I am glad that you are enjoying the posts. It is wonderful that highly sensitive people are starting to feel safe enough to become more visible; most of us have felt so unwelcome in the world and still do a lot of the time. I think the world needs us now and so our emergence seems to be a healthy synchronicity. I am glad you are find self love and self acceptance. Dr. Aron has done us all a great favor with her work.

      All the best,

  7. Alison says

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the post, I have happened upon on and off for awhile and everytime I read about it I know this is me. I believe it starts from a young age and due to not being recognised we go through hard time growing and developing. It is being recognised and I am glad. I always pass on this information when I find and know the someone will gain from it or know me better.

    Still I do not know enough and need more help with researching and understanding. I will look up the names you have given. Do you think that some people get diagnosed or misdiagnosed due to not knowing or accepting HSP’s?

    Thanks again,

    • says

      Hi Alison,

      I think most of us have been mislabeled in one way or another and one of the results of Elaine Aron’s work is that a lot of relabeling will need to take place. That’s a good think because many people are suffering with labels that do not fit and do not help. Highly sensitive people need serious self care in order to function well so I hope you are giving that to yourself.

      All the best,

  8. says

    I can not thank you enough.

    At last! Some understanding of why I am so sensitive.

    As a Medium and Reiki Master I am full aware of how I should be protecting myself. And people have been telling me I am not protecting myself properly.

    Yet my energies have been being totally and utterly fried and drained to a point I have nothing left to give for my family after work.

    As a Coach and Tutor teaching unemployed people with Disabilities, I have taken on so much that along with the office environment that I have no control over, the bright lights, the chaos, the noise and constant interruptions. I have just been to the doctors and had been signed off with stress and anxiety.

    I knew there was more to it and was questioning my spirituality and path of self development. But knew deep down this was the only thing I was certain about.

    Please can you tell me is this a recognised condition? If I go to my doctor and talk about this will I be taken seriously?

    As an only child happy in my own company – drawing, I always knew I was different.

    Although I have great strength and confidence I finally feel as though I know the real me!

    I have been longing to work from home and for myself for so long…… It was not just a want but a need – now I know why!

    Thank you so much x

    • says

      Hi Nicola,

      It sounds like you have been through a lot and I am glad that you are taking time for some rest. I know the problem of doing too much and becoming exhausted – it is something I deal with also.

      Being highly sensitive is not actually a condition – it is a different nature based on having a nervous system that takes in everything around us. As a result if there is too much sensory activity around us we can become overwhelmed and drown in it. Obviously that does not feel good.

      Dr Elaine Aron wrote the book, The Highly Sensitive Person, which was published in 1996 and is making a movie, Sensitive, to introduce the trait to the world. So actually there is nothing wrong with you, you simply need good health care and a different way of pacing yourself than others do. There is a book, The Power Of Full Engagement, that explored how people work well. It is written by business people who have discovered that people who take frequent breaks to refresh themselves work more effectively. It is a useful book for talking with coworkers and employers about your need for a different pacing since it has been proven to be effective. It is available on Amazon.

      I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can do more!

      All the best,

  9. jade says

    I never heard of highly sensitive person until today. that explain alot of things about me. I been call crazy and shy. Its just I am not comfortable surround by group of ppl. too much noise n stimulus. not mention i am highly sensitive to western meds. the more I take the more sick I get. thanks for the beautiful article. it answer the question how I notice, taste and smell things tht most ppl miss. now know I am not crazy.

    • says

      Hi Jade,

      I am glad that I could help. No you are not crazy. You have to pace yourself differently and in our fast paced world highly sensitive people struggle with the overstimulus. When you get used to caring for yourself in a different way, then you may discover some important gifts in your trait. Many HSPs are great healers and very creative.

      All the best,

  10. says

    Brilliant article and good points. For some reason the HSP topic is not yet part of the main popular media discussions, but you are helping to change that. Many thanks!

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