what is high sensitivity?
According to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, high sensitivity is an inherited trait characterized by an overactive nervous system. Highly Sensitive People (HSP) process and absorb more emotional and physical information than average, which can result in feelings of overwhelm.
On the plus side, high sensitivity equips you with important tools, such as intuition and creativity, the hunger for knowledge, and the quest to understand life on a deeper level.
Instead of feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, you can learn to recognize and celebrate your high sensitivity as the beautiful and powerful gift that is! You’ll understand that high sensitivity is something that you can use to your advantage.
It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.
~ Marianne Willamson
Assess your high sensitivity
HSP characteristics & Potential Issues
High Sensitivity affects both the mind and the body. Below is a list of common HSP characteristics and potential issues. These are not necessarily inherited traits, but all are things that I’ve observed in myself or in other HSPs.
I encourage you to review the items in the list. Click on each topic, and carefully consider the questions in the descriptions. If you have many of these traits and issues, then you’re most likely a Highly Sensitive Person!
Are you a deeply creative person who can literally lose yourself in a creative endeavor, such as music, writing, or art? Are you often preoccupied by thinking about what you want to create next? Are you energized by your creative projects and use them to recharge from your daily stresses?
Are you good at reading people or assessing the mood of a room? Do you have strong, “gut” feelings that often turn out to be correct? Do you have the ability to know something, even if you’re not sure how you learned it? Are you acutely self-aware with a high capacity for intuitive learning?
Do you always make an extraordinary effort to do the best you can in every task that you undertake? Does this sometimes hinder you from getting things done in a timely manner? Are you a perfectionist?
Are you highly tuned into the moods and problems of other people? Do other people often confide in you? Are you able to feel the happiness and pleasure of others? Do you feel other people’s pain and suffer because they suffer? Are you easily emotionally manipulated?
Do you love spending time in nature, especially to decompress from a hectic week? Are you often in awe of the natural beauty found in nature? Are you deeply concerned over environmental issues?
Are always wondering about things? Do you love tackling an interesting problem, however challenging? Do you find yourself constantly googling or seeking out more information on topics that pique your curiosity? Are you sometimes distracted by your intense curiosity, dropping everything to satisfy a sudden “need to know?” Are you especially skilled in examining complex issues, often coming up with ideas that no one else has thought of? Do you have a rich, complex inner life? Do you often ponder some of life’s biggest mysteries, such as why you are here or what will happen after you die? Are you drawn to religion or spiritual practices as you seek to address these questions? Are you open to holistic activities and alternative ways of doing things?
Have you always loved animals? Do you form intense bonds with your animal companions? Do you often prefer the company of animals over people? Do you sometimes extend more compassion towards animals than people?
Do you have the need to be alone for extended periods of time every day? Do you use your “alone time” to recharge and decompress from routine stress?
Does it take a long time for you to get comfortable in a new situation or around people you don’t know well? Do social situations make you nervous? Do you hate small talk? Do you have trouble making eye contact with others, especially strangers? Do you spend so much time wondering what others think of you that you behave awkwardly in social settings?
Shyness is NOT an inherited HSP trait. Sensitivity is. Your experiences in childhood might have caused you to have shy tendencies.
Do you function better in scripted settings, both vocationally and socially? Do you take solace in repetition and routine? Do you have trouble moving beyond your comfort zone, even when the stakes, for better or worse, are really high?
Do you become unusually nervous when you are the focus of attention? Do you get easily flustered when being watched by others? Is public speaking a challenge for you?
Do you purposely avoid anything that depicts violence, such as violent movies or television shows? Do you get overwhelmed by the news, which often focuses on negative events or divisive subject matter, such as politics?
Do you feel uncomfortable in environments, such as hospitals, where there is an overabundance of activity? Do you dislike crowds? Are you overwhelmed in environments that produce bright lights and strong smells? Are you unusually affected by temperature extremes? Are you easily startled by loud or sudden sounds? Does clutter make you abnormally stressed?
Do you have an unusually low tolerance for pain? Do you find yourself getting extremely anxious regarding any situation that may be painful (or even just slightly uncomfortable), such as medical procedures? Do you often find that the dread of a long-awaited, painful experience is actually far more agonizing than the actual pain itself?
Do you tend to experience side effects from medications? Do stimulants, such as caffeine, make you especially jumpy or nervous?
Do you have feelings of irritability, nervousness, or lack of concentration when you haven’t eaten for an extended period of time? Do you find it impossible to fall asleep if you’re the slightest bit hungry? Do you find yourself uncharacteristically lashing out at others when you’re hungry?
Do you often blush or feel flushed when you’re emotionally overstimulated (embarrassed or stressed) or eat hot food? Do you often worry that you’ll blush in certain social situations? Does just the concern of blushing automatically make it happen?
Have you been accused of being too touchy? Do you have trouble coping with criticism? Do you beat yourself up when others criticize you, even when the criticism is minor? Do you often mistake innocuous comments as criticism or a personal attack?
Does it take you an unusually long time to recover from a setback? Do you find yourself revisiting a mistake you made over and over? Are you unable to move on after a significant loss, such as the loss of a job or the end of a relationship?
Do you take worrying to the extreme? Do you spend a lot of time worrying about things that are unlikely to happen or things that you can’t control? Does your worrying leave you feeling tense and anxious for long periods? Do you sometimes get caught in a cycle of worry and end up worrying over things that don’t matter at all?
Are you overly distressed when you have to make a change? Do you go out of your way to avoid change? Do you sometimes cling to what’s comfortable, even when it no longer serves you?
Do you avoid confrontation? Are you reluctant to speak up because you don’t want to “make waves?” Do you go out of your way to please others or play the role of peacemaker?
Are you thrown off balance when other people want you to do too many things at once? Are you at your best when you can do a “deep dive” into one project, rather than trying to accomplish several tasks efficiently? Are you easily distracted? Do you have a lot of trouble refocusing after a distraction?
Do you agonize over decisions? Do you drive yourself crazy trying to consider every possible option or outcome? Do you delay decisions because you endlessly gather information? Do you often avoid making decisions, large and small, by deferring to others?
Appreciate Your High Sensitivity
High sensitivity bestows many powerful gifts, including creativity, curiosity, compassion, empathy, and intuition. HSPs are deep thinkers, intense observers, hard workers, and passionate souls.