10 Types of Highly Sensitive People (And How You Can Protect Yourself if You Are One)

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“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears” – Edgar Allan Poe

As a highly sensitive person, I’m always scouring the internet and bookshops for more material that help to shed light on this wonderful gift we highly sensitive people have.

It used to be that I was told to “toughen up” all of the time. I continually tried to do this but could never figure out why it was so difficult.

Everything changed when I figured out the ten types of highly sensitive people that are out there, which shows just how common it is to be one of these people. I realized that I was not alone, and that my strength actually comes from my sensitivity.

Here are the ten types of highly sensitive person that I’ve come across. Do these resonate with you?

The Orchid Child

According to Professor Bruce Ellis, Orchid children are “biologically sensitive to context” which simply means they are somewhat more sensitive than others who thrive in and adapt to any environment they may find themselves in.

Commenting on a recent article written on the issue, Ellis had this to say on the matter:

“Most children survive and even thrive in whatever circumstances they encounter, like dandelions. Nurtured with quality parenting and programs, orchid children can blossom spectacularly into society’s happiest, most productive people. Conversely, given poor parenting and sketchy surroundings, they are at greater risk to end up wrestling with depression, substance abuse issues and even jail.”

These are clearly highly sensitive people and the discovery of the “Orchid Child” shows how common we are.

The Sensory Defensive Person

According to Sharon Heller, a college professor, sensory defensive people can be characterized as follows:

  • Annoyed by certain textures that come into contact with their skin
  • Startled easily by sudden, loud noises
  • Sensitive to touch and very ticklish
  • Are uncomfortable with bright lights and too much visual stimuli
  • Uncomfortable in crowds
  • Sensitive to strong odors
  • Dislike certain foods because of the texture and feel

Highly sensitive people are the focus of Heller’s study. It’s interesting that these terms are being developed to describe those that are more sensitive to various stimuli, showing just how many of us there really is.

Thin Boundary Person

Ernest Hartmann, MD, of Tufts University came up with the “boundaries” concept in the 1980s while studying people who suffered from nightmares. During his research, he found out there was a small percentage of people who were able to recall their dreams in rich and vivid detail, even when the dream was particularly sketchy.

This is exactly the condition I’ve experienced and other highly sensitive people have said the same to me. Here are the other characteristics experienced by these people:

  • Become overwhelmed and tired when bombarded with sensory and emotional input
  • Feel pain or pleasure much more than the average person
  • Are more at risk of allergies and illnesses
  • Suffer more when experiencing trauma as children
  • Are overly affected when exposed to bright lights, loud noises, strange smells and all sensory stimuli

The Sensitives

There’s a lot of information out there about “sensitives”, which are people that are characterized as follows:

Psychic Ability

As well as the usual traits and behaviors always associated with highly sensitive people, in regards to sensitives there is always mention of psychic ability and extra-sensory perception beyond that of normal human beings. Sounds far-fetched, I know but then the proof is in the pudding right? Here are some of the extra-sensory abilities mentioned:

Hunches

  • Sensing of other people’s feelings
  • Able to ‘know’ the future
  • See shadows or movement out of the corner of his/her eye
  • When making wrong decisions, experience physical discomfort such as knots in stomach

The Fantasy-Prone-Person

In 1981, American psychologists Sheryl C. Wilson and Theodore X. Barber discovered this trait in people, and stated that it affected about 4% of the population.

Obviously, these fantasy prone people spend much of their time fantasizing and are also said to experience the paranormal. Many of these individuals are also deeply religious and have visions and hear voices, much like Joan of Arc was said to have experienced.

Traits of Fantasy-prone-people:

  • Have imaginary friends as children
  • See apparitions
  • Claim to have psychic abilities
  • Have vivid and colorful sensory perceptions
  • Fantasize often as children
  • Are able to heal others
  • Can experience imagined sensations as real

It’s difficult to know exactly what is out there, and highly sensitive people are likely to experience these fantasies. Who knows what is real and what isn’t? It’s difficult for highly sensitive people to distinguish reality from fiction.

The Electrical Sensitive

Did you know there are people who are more sensitive to electricity? In the 1980s British researcher Michael Shallis surveyed hundreds of people about this and the results are startling. Most people who are electrically sensitive are women.

Here is what stood out in Shallis’ survey:

  • 70% of those interviewed suffered from allergies
  • 70% were averse to loud noises and bright lights
  • 23% had been struck by lightning
  • 60% either became physically ill before thunderstorms or were able to sense the approach of one
  • 69% had experienced psychic phenomena

When I was young, I found I always had an impact on street lights. Have you also experienced this?

Gifted – Dabrowski’s Over-excitabilities

Kazimierz Dabrowski studied gifted children and identified 5 areas of extreme intensity which he termed “over-excitabilities” or more appropriate to this article – “supersensitivities.”

Here are some of the qualtiies Dabrowski found for these people:

Psychomotor:

Impulsive behavior
Nervous habits and ticks
Physical expression of emotions
Sleeplessness

Sensual:

Extremely acute senses
Prone to allergies
Experience discomfort with some textures
Pleasure seeking
Need comfort

Intellectual:

Deep curiosity
Theoretical thinking
Always asking questions

Imaginational:

Vivid Dreams
Love Poetry, music and drama
Love fantasy
Daydreaming

Emotional:

Anxiety
Timidity and shyness
Loneliness
Concern for others
Strong memory for feelings
Extremes of emotion

Conclusion

Isn’t it wonderful to see how many studies have been carried out on highly sensitive people and children over the previous decades. This helps us highly sensitive people to cope knowing that there’s many of us.

The key way to protect yourself as a highly sensitive person is to know that your sensitivity is your strength. You don’t have to be “strong” like other people. Strength comes from embracing who you really are.

Originally published at The Power of Ideas.

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