11 signs you’re a genuine HSP, according to psychology

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Ever been told you’re super sensitive? Or noticed you feel things more deeply than your friends? Maybe you’re not a fan of loud places or crowded parties?

If that sounds like you, you might just be a Highly Sensitive Person, or HSP.

Did you know that about 1 in every 5 people is an HSP?

It’s not just about being introverted or preferring quiet. There’s a whole bunch of traits that make HSPs special.

In this article, I’m going to dive into 11 signs that you might be an HSP. 

Let’s get started. 

1. You feel deeply

An HSP experiences emotions in a way that is much deeper than most people.

You don’t just feel happy, you feel joyous. You don’t just feel sad, you feel deep sorrow. It’s like your emotional dial is turned up to 11.

This isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s what makes you empathetic and understanding.

But it does mean that you might find emotional scenes in movies or books very overwhelming.

This beautifully captured by Anthon St. Maarten:

“To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings”

This quote highlights that feeling deeply is not just a personal trait but a reflection of a caring and empathetic nature.

2. You’re highly observant

If you’re an HSP, you probably notice things that others miss. You might spot a tiny change in someone’s mood, or pick up on subtle cues in your environment.

This is because HSPs are highly attuned to the world around them.

According to Susan Cain, they take in more sensory information than most people, which makes them excellent observers.

“Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments -both physical and emotional -unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss – another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

But this can also be tiring, as it means you’re constantly processing a lot of information.

If you find yourself noticing the little things that others don’t, you might just be an HSP.

3. You need alone time

As an HSP myself, I can tell you that we definitely need our alone time.

After a long day, especially one filled with lots of people or activities, I find myself craving some quiet. It’s like my brain needs time to process everything that happened.

This isn’t about being antisocial or not liking people. It’s about needing time to recharge and reset.

Some HSPs might feel drained after spending too much time in a busy environment, like a mall or a crowded party.

If you find yourself needing regular alone time to feel balanced, it could be a sign you’re an HSP too.

4. You’re sensitive to stimuli

HSPs have a heightened sensitivity to stimuli. This means they can become easily overwhelmed by things like loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights.

Even the tag on a shirt or the texture of a fabric can be irritating.

This heightened sensitivity is actually due to a difference in an HSP’s brain – it processes sensory information more deeply than most people’s.

Researchers did an experiment using a special brain scanning method called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They were looking into how certain people, who are really sensitive to their surroundings, process things in their brain.

What they found was pretty interesting. People who are highly sensitive (they scored high on a sensitivity scale) had more activity in certain parts of their brain.

These areas are the ones that help us pay attention, plan actions, be aware of our surroundings, understand and blend different senses (like sight and sound), feel empathy, and plan actions again. These parts include the cingulate, insula, inferior frontal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus, and the premotor area.

So, this study shows that being aware and responsive are key parts of being super sensitive, and it’s all linked to how our brain works.

5. You’re deeply moved by beauty

For HSPs, beauty isn’t just appreciated, it’s deeply felt.

Whether it’s a breathtaking painting, a poignant piece of music, or the simple beauty of a sunset, these experiences can move an HSP to tears.

That’s because HSPs have an innate ability to experience things more deeply than others.

They can be profoundly affected by art, nature, and even the kindness in the world.

It’s not about being overly emotional, but about having a heart that feels everything more intensely.

If you often find yourself deeply moved by beauty, don’t dismiss it. It could be a sign that you’re an HSP.

6. You pick up on other’s emotions

Speaking from my own experience as an HSP, one sign that really stands out is the ability to pick up on other people’s emotions.

It’s like having a sixth sense. I can walk into a room and immediately feel if there’s tension, joy, or any other emotion in the air.

It’s not something I consciously do; it just happens. And often, I find myself absorbing those emotions as if they were my own.

This empathy makes HSPs great friends and listeners, but it can also be draining if not managed.

In fact, according to Eric Owens, this is why HSPs make great leaders:

“As humans, we’re all emotional creatures. So the more equipped we are to understand people’s emotions, the better we can lead them. That’s why I believe HSPs are born to lead — because understanding people’s emotions is natural to them. When we understand people’s emotions well, we know what to say to get the best out of them. And getting the best out of people is what being a good leader is all about.”

So, if you find yourself frequently picking up on and feeling other people’s emotions, you might be an HSP too.

7. You get overwhelmed by bad news

Being an HSP can sometimes be tough, especially when it comes to dealing with bad news.

Whether it’s a heartbreaking story on the news, a friend going through a tough time, or even a sad post on social media, it hits you hard.

You feel it deeply and it can stick with you for a long time. It’s not just about being sensitive, it’s about feeling things more intensely than others do.

It can be hard to shake off that sadness or worry.

If you find yourself frequently overwhelmed by bad news or negative events, it’s likely you’re an HSP.

8. You have a rich inner life

HSPs often have a rich and complex inner life. They’re deep thinkers with a vibrant imagination. This can lead to a lot of creativity, introspection, and daydreaming.

In fact, many artists, writers, and musicians identify as HSPs. Their ability to perceive and interpret the world in such depth allows them to create beautiful and expressive work.

So, if you find yourself often lost in your thoughts or daydreams, or if you have a strong creative streak, you might just be an HSP.

9. You avoid violent media

As an HSP myself, I can tell you that violent movies, TV shows, or even news stories can be too much to handle.

The intense emotions, the graphic images – it all feels very real and very overwhelming.

It’s not just about disliking violence (though that’s part of it), it’s about how deeply I experience and process those scenes.

I know many HSPs who feel the same way.

If you find yourself avoiding violent or disturbing media because it’s too emotionally taxing, you might be an HSP too.

10. You strive for perfection

Let’s get real. If you’re an HSP, chances are, you’re a bit of a perfectionist. You have high standards for yourself and you strive to meet them, no matter what.

It’s not about being the best, it’s about doing your best – even if it means stressing over the little details that others might overlook.

But this pressure can become overwhelming, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

If you constantly strive for perfection and are hard on yourself when you don’t meet those high standards, you’re probably an HSP.

11. You need a calm environment

Living life as an HSP can often feel like you’re trying to navigate through a loud, chaotic world that doesn’t understand your need for calm and quiet. You crave serene and peaceful environments where your senses can relax. Too much noise, too many people, or even a cluttered room can feel incredibly overwhelming, leaving you feeling anxious and drained.

Researcher Andre Sólo explains it well:

“They hear nearly every sound, notice every movement, and process the expression on every person’s face. And that means that simply walking through a public space can be an assault on their senses.”

If you find yourself seeking out calm environments and feeling stressed in chaotic ones, there’s a good chance that you’re an HSP.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge these traits if they resonate with you. Being an HSP isn’t a flaw or something to be ashamed of – it’s just a different way of experiencing the world.

And remember, being an HSP means you have a unique ability to feel deeply, empathize with others and appreciate beauty in ways many people can’t. It truly is something special.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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