12 Things a Highly Sensitive Person Needs

IntrovertDear.com highly sensitive person

If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, you know little things can be too much. Busy environments, violent images in movies, or weekends with little downtime can stress you out. Because you’re so in tune with your environment and other people, life can be pretty exhausting. As a result, you withdraw — but the people around you don’t understand why you do this.

But there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone. High sensitivity is actually fairly common, found in 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, author of the book, The Highly Sensitive Person. Both introverts and extroverts can be sensitive.

Sadly, because many people don’t understand what high sensitivity is, you may have been told to “toughen up” or “just get over it.” You may have always felt different from other people, but you didn’t have a name for what you were.

High sensitivity can make life challenging but not impossible. When I’m in a routine and doing plenty of self-care, I forget about my sensitivity. But a recent trip reminded me of just how frazzled my senses can get. I was rushing from one activity to the next, hanging out in loud, crowded bars and restaurants, and meeting many new people. To top it all off, I wasn’t getting enough sleep or the kind of exercise that makes me feel good, like cardio and yoga. After five days of “vacation,” I was completely fried.

What a Highly Sensitive Person Needs

Here are twelve things highly sensitive people need to function at their best.

1. Time to decompress

Noisy, busy environments, like a crowded shopping mall, can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s highly reactive nervous system. Likewise, packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like a job interview or the first day in a new school, are overstimulating. If you know you’ll be in situation that will frazzle you, plan some time to decompress in a quiet space afterward. It’s best if you can be alone.

2. Meaningful relationships

We get bored or restless in relationships that lack meaningful interaction, according to Aron. This doesn’t mean we’re prone to relationship hopping. Rather, we may actually work harder to inspire intimacy and interesting conversation. It also means we’re selective about the people we let into our lives.

Interestingly, many sensitive people are great to be in a relationship with because they not only tune in to what’s good for them but also to what’s good for others. They pay close attention to what their significant other wants. Aron calls this characteristic “mate sensitivity,” which means the ability to rapidly figure out what pleases their partner and act based on that intel. This behavior goes for friends, family members, and co-workers as well. Basically, it makes us happy to make others happy.

3. People who understand our emotional nature

Sensitive people may cry or frequently become emotional. “Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling,” Aron told the Huffington Post. “They show their anger, they show their happiness. Appreciating that is really important.”

4. A gentle, healthy way of managing conflict

No matter who you are, fighting with a loved one is miserable. But sensitive people tend to feel extra anxious when conflict arises, and an internal battle takes place. We feel torn between speaking up for what we believe is right and sitting back so we don’t provoke an angry reaction from the other person. Often we subjugate our own needs because we’d rather “go along to get along.” On the other hand, sensitive people can make great conflict resolvers, because we tend to see the other person’s perspective. We have high levels of empathy and can easily put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

5. Time to get things done

Sensitive people like a slower pace of life. We like pondering all our options before making a decision. We’re always reflecting on our experiences. We hate busy schedules and rushing from one event to the next. One of the hardest parts of my day during the work week is getting moving in the morning and leaving my apartment on time. Saturday mornings, when I don’t have to work, are for going at my own pace. It’s calming and restorative to know I don’t have to be dressed and ready to go anywhere anytime soon.

6. Plenty of sleep

Lack of sleep (less than 7 hours a night, for most people) makes the average person irritable and less productive. But lack of sleep for the sensitive person can make life almost unbearable. Getting enough sleep soothes my ramped-up senses and helps me process my thoughts and emotions. How much sleep I get can literally make or break my day. Without proper sleep, every little stressor seems ten times worse.

7. Healthy meals spaced regularly throughout the day

When I don’t eat regularly, I get hangry. This is because, according to Aron, extreme hunger can mess up a sensitive person’s mood or concentration. To fend off feelings of crankiness and discombobulation, maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day by eating regular healthy meals and snacks.

8. Caffeine-free options

Sensitive people are sensitive to caffeine (no surprise here). I drink one cup of coffee in the morning to get me going, but I don’t have any caffeine past noon. Even a mug of green tea later in the day would leave me tossing and turning at night. Plus, having too much caffeine leaves me feeling jittery and wound up in an uncomfortable way. If you’re sensitive, consider limiting your coffee, soda, and tea intake. Watch out for sneaky sources of caffeine, like chocolate. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine. For example, Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Bar has a walloping 31 milligrams of caffeine, almost as much as a can of Coke!

9. A space of our own

If you live with others, make sure you have a quiet place you can retreat to when you need to get away from noise and people. Turn on your favorite music to drown out any unpleasant external noise.

10. Low lighting

If possible, turn off the overhead lights in your home or office and substitute a lamp.

11. Time to adjust to change

Transitions aren’t easy for anybody. (Hey! Who moved my cheese?) But for sensitive people, transitions can be really rough. Even positive changes, like starting a new relationship or moving into a dream home, can be overstimulating and require an extra long period of adjustment. For example, I recently moved into a wonderful new apartment in a city I enjoy, but I literally felt off-kilter for months until I got used to my new situation.

12. Beauty and nature

Like most sensitive people, I’m deeply affected by my surroundings, especially the way they look. Cluttered, chaotic, or just plain ugly environments bother me. I feel calm spending time in nature, my city’s favorite neighborhoods, or my simply decorated apartment (especially when it’s actually clean and tidy!).

When it comes down to it, the key is to embrace your sensitivity rather than work against it. Sensitive people make incredible leaders, partners, and friends. We have high levels of empathy and we tend to be creative and perceptive. Maybe the world could use a little more of what we have.

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  • Yes, great list! I really connect with the dim lighting. I need a peaceful, calm environment or I become agitated and not very pleasant to be around. I’m an ENFP but right on the cusp of introversion 🙂

  • eleni says:

    A great post! i definitely identify with the 1, 4, 6 and 9.

  • I can relate to all of these. I have planned my work schedule so that I get my twenty hours in Monday-Thursday. Last week I had to work a Saturday morning and found that by Sunday evening I was completely overwhelmed and in tears; not ready to start a new week as I hadn’t had enough down time. Your post is a good reminder to me in how I can best take care of myself. Thank you. ISFP here.

  • dmgolive says:

    Jeez, this is so me. I had boyfriends, family members, co-workers and bosses tell me to toughen up and not be so sensitive. I never felt I was cut out for this world. Life would be SO much easier if I was non-sensitive.

  • haanim says:

    I can relate as well….. I’m trying to do a lot of physical self care and silent time and grounding but I still feel blocked emotional and mentally……any tips?

  • FitMBA says:

    Very accurate list I resonate with all of them!

  • Sheri tabor says:

    Someone once told me to watch 10000 episodes of Star Trek so I could learn to be more like spock . I have learn to use my sensitivity as a massage therapist to detect spots in the body that require extra needed attention

  • Emma lawrey says:

    Well in this case no sensitive person should be a parent when you have to put the needs of others above your own! And there is no such thing as 7 hours sleep or a quiet room in the house.

    • Mary says:

      For me it was true that I did not think I should be a parent. Nor wanted to. Not everyone does. But it is a choice. Not all parents should be parents, IMO. You make it sound like we are lazy or selfish. And on a page for those of us trying to figure out why we feel different and can’t just toughen up. Why do that? This list put it all together for me beyond sensitivity to sound and smell but also why an extrovert like me often needed to withdraw, and how the physical needs and emotional traits I identify with are part of the whole.

    • Alissa Conant says:

      It’s not that you shouldn’t, it’s just more challenging. I’m very sensitive and an INFP. I had two sets of two under two. Hard work, but worth it. I look back on the pictures and I’m pretty obviously stressed and skinny, but happy too. It also matters who your partner is (mine is super energetic, hardworking ETFJ who lets me sleep in, takes the kids on Saturday mornings, & makes sure I get alone time every day) and if you are willing to bend the rules of standard parenting (cosleeping, anyone?). We also are unique because we chose to have four- really only doable because of my husband’s job as a firefighter and my willingness to stay home. If he was nine to five or we both worked, we would have had two a good three to five years apart.

    • kjheins says:

      Seriously…you are best off to understand you are highly sensitive before you become a parent and then get ready to be somewhat uncomfortable for the next 15 to 20 years. You will endure much lack of sleep, people turning on overhead lights and just leaving them, a total messy environment for at least the first ten years, chewing noises of other people. Sometimes a lot on your schedule so you should accept it and just remember to be kind to others through it and not get down on yourself if you mess up.

  • After my husband remodeled the bathroom the lights were too bright…So I asked him to install a dimmer switch, works perfectly.

  • Colleen says:

    I’m a very sensitive and introverted person and I must always remember that after spending time socializing with friends, I have to take time to be alone. A couple of years ago I forgot that about myself and what a bad mistake it turned out to be. I went to a wedding out of town. I arrived on Friday night and left early Sunday afternoon. I met up with and shared a suite with several friends from high school. We still keep in touch even though a couple live quite far away. I was really looking forward to having a “p.j. party” with my friends–taking comfort in sharing our thoughts and feelings and enjoying a big party together. By 6:00 pm on Saturday, the start of the wedding ceremony, I was feeling overwhelmed because I was with my friends every waking moment since Friday. Too much stress–I was out of my element and spending too much time as part of a group. It was difficult to hide my stress. I was hurt by casual comments and the more I tried to hide my hurt the more I became weepy. I will never again forget to take time out for myself when spending a lot of time being social. I should have gotten a room to myself.
    Also, I’m a single mother of two kids and although I don’t get a lot of alone time or enough sleep, I do manage to get some alone time. I have to plan when I can get time alone and I must make sure I take the time. It’s absolutely possible to be an sensitive/introvert and a very good parent.

  • Lkinsworthy@msn.com says:

    Thanks for the sharing…I think I was an extrovert before I was severely abused in a marriage which left me needing a lot of PTSD treatment. I’m definitely very sensitive and my siblings have an impossible time accepting that aspect of my personality. As a psychiatric nurse, my sensitivity is a good fit at least. Thank you to all for sharing.

  • mrskristyn says:

    Regarding the HSP and parenting:

    In my experience, this personality trait (as with ANY personality trait, by the way), can be a blessing or a curse as a parent. It just depends on how you frame it and setting reasonable expectations. Obviously, there are certain needs that we have (i.e., quiet, space, time to reflect) that may have to be negotiated to some extent. But there are things that a highly-sensitive parent has that can significantly enhance the process, too! My two young kids (8 and 2) often thrive on slowing down, appreciating the small things in nature, learning to be considerate and empathetic to the plight’s of others, and many other things that seem to come more naturally to the HSP. I will admit that there are some days when I crave solitude, simplicity, and serenity (to the point that I feel myself start unraveling), but I am trying to find creative ways to incorporate those things—after the kids are in bed when I can read or meditate or even in the commute to work when I can just be alone with my thoughts.

    Learning how to navigate through life as an HSP involves, in large part, figuring out how to co-exist with everyone around us: our children, spouse, family, colleagues, friends, or neighbors. Being a parent and an HSP do not have to be mutually exclusive, necessarily!

  • Meghan says:

    Being a parent and an HSP absolutely do not have to be mutually exclusive! For one thing, not all 12 things are of equal weight for every HSP — while sleep and extra time are top on my list of needs, I am not sensitive to caffeine. Nor do I get particularly grumpy when I’m hungry — and if I do, a quick snack will fix me right up. I think it’s wonderful to be an HSP parent. I’m pretty tuned in to my children’s needs, and was able to handle the loneliness of the baby years with not much trouble. My oldest son is an HSP (he was the kind of infant who’d cry to be put down and left alone), and we have a wonderful bond. I can truly understand what he needs. My youngest is like his father, at the opposite end of the spectrum, and I’m able to appreciate how carefree he is. And I can help teach my children to love and support others’, and be kind and considerate and tolerant of differences.
    Every person has some level of individual needs, and HSP or not, taking care of others at the expense of yourself will hurt not just you, but those you care for. Parenthood is not a martyrdom contest, and asking for help — whether it’s for someone to come keep you company or to give you alone time — is not just okay, it’s healthy.

  • Karen says:

    I’m sensitive but I am a total extrovert!

  • Liz says:

    This article helped me sooo much. Thank you. It helped me to understand myself and to accept it instead of fight against it.

  • So much yes to all of this. I really need to read her book! Thank you for sharing. XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  • Grace says:

    Great post! I love that you included low lighting which I don’t think many people think of. At my old job I typically opened, and I would only turn on half of the overhead fluorescent lights, if any at all. We had big windows, so I was often able to get away with no lights on. Sometimes my manager would get in before me, and she’d turn on all the lights. When I arrived for some reason I could never consciously notice the difference right away. Then when my coworker got in hours later, she’d turn half or all of the lights off, and I could literally feel an immediate relief.

  • Harriet Carter says:

    I am an extrovert most of the time and also need LOTS of quiet space and down town. I am now retired and became a master gardener. This allows me to be out in nature while at the same time contribute to the community.

  • Mary Clancy says:

    This article has helped me understand my moods better, especially with groups I feel extreme anxiety, even family get togethers. I’ve always been such a people pleaser. Then wonder why I’m tearful.

  • LexiD says:

    I recognise all this…so good to know I am not alone

  • Cyndi says:

    I find myself described here, very much so. However,until reading your article and the positive “normalcy” you give it, this has not been my reaction to having such a highly sensitized and empathetic personality. I’ve been mostly critisisized by family for being “too sensitive”. ” oh, you are just too emotional cyndi, just too sensative, you have no sense of humor lighten up”. So I have learned to dislike my emotional ways and sensitivities. Spent a fair amount of $ in therapy trying to have that corrected. Listened to the Head doctors call it CODEPENDENCY. At least that is what you described in your article and what I naturally am like and am trying to reprogram. What makes me feel good is making/helping others feel good about themselves and helping them. They (psych Dr’s ) have a field day with me when I tell them that. But its true. But I’ve stopped saying it. Tried to stop feeling it the best I can. I am highly empathetic with people around me.
    Please explain to me the difference in what you are talking about and CODEPENDENCY. Thank you.
    Most of my career has been in the care giving area ie. Childcare, nanny, Teacher, customer serv rep., respite caregiver, physical therapist. At t h e end of 2015 my mother passed away, her loss was following multiple stacked losses including my husbands in a very short time span and something inside me snapped. More correctly like someone turned off a light switch. I made it through, even completely organized and performed her eulogy, the ceremony. But, when I returned to work the next day i began having debilitating panic attacks. I had to be removed from work on ” short term leave” and checked into intensive patient therapy. It is May and while I am doing some better I am still not concentrating and feel like I had a stroke that took my ability to control my emotions away from me. Meds help a little.
    Is this common with US highly sensatives ? Is this why it happened to me? Family says suck it up.

    • Liz says:

      Sensitive people like yourself easily get too involved emotionally with others. If you put all your positive emotional energy out there with very little to none in return, you will burn out. Then it takes a while to get refilled again. Take time out for yourself by telling yourself positive affirmations and going places that energize you. Enjoy the laughter with kids and soothing time with pets. You have to strike a balance. Empaths cannot give their all without repercussions. Scale back on the giving and do some receiving!

    • Rebcca says:

      Hi Cyndi, I’m sorry to hear about your losses and that they all happened together in a short space if time. I think your sensitivity is a wonderful gift. Your system has been overloaded by the impact of these losses and you need space and time to grieve. A similar thing happened to me recently. Many big stressors accumulated by chance and I was overwhelmed. It is good in this situation to focus in self care and make sure you are treating yourself very gently, finding time to do things which refresh and heal you, whatever that may be. In time you will be able ti function fully again, it’s just underneath the surface. Blessings to you. x

  • Yvonne says:

    Thank you for this. I can totally relate to all those points. I’ve always thought negatively about a lot of those personality traits because family would describe me as too sensitive. My son is the same and his dad is constantly telling him not to cry over x y and z and not to be angry. I will be more mindful of the triggers that upset both of us and make sure we get timeout. I’ll also have to work on thinking more positively about my sensitive side. So glad to read this. Thanks again.

  • Lourisia says:

    So very true all of it but the one about being in busy environments holidays so true for me. I know this will sound weird but all of the people their thoughts are to loud not that I know what people are thinking but comes to me in screams then I get hot feel like everything is closing in on me anxiety sets in and then I get upset and angry. Good read

  • Andi says:

    Very good read. Every single one of these things resonated with me. I guess I never really had an assigned term for it, especially since I’m generally an extrovert, but, yes, highly sensitive makes sense. Being a new mom (I have a 7 month old), I’m struggling with the balance between work, baby time, partner time and me time. Me time is suffering and I’ve often been feeling this overwhelming sense of agitation as a result.

  • Liz says:

    It sounds like you may also be experiencing depression. You need time to process the losses. Have you ever journaled? Get a notebook and start writing down your daily thoughts and feelings. Then write yourself an affirmation at the end. Hugs to you!

  • Deb says:

    Great list – most were spot on. I would only add that sensitive people are often very independent and may appear snobbish and standoffish at the outset; but a sensitive person, probably needs more attention and compassion than other people realize.

    • Jo says:

      I agree with that comment completely!!! I am a HSP, very independent and at times come across snobbish or standoffish. I take everything to heart so much and guard my thoughts and feelings so as not to be too vulnerable and risk being hurt by others, which is sole distroying. I wish others understood us better and loved ones were able to be more compassionate and attentive to encourage us to open up more without the risk of being hurt

  • Wanda says:

    Articles like this help to confirm the fact that I am a normal person after all. For years I thought something was wrong with me b/c I did not fit in with groups of people. I now recognize my need for solitude. I am able to retreat when I am overly stimulated, and I know I am fine just the way I am.

  • Bhavya says:

    Thank you so much for this list 🙂

  • Mahmoud says:

    Hello guys☺
    Am HSP too. Lovely to talk to people who feel the same , not just understand. Cyndi am sorry for your loss. I had the same tragic situation if not worse. But when I have a look back into my whole life I find overwhelming, struggling ,anger ,fatigue..itc every where even away of tragidy. I had a relief when I knew that an HSP naturally has a huge mental processor . Actually it is a gift if we know how to use it?. On the other hand, it will kill us if we use it the wrong way?. I have temptation to think and analyze with endless details that leaves me overwhelmed , angry and exhausted. I think if I can control and choose which gates of thinking I should use and which ones I should close I will be the happiest creature on planet. I believe it’s a choice, not easy but possible?.Forget about the ego of the processor and think about your health and joy . Thak you every body?

  • I relate to all the items listed. Amazing that I am not alone or weird as everyone tells me. I work in security – great to be alone most of the time – but yet, I love it when I am busy, except to file all the reports. I really do need to sleep 8 hours or if not I feel drained and distant. In crowds I feel as though I am being shocked and overwhelmed by constantly looking around for possible trouble. Down time is like a crash for me, but I have to have a room to stay in for a couple of hours to be away from people, not that I want to, but need to be away. I like to listen to everyone’s stories that they have. I can’t stay in bars, restaurants, or any crowded place without freaking out inside. On the outside I look like an uninterested person. I cope with it as much as I can. Therapy doesn’t work for me – a mild drug did help when the world spun out from under me. Took four years to get off of that. Now, I am feeling life in a whole different perspective. Especially, now that I am not alone with being HSP. Thanks everyone! Have a great day!

  • Jennifer Leigh says:

    I can relate to all of these and I’m an INFP too. Struggle with chronic anxiety but maybe part of that is the conflict of thinking I need to be someone I’m not. I like the idea of embracing the way I was designed and seeing it as a gift.

  • Josie says:

    Yes, times 12, plus many other things mentioned in the comments. It is so wonderfully comforting to know I am not alone. As an introverted HSP – INFJ, It seems my whole life has been a struggle. I am married to a wonderful extrovert who is trying hard to understand, but our road can be bumpy. I often get tired of being so dang special. I also empathize with Jo. I know that I can come across as aloof when I am feeling vulnerable and guarding myself from being hurt, and I worry that that turns people off. Thank you Jenn, for shining a light on HSPs and reminding all of us that we are not defective.

  • Unfortunately, for me, a week without caffein is like a year without rain. I can’t imagine living without it.

  • Loronda says:

    It really is refreshing to know that i am not along. I am a highly sensitive INFP. and have been called “too sensitive” most of my life. I am learning this isn’t a plague or that there is something wrong with me after all. Thanks for this blog, and this post. It’s a healing experience..

  • Kaydee says:

    Fits me like a glove. I have now come to embrace my need for recharge time and no longer beat myself up for hating overly stimulating social situations. I just pare them down to the ones that are necessary and form a plan for how to get through.

  • Debra says:

    WOW! You nailed me 99%!!!!! Actually having somebody tell me who, what and why I am is very refreshing!!! It explains a lot of my internal struggles that I feel shouldnt be struggles…

  • I connected so much with this post – thank you for sharing!! It feels lovely to know that there are others out there who feel the same!

  • RamblinRedhead says:

    This all resonated – except I thrive on caffeine, as some others also seem to. The rest is me to a tee. I had the hardest times in life when there was also hormonal upheaval – such as puberty in my teens, and then again, when menopause hit full-force. I am just emerging from that in a more normal form, more able to cope, and NOT fly off the handle when stressed too far. The one post about not having any alone time at a weekend trip with friends YES! My last trip to family, I didn’t stay with anyone, I got my own hotel room, though I could ill afford it. It was the best money I’ve spent in a LONG time. After all day with my family – which wears me ragged, that room was like a safe harbor to pull into, and patch myself up for the next day of “family fun” (a WHOLE other story there!). Anyway, I felt one missing component (for women) is the hormonal effects of things like puberty, PMS, menopause, etc.

  • Jordan says:

    Took the words straight out of my head!

  • Gerry Addict says:

    Hands up who’s a sensitive soul with special needs that normal people do not understand?? Now take your raised hand and use it immediately to give yourself a good,hard slap!!

  • Christina Moe says:

    I noticed myself a long ago and Now I definitely know myself that I’m a HSP. I believe myself that I’ll be the caring Mom for my lovely daughter and caring Wife for my husband …. Because I’ve got a special gift…. Because I was born this way… I gladly accept it…

  • samhokum says:

    And really damn good ones too.

  • Dan Scientific says:

    very true

  • S. W. Sted says:

    I am an hsm. I was wondering, where did you get the infp and infj as the likely personalities? I and N make sense do make sense but only I 70% of the time, but fot the reason the high sensitivity trait is also attributed to deep thinking and processing, why would you not assume also intp and intj? I’m actually very close to 50% on everything except the intuition ranking, but pride myself on my thinking capacity slightly more so than my empathetic capacities, so being an entp/intp – A, I’m curious about why you don’t also consider thinkers. Thanks for the article!

  • Catherine says:

    This is why I struggled so badly during pregnancy and looking after a baby/ toddler. I got hardly any of these 12 things, especially no time to myself or people who understood me emotionally. I had to make new friends when I was at my lowest and be ‘on duty’ all the time with my child. I’m so glad she’s more independent now.