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.
Highly sensitive people (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 external 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 N. Aron, researcher and author of the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. High sensitivity is innate, meaning HSPs were probably born this way.
Brain-scan studies show there are actually differences in the level of neural activity in the minds of HSPs, compared with non-HSPs. HSPs tend to have more empathy, pay closer attention to their environment, and are more attentive to social cues from others.
They cry easily and have strong emotional responses because they have a deeper level of cognitive processing, are easily overwhelmed, and notice subtleties more, Dr. Aron tells the Wall Street Journal.
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.
Dr. Aron and her team are making a documentary about high sensitivity, which will feature musician Alanis Morissette, who describes herself as an HSP. The documentary is titled “Sensitive,” and you can read more about it here.
To find out if you’re highly sensitive, take the 23-question, true/false quiz below, which was adapted from Dr. Aron’s book. The more questions you answer ‘true,’ the more sensitive you are.
Image credit: Mirko Stoedter