13 Problems Only Highly Sensitive Introverts Will Understand

highly sensitive introvert problems

Sometimes life is just too much.

If you’re a highly sensitive introvert, you know that everyday life can sometimes be a real struggle. Little things that don’t bother other people have the power to completely overwhelm you. And what may be a minor irritation for some can easily send you into a panic or reduce you to tears.

Why is this the case? Because highly sensitive people (HSPs) process every little stimulus quite deeply, due to a biological difference in their nervous system. They think about things deeply, feel deeply, and care deeply — and as a result, get overwhelmed more easily.

Both introverts and extroverts can be highly sensitive, but the majority of HSPs are introverted (about 70 percent). When you’re both an introvert and an HSP, it can feel like a one-two punch. You not only get stressed out by environmental things like bright lights, bustling activity, and loud noises, but you also have a shorter “battery” for socializing and being around people in general.

Are you a highly sensitive introvert? If so, you can probably relate to these 13 problems.

Highly Sensitive Introvert Problems

1. A lack of volume control

Concerts, movie theaters, or even your neighbor’s late-night music can be loud. While no one likes having their ear drums blasted, for highly sensitive people, noise can feel like a full-on assault on their senses. The problem is made worse when you have no way to control the volume — and when other people don’t seem bothered by it at all, making you feel like the “difficult” one.

2. Little sleep = hell

Whether it’s making small talk to the point of feeling drained or just having a busy day at work, life can be exhausting for both introverts and highly sensitive people. It’s not unusual for them to feel quite tired and mentally fatigued at the end of the day, and they may even need more sleep than others. When they don’t get that sleep, they miss their opportunity to rest and reset their senses. For the highly sensitive introvert, running on little sleep can feel like the very definition of hell — every little irritation is ratcheted up exponentially.

3. Frequent emotional exhaustion

Is your significant other stressed? Suddenly you’re feeling stressed, too. Is your best friend or child sad? You feel sad, too — even though your day was going fine. Many highly sensitive people absorb the emotions of others. Rather than just sensing what someone else is feeling, they actually start feeling it themselves. And what’s more emotionally exhausting than carrying the burden of your own feelings, plus those of someone else?

4. Having a strong, unexplainable reaction to both violence and beauty

No one loves violence and cruelty, but HSPs absolutely abhor it. Watching a very scary or gory movie may make them feel sick. Similarly, they may not be able to watch, read, or listen to shows, books, or podcasts about certain triggering topics (like animal cruelty or other similar brutal acts).

But the opposite is true as well. HSPs often have very strong positive reactions to thoughtful or inspiring movies, books, music, or art. It may move them to tears or simply leave them thinking about it for days. If you’re an HSP, you wonder why other people don’t react to beauty and emotion like you do. You often want to talk about your thoughts and reactions, but you don’t, because you know others won’t see it the same way you do — and this feels isolating.

5. Overanalyzing every little word and gesture

Highly sensitive introverts notice little things that others miss. A lot of little things, especially when it comes to other people. They notice when someone’s tone of voice doesn’t match their words. They notice when someone won’t meet their eyes when answering their question. And they often find themselves launching into an agonizing over-analysis after the interaction, especially if they suspect the other person wasn’t being honest or is upset with them.

6. Not socializing the way most people do

For many people, going to a bar or party, or simply hanging out with a large group of people, is just what you do for fun. But for highly sensitive introverts, spending a prolonged amount of time in a noisy, crowded environment making small talk can simply be too much. Especially in your college years or twenties, this can severely limit your options for socializing — and make you feel like the odd one out.

7. You can’t easily brush things off

When someone makes a disturbing or violent joke, and everyone else laughs, but you can’t. Even though it’s “just a joke,” you have a hard time brushing it off. For HSPs, injustice and cruelty are no laughing matters.

8. Vacations can be anything but relaxing

When your vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but little things, like sleeping in a different bed and being in a new environment, make you wish you were back home.

9. Getting really hangry

When you forget to eat and suddenly you get really, really irritable and unable to concentrate. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, HSPs tend to be more sensitive than others to dips and spikes in blood sugar levels.

10. When someone raises their voice at you

For highly sensitive introverts, words really matter. Tone of voice really matters. And there’s little worse than knowing someone is mad at you. When someone raises their voice at you — especially someone close to you — it can feel like a punch to the gut. Similarly, as a child, you may have cried the moment a parent or teacher scolded you. (Or in the classroom, you felt guilty even when the teacher scolded someone else and you had nothing to do with it!)

11. Time pressure causes serious anxiety

Having to do something quickly — or simply running late to an appointment — can leave you quite anxious and flustered. According to Aron, all types of stimulation, including time pressure, affect HSPs more than others.

12. Going out, even though you want to stay in

Highly empathetic and aware of the feelings of others, HSPs don’t want to let anyone down — sometimes even when it comes at a cost to them. They may say yes to going out and socializing even when their “introvert side” is begging them to stay in.

13. Even positive changes have their downside

Change can be hard for anyone, but it’s especially hard for HSPs, who tend to find comfort in routine (routine is far less stimulating than something new). So even good changes, like getting a job promotion or dating someone new, can cause them a great deal of stress. This may confuse their friends and family, who don’t understand why they aren’t riding the “high” of their newfound luck or success. But for HSPs, those feelings of excitement can be overstimulating in and of themselves! Highly sensitive introverts tend to need extra time to adjust to changes — even positive ones.

Are you a highly sensitive person? Check out Highly Sensitive Refuge, our website and community just for HSPs. 

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Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.