Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a term coined by psychologist Elaine Aron to describe individuals with a heightened sensitivity to external stimulants.
Continue reading the article to discover what behaviors characterize them and what you can do to help them.
1) Heightened sensitivity to sensory information
HSPs are often more sensitive to stimulants in their environment. Things such as loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or textures. They often notice subtle details before anyone else or that others overlook altogether.
If you think you’re easily distracted, think about how HSPs are affected by strong perfumes, cleaning chemicals, tags on clothing, bright sunlight, crowded and noisy environments, or certain foods that can be so overwhelming they trigger physical discomfort for them.
2) Deep empathy and compassion for others
HSPs are also more sensitive to injustice, inequality, and mistreatment. They strongly empathize with marginalized or disadvantaged people and feel driven to speak out or take action.
They can easily pick up on the emotions of those around them, even subtle cues, and respond with empathy and understanding.
3) Intense emotional responses to both positive and negative stimuli
Ordinary people typically have ordinary reactions to positive and negative things happening to them and around them.
But HSPs often display intense emotional reactions to both positive and negative stimulants. Their sensitivity can significantly influence their emotional experiences.
For example, when someone close to them is experiencing joy, excitement, or pain, HSPs can feel those emotions intensely as if they were their own.
4) Ability to pick up on subtle cues and nuances in social interactions
How good are you at picking up subtle cues? Can you pick up nuances in social interactions?
HSPs are experts at reading and understanding non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
They can detect subtle shifts in someone’s behavior, recognize micro-expressions, and interpret the emotional subtexts of a conversation.
This ability helps them better understand the true feelings and intentions behind the words spoken.
5) Being easily overwhelmed in busy or chaotic environments
I already touched on this a bit, but it’s important to emphasize it a bit more.
You see, HSPs continually find themselves easily overwhelmed in busy or chaotic environments.
The heightened sensitivity of their nervous system makes them more sensitive to sensory overload and emotional exhaustion in stimulating or overwhelming situations.
Unlike regular people, they, simply put, struggle to filter out and process all the sensory information, leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed.
6) Strong intuition and gut instincts
Some Highly Sensitive People have strong gut feelings and a good sense of intuition.
As we already know, they can pick up on things that aren’t explicitly said or notice small cues that others might miss.
They deeply trust their instincts and often rely on their “gut feelings” when making decisions. HSPs can also sense the energy and vibes of people and places, which helps them understand the atmosphere and intentions in social situations.
They have a knack for anticipating outcomes and can often see potential consequences before they happen.
7) Rich and complex inner world of thoughts and feelings
HSPs spend a lot of time reflecting on their experiences, emotions, and the world around them.
Unlike many of us, they have active inner monologues or even dialogues and use their imagination to come up with creative ideas.
They often think about the meaning and purpose of life and strive for personal growth. HSPs are also self-aware and enjoy exploring who they are and what they value.
8) Need for regular downtime and solitude to recharge
As an introvert, I often find myself exhausted at the end of the day filled with human interactions.
Just like introverts, HSPs also need regular alone time and moments of relaxation to recharge their batteries.
As I already mentioned a couple of times, they get easily overwhelmed by too much noise, activity, or other people’s emotions.
Taking breaks and spending time alone allows them to calm down, think, and process their thoughts and feelings. It also helps them feel more balanced and refreshed.
9) Being deeply affected by art, music, and nature
How deeply moved or affected are you by beauty or art such as literature, movies, storytelling, or paintings?
Highly Sensitive People experience these things very intensely and in a profound emotional way.
When they see a beautiful painting, listen to music, or spend time in nature, it can make them feel very strongly.
It might bring tears to their eyes or give them a sense of peace and inspiration. These experiences are powerful for HSPs and can even help them feel healed or rejuvenated.
10) Being more prone to stress and anxiety
We all know how incredibly stressful our everyday lives can be. So you can imagine how it is for HSPs.
One of the reasons why they’re so prone to stress is because they feel emotions very intensely. Not just their own but also other people’s. This adds to their overall stress.
But not only that. HSPs are sensitive to criticism and worry a lot. They often overthink things and imagine worst-case scenarios.
They need emotional safety and stability to feel calm and secure.
The same goes for this next behavior?
11) Having a strong aversion to violence or conflict
Some people like to see the world burn. Others, like HSPs, really dislike violence or conflict.
When they see or experience aggression or fighting, it affects them deeply. They strongly believe in peace and non-violence, and prefer finding peaceful solutions to conflicts.
Being in violent or rough situations can overwhelm them and drain their energy. For those reasons, they look for harmony in their relationships and environments, and prefer to be around kind and understanding people.
12) Being more easily startled or surprised
I like playfully spooking people. However, I’d never do that to a Highly Sensitive Person.
For HSPs, unexpected sounds, movements, or events catch them off guard and make them react too intensely.
They may jump or feel a rush of emotions when surprised, so they prefer predictable and stable situations because sudden changes can be unsettling.
It’s important to understand that being easily startled is just a natural part of who they are, and creating a calm and supportive environment can help them feel more comfortable.
On the other side, we have this interesting behavior.
13) Feeling overwhelmed by too many choices or options
HSPs often feel overwhelmed when they have too many choices or options to choose from.
Because they need to consider all the details, it makes decision-making much more difficult.
They also get stuck trying to analyze every possible outcome and worry about making the wrong choice.
HSPs want to make the best decision and fear missing out on something if they choose one option over another.
I also want to make the best decision as much as possible, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by too much choice that often.
Sure, having to pick from 100 different brands of hot sauces can be daunting, but that’s just a first-world problem.
Because they prefer stability and security, uncertainty increases HSP’s sense of overwhelm.
To cope, they should simplify choices, ask for support, and practice self-care to manage stress.
14) Being more affected by caffeine, medications, or substances
Another thing HSPs are more sensitive to is caffeine, medications, and substances.
For example, even a little bit of caffeine can make them feel jittery or make them have trouble sleeping.
They might also have stronger reactions to medications, experiencing more noticeable side effects.
Not to mention alcohol or recreational drugs, as these substances can have a bigger impact on their mood and emotions.
15) Having a strong need for order and organization
How organized are you? Are you more like Marie Kondo or like a frat boy/girl?
Highly Sensitive People have a strong need for order and organization in their lives. They prefer things to be neat, tidy, and in their proper place.
Disorder or chaos, as we learned, makes them feel anxious or stressed.
On the flip side, having a structured and organized environment helps them feel calm and in control. It reduces distractions and allows them to focus better.
16) Being highly creative and imaginative
HSPs have a robust creative and imaginative side. They see the world in a unique way and notice things that others might miss.
Because their emotions run deep, they can channel them into their creative work.
HSPs also have a vivid imagination and can come up with new ideas and solutions. They have a different perspective and offer fresh insights and approaches.
And lastly, creating art or engaging in imaginative activities also brings them joy and a sense of purpose.
These behaviors obviously vary from person to person. Not all HSPs will experience the same sensitivities or to the same degree.
Likewise, individuals may have their own unique sensory preferences and aversions.
Ultimately, understanding and respecting these behaviors can contribute to creating a more supportive and comfortable environment for HSPs.
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