Am I highly sensitive? Beginner's guide to HSP!

Anne-Kathrin Walter
Am I highly sensitive? Beginner's guide to HSP!

'Am I highly sensitive?' is a question more sensitive souls have been asking themselves lately. This article explains the trait and answers your question.

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Key points

  • Am I highly sensitive?
  • The definition of ‘highly sensitive people’
  • You feel more deeply
  • You notice subtleties in somebody’s communication
  • HSP's have superpowers!
  • Being a HSP in 2018 is tough
  • So… are YOU highly sensitive?

Am I highly sensitive?

“Don’t be so sensitive!”
“Harden up!”
“Stop taking things so personal!”
“Ignore that noise, you can hardly hear it. Just tune it out.”

Have people said one or more of these phrases to you in the past? Do you feel different from others when it comes to the way you process certain experiences? Do you need more time than others to recharge your energy? If your answer to some or all of these questions is yes; have you ever thought of the idea that you might be highly sensitive?

Possibly, you already walked around with the question 'Am i highly sensitive?' for a while, but you did not know how to find out if you truly are. This article explains what a highly sensitive person (HSP) is. Also, it helps you to determine if you are highly sensitive.

The definition of ‘highly sensitive people’

"The HSP has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment." - Dr. Elaine Aron

The trait is heritable, meaning that you were born with it. A recent study showed that the brain of a HSP processes information more deeply, compared to the brain of a less sensitive person. This, in basic language, means that this ‘receiver’-thingy in the brain of a HSP is more sensitive to all the signals that it is receiving in comparison to the brain of a less sensitive person. 

Preston C. Ni wrote an article for Psychology Today, and defines high sensitivity “as acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli”. I found this information useful when I learned that I am highly sensitive. However, I learned from experience that it can be a tough one to explain these theories to others who do not know of the term.

Telling others you are a HSP

When somebody asks me how it is to be highly sensitive, I usually say “Do you know that discomforting feeling when the music is way too loud and you want to turn it down? That is what it feels like for me when I am walking through busy places with many sounds. It feels overwhelming and discomforting, and I wish I could turn it down sometimes, but I can’t.” 

Some people do identify with what you are telling them, some people act interested, and some people look at you like you are an alien or weirdo. The last-mentioned are usually ‘the tough ones’. They are those who cannot relate to sensitivity and maybe even consider it as a negative characteristic. Although these people tend to see your sensitivity as a flaw or weakness (see the statements that I stated at the top of this article), please notice that being highly sensitive is not a disorder, disadvantage or disease.

You feel more deeply

Being highly sensitive means that you feel more deeply than people who were not born with the trait. As a result, you might experience everything you face in life, both positive and negative, more intensely. Normal things such as light, sound, touch, taste and smell might feel too overwhelming sometimes. After exposure to a discomforting ‘normal’ situation, you might even feel exhausted and crave for a moment to recharge. However, because of you experiencing these things more deeply, they can touch your soul in a way that others might not understand. Simple things as a beautiful song, walking in the forest or a hug can give you an amazing feeling.

You notice subtleties in somebody’s communication

Besides your high sensitivity in relation to your senses, you as a HSP might experience interactions with people differently compared to less sensitive individuals. Some highly sensitive persons even consider socializing as challenging. You might notice subtleties in somebody’s non-verbal communication that many others do not recognize. The way they look at you, their tone of voice and the ‘vibe’ they have. You take it all in. 

As a result, you might replay conversations in your head, wondering whether you did or said something wrong. HSP's often have a caring nature, and therefore feel terrified by the idea of hurting someone. I know I do. Consequently, you often might remember situations from the past, analyzing your behavior towards others, and worrying that you made mistakes. This is a common challenge that I have noticed many highly sensitive persons do have, including me. 

The HSP's caring nature, however, also results in them being exceptional caretakers. As a result, it is no surprise that many HSP’s choose to become psychologists, therapists or to pursue other caregiving careers. They have it in them!

Puffy Lux

HSP's have superpowers!

Besides the above mentioned aspects, HSP's have many more beautiful traits, or as I would like to call them, superpowers. Doodles for change drew a funny (yet shockingly accurate) picture of the most common characteristics of HSP's:

As one can see, the “typical” highly sensitive person is in possession of many wonderful characteristics that he or she should be proud of. I certainly am proud of my trait. The above-mentioned traits might help you in answering the question 'Am I highly sensitive?'.

Being a HSP in 2019 is tough

I know that it can be challenging to be highly sensitive in the fast-moving society that we live in today. It seems like everything around us is getting louder, and superficial behavior, egoism and materialism are motivated by our society. This development makes it tough for highly sensitive persons to ‘recharge’ at the end of the day. There is a tremendous load of sensory input to process each day, and it seems to become more and more for each year. Therefore, it is more important than ever for HSP’s to be aware of their trait by finding an answer to the question 'Am I highly sensitive' and to protect and recharge their energy.

So… Am I highly sensitive?

In order to be more aware of your needs, you might want to know whether you are highly sensitive or not. Maybe you already know that you are highly sensitive after reading this article. If not, take the test on Dr. Elaine Arons website to find out whether you are. Also, feel free to share your results with us in the comments!

Am I highly sensitive? Click here to take the test!

Anne-Kathrin Walter
Written By

Anne-Kathrin Walter

Co-Founder of HiSensitives
Anne-Kathrin Walter is a writer, social media expert and the co-founder of HiSensitives. HiSensitives is a personal growth brand for highly sensitive people and empaths. Many highly sensitive people and empaths still see their trait as a weakness, and HiSensitives wants to change that. Therefore, Anne-Kathrin and her partner Riny have made it their mission to make the world a better place for highly sensitive people and empaths. With HiSensitives, they want to inspire HSP's and empaths worldwide to invest more time in themselves and their personal growth.