7 classic signs of a highly sensitive person (HSP), according to psychology

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Ever felt like the world around you is just a little bit too loud, too bright, or too much?

Or maybe you’ve noticed that you pick up on the little things that others just walk past?

If this sounds like you, you might be part of the highly sensitive person (HSP) club. 

These are the people who experience life in high definition. 

They feel the world deeply and with an intensity that many can’t understand. 

Being an HSP has a lot of highs, lows, and in-betweens. 

And while it can be exhausting at times, it’s also incredibly special. 

According to stats, only 20 – 30% of the world’s population identify as HSPs. 

Want to find out if you’re a member of this gang?

Well, a classic trait of HSPs is that…

1) They’re easily overwhelmed. 

According to the author and psychotherapist Peter Michealson, people sometimes feel super stressed because their minds won’t stop racing with thoughts or worries they can’t figure out. 

Sure, it’s easy to slap a “just overthinking” label on this, but for sensitive people, it’s like their brains are on a never-ending deep dive. 

Every little thing has layers. 

Simple stuff like someone asking why they haven’t finished their project yet or where they’re spending all their money can feel overwhelming. 

HSPs think more deeply about these kinds of things than they’re meant to. They’ll dig into the meaning of the question and the outcome of their answer. 

Small stuff feels mega, and their brain has a hundred browser tabs open. 

Things other people won’t even think twice about can quickly become too much to handle for an HSP. 

2) They hate violent or intense media. 

Oh man, if there’s one thing that just doesn’t sit right with HSPs, it’s anything that’s got to do with violence or cruelty. 

Like, sure, nobody’s out there cheering for it.

But for those who are super sensitive? It just hits different. 

An HSP usually feels like they’ve been punched in the gut after watching a horror movie or glancing at the screen while someone plays a violent video game. 

Gory bits send a wave of nausea through them, and intense news stories make them feel like they need to lie down to recover. 

And this definitely isn’t just about personal taste.

HSPs have a much thinner line between fictional or virtual worlds and their emotional reality than most people. 

Violent movies, games, news stories, and even aggressive music can be incredibly disturbing and overwhelming to them. 

If you were looking for a friend to stream crime podcasts with, an HSP isn’t them. 

Their whole experience of seeing or even hearing about nasty stuff is on another level.  They feel every punch and scream as if it’s happening to them. 

And then they usually dwell on these things long after they have ended. 

Often to the point where it disrupts their sleep and eating patterns.

3) They don’t cope well with sudden changes or surprises. 

Last-minute plans? Don’t even think about it!

HSPs are super into familiar stuff. 

Why?

Well, it doesn’t drain them as much. 

You see, they usually need time to process things. When they already know what to expect, this is eliminated. 

So they feel comfortable and safe. 

It’s not that they’re party poopers. HSPs can be really fun. 

They just need a bit more time to adjust to sudden switch-ups and surprises than other people. 

My mom’s like this. 

We know we need to give her a sec to process new plans and get all her bearings when things are spinning a tad too fast. 

When I find out about changes, I usually also give her a heads-up. She appreciates this. 

And like many other HSPs, when she has some time to get her head in the game, she’s okay with whatever’s about to happen. 

But she’ll never push it too far. 

Because at the end of a busy day, there’s something all HSPs have in common:

4) They withdraw for some downtime. 

Don’t get this wrong – withdrawing has nothing to do with being introverted.  HSPs can be extroverts, too. 

But, like for introverts, downtime isn’t just something that’s nice to have. An HSP literally needs it to feel okay. 

You see, HSPs don’t only feel or experience things more deeply. They also absorb whatever they feel and experience into their souls. 

And soaking up all of this can be a lot. 

So, feeling burned out at the end of a day is pretty common. 

This is why they need to hit pause, step back, and shake off everything that’s weighing them down. 

Decompressing is a big part of an HSP’s life.

In fact, psychotherapist Julie Bjelland, who specializes in high sensitivity, recommends that HSPs get about two hours of downtime per day, one full day per week, and an entire week for every season! 

5) They’re misunderstood. 

Feeling misunderstood is pretty much a daily thing for HSPs. When they react to something in a way that feels totally normal to them, everyone else usually thinks they’re overreacting. 

Cue the eye rolls and the “It’s not that big of a deal” comments…

But the truth is, they’re not being overly dramatic or looking for attention. Far from it. 

It’s just that for an HSP, everything feels more intense. So when they express their feelings, it can sometimes come off as a bit much for people who don’t experience life the same. 

This can make HSPs feel misunderstood and like they constantly have to explain themselves, or worse – just keep it all in. 

And neither is healthy.

6) They feel like they don’t belong. 

Besides constantly being misunderstood, HSPs typically feel like they never fit in – no matter where they are or how hard they try. 

The world celebrates quick decision-making and constant social interactions. Even if someone is a highly sensitive extrovert, both of these things can still be hard to keep up with. 

Loud environments and a fast-paced lifestyle are also common nowadays. HSPs usually don’t cope too well with this, and others might think they’re being dramatic when they point this out. 

Not only can this add to how misunderstood they generally feel, but it also makes them feel disconnected and like they don’t belong where they are. 

7) They worry about what other people think of them. 

HSPs are usually super concerned with how other people see them. 

This isn’t about seeking approval, though. 

It’s actually rooted in their desire to keep peace. 

They want everyone to feel happy, included, and comfortable. 

So, they might hold back on what they’re really thinking or how they feel to avoid a fight or discomfort. 

And they typically go to great lengths to meet and even exceed expectations, sometimes neglecting their own well-being

This can lead to stress, anxiety, and a tendency to avoid situations where they feel they might be judged.

Any of this sound relatable? You might be an HSP. 

The next best thing you can do is learn to understand your sensitivity. 

Sensitivity is a strength, and with the right support, you can thrive. 

Not you? Maybe you know someone who is. 

If that’s the case, try to create a supportive environment so they feel understood, seen, and comfortable. 

Natasha Combrink

Nats is a writer who loves creating content for purposeful brands. She enjoys spending time outdoors, crafting, and diving down rabbit holes. After rediscovering life, she wants to help others live to their full potential. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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