A highly sensitive person.

What It Means to Be a Highly Sensitive Person

Have you ever been told that you’re too shy or sensitive? Do you cry easily? Do you feel overwhelmed when there is too much going on? As a child, did you have an active imagination and vivid dreams? If so, you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP).

HSPs react more intensely to experiences than the average person. They process both positive and negative information more deeply, so they can easily become overwhelmed by stimuli like loud noises, crowds, and high-pressure situations.

High sensitivity is a normal trait that is found in 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. High sensitivity is innate, meaning HSPs were probably born this way.

Want to find out if you’re a highly sensitive person? Take the highly sensitive person test.

Characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person

Brain-scan studies show there are actually differences in the level of neural activity in the brains of HSPs, compared with non-HSPs. Signs of a highly sensitive person include:

  • Have more empathy
  • Pay closer attention to their environment
  • Are more attentive to social cues from others
  • Cry easily and have strong emotional responses because they have a deeper level of cognitive processing
  • Are easily overwhelmed
  • Notice subtleties more
  • Avoid violent movies and TV shows
  • Have a rich, complex inner life
  • Need to withdraw after a busy day to a quiet, darkened room to reduce stimulation
  • May get overwhelmed by bright lights, itchy fabrics, or loud, unexpected sounds

Can Extroverts Be Highly Sensitive People, Too?

Yes! High sensitivity isn’t just an introvert thing, although introverts and HSPs have some similar tendencies, such as shying away from crowds and needing time alone in a quiet space to recharge. However, about 30 percent of HSPs are actually extroverts.

Learn about the difference between introverts, empaths and highly sensitive people.

Learn More About Being a Highly Sensitive Person

To learn more about being an HSP, we recommend starting with these articles:

We also have a sister site for highly sensitive people! Check out Highly Sensitive Refuge, the world’s largest publication & community for HSPs. Here are some of our favorite articles: