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10 Signs You're a Highly Sensitive Person

therapist highly sensitive person

Do stress, criticism, or change often hit you harder than they seem to hit others? If so, you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP). By the end of this blog, you'll understand some of the signs you're a highly sensitive person.

You Might Be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you experience the world in a unique way. Born with this trait, you are more attuned to subtleties and process information deeply. This heightened awareness often makes you creative and insightful, but it also means you're more susceptible to stress and overwhelm than others.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

A highly sensitive person (HSP) processes emotions, thoughts, and sensory input very deeply, making them more physically and emotionally sensitive than others. High sensitivity is a normal, healthy personality trait, though it has both advantages and challenges. Researchers call this Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS).

Often labeled as "too sensitive," HSPs actually have many strengths. They excel in creativity, empathy, and noticing details or making connections that others might miss. High sensitivity is even linked to giftedness. However, the sensitive mind can become easily overworked, leading to overstimulation and emotional overload.

This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you or that you have a disorder. High sensitivity, found in 15-20% of the population, is a well-researched, normal trait documented by Dr. Elaine Aron and others. It is a natural part of inborn temperament, seen in humans and over 100 other species. Evolutionarily, this trait helps with survival, as it allows individuals to detect potential dangers and opportunities that others might miss.

10 Signs You're a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

1. You Often Feel Emotionally Exhausted

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) often "absorb" others' emotions. An HSP can walk into a room and instantly sense the moods around them. This heightened awareness of subtleties—like facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice—paired with their naturally high empathy, means HSPs often feel emotions that aren't their own. Consequently, they frequently experience emotional exhaustion.

2. You are more affected by time pressure compared to others

Back in school, those timed quizzes or speed tests used to get you seriously worked up — sometimes enough to hinder your usual performance. Now as an adult, when your to-do list piles up and time starts slipping away, the stress hits hard. Being highly sensitive to stimulation, time pressure really gets under your skin.

3. You Tend to Retreat or Pull Back

Whether you lean towards introversion or extroversion, you crave ample downtime, preferably in solitude. It's common for you to retreat to a peaceful, dimly lit space at the close of a busy day. This retreat helps dial down the stimulation, calm your senses, and rejuvenate your energy.

4. You Startle Easy

Whenever someone catches you off guard, you react like a startled animal. Loud noises startle you. Many highly sensitive people (HSPs) share this heightened "startle reflex" because their nervous systems remain on high alert even in seemingly harmless situations.

5. You Seek Answers to Big Questions

As an HSP, you're drawn to exploring the profound questions life presents. You ponder why things unfold the way they do and what part you play in it all. If you're highly sensitive, you might have often wondered why others don't share your fascination with unraveling the mysteries of human nature and the universe.

6. You Find Change Unsettling

For highly sensitive people, routines provide a sense of comfort because they're less overwhelming than something completely new. That's why any kind of change, whether it's positive or negative, tends to unsettle us. For instance, when starting a new relationship or getting a job promotion, the excitement is often mixed with stress. Overall, HSPs usually require more time than others to adapt to changes.

7. Every now and then, your environment becomes your enemy.

Similarly, when it comes to relocating to a new place or embarking on a trip, even if it's supposedly for leisure, it tends to pose significant challenges. The influx of unfamiliar stimuli overwhelms your senses, making the experience quite demanding.

8. You Get Hangry Quickly

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) often experience sensitivity to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can lead them to feel quite "hangry" (a blend of hungry and angry) if they haven't eaten for a while.

9. Conflict Hits You Hard

When there's tension or disagreement in your close relationships, it hits hard. You may feel physically unwell during conflicts, like many other HSPs do. Consequently, some highly sensitive folks tend to avoid conflict at all costs, going to great lengths to maintain harmony and keep everyone content. People pleasers because conflict hurts so deeply.

10. Harsh Words Dig Deep

Words hold immense significance for HSPs. Positive words can uplift them to great heights, while harsh ones can swiftly bring them crashing down. Criticism can pierce deeply, and negativity acts as poison to the finely-tuned system of a highly sensitive person.

If you are interested in learning about therapy or would like to setup an appointment with Person to Person Psychotherapy, serving New Jersey & New York residents, call 908-224-0007.


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