Have you ever wondered if you’re a highly sensitive person?
Some people seem to be born with nerves on the outside of their skin. These people tend to be more sensitive than their parents, brothers and sisters, or the kids in their class. They often can’t get through a movie (even a comedy!) or a TV commercial without shedding a few tears. A bit of criticism causes them real pain, and they’re often empathic to anyone around them.
The truth is, some people are more sensitive than others. They are not only sensitive to emotions, but also to energy, sound, light, and other physical stimulus. These individuals are referred to as Highly Sensitive People or HSP for short.
According to research by Elaine Aaron (pioneer in research of Highly Sensitive People), it is estimated that 15-20% of the population fall under the umbrella considered “highly sensitive person.”
The brains of the highly sensitive people work differently than others. Essentially, they process information and reflect on it more deeply and are acutely aware of subtleties in their environment. This deeper processing makes them more prone to becoming overstimulated by their environment.
8 Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person:
1. You’re very emotional
Whether positive or negative, you experience emotions intensely, react strongly to them, and (for some) cry easily.
2. You’re very compassionate and generous
You’ve always been a natural caretaker, seeking to offer comfort and help to those who suffer. You likely often go out of your way to avoid offending anyone or hurting their feelings.
3. You’re sensitive to criticism
Criticism doesn’t feel constructive so much as it feels personal and painful. You are not able to let it roll off your shoulders as others do, and therefore allow criticism to keep you safe in your comfort zone.
Often, Highly Sensitive People will spend hours, days, and sometimes even weeks ruminating and obsessing over the smallest comment or perceived criticism.
4. You feel different from everyone else and sometimes alone
You’ve always known, or had it pointed out to you, that you were somehow different from everyone else. Maybe you see your sensitivity as a weakness and often feel alone because others have told you that you need to “toughen up.” Highly sensitive men almost always experience this throughout life.
5. You’re sensitive to external stimuli
While no one else around you seems to notice, that buzz of the overhead lights is driving you nuts! So does the sound of your coworkers chewing, the rough fabric of your shirts and the smell of too much perfume or cologne on someone.
6. You overthink and worry
You notice every detail and overthink what should be a simple decision, like where to go for lunch. You are prone to getting stuck in the rehashing of the “what-if” rut.
7. You’re intuitive
You walk into a room and instantly get a “feel” for it. You know how people are feeling. This is fine when the energy is positive, but when it’s negative, things can be difficult. So you often avoid large gatherings and crowded events.
8. You often feel tired and overwhelmed
Because you not only deal with your emotions, others’ emotions, and so much stimulation all day every day, you easily feel overwhelmed by all of it and feel as though you need to sleep more and need more alone time.
What You Can Do
Living life as a Highly Sensitive Person is not easy for many (especially for men due to the stigma), but there are some things you can do:
- See your sensitivity as a positive, not a negative
- Remember: there is nothing wrong with you and you are not alone
- As much as possible avoid negative people, places and situations
- Set firm boundaries with people who take advantage of your compassion and empathy
- Practice regular self-care through exercise, meditation, and mindfulness
- Give yourself the same empathy and kindness as you do others
If you think you may be a highly sensitive person and find yourself feeling depressed or anxious because of your sensitivity, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you learn how to navigate the overstimulating world without feeling overwhelmed all the time.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.