Do you think you are more empathetic than others?

Do you feel much more intense about things than others?

If you answered yes to the questions above, there is a good chance that you’re a highly sensitive person.

A highly sensitive person, or HSP for short, processes information or feelings on a much deeper level. HSP’s have very accurate senses and often react strongly to their environment. But hypersensitivity does have its pros and cons. The characteristics of highly sensitive people typically vary from person to person.

With the help of a mental health professional, highly sensitive people (HSPs) can leverage their mental depth for the strength that it is- Click the button below.

So, what if you suspect you are highly sensitive? You probably want to understand why you are. This article can help you find the answer and give you some excellent tips to assist in overcoming your hypersensitivity.

1. What It Means to Be a Highly Sensitive Person

While high sensitivity is not considered an official diagnosis [1*] or disorder, it is indeed a natural phenomenon. High sensitivity or sensory processing sensitivity is considered to be a personality trait.

But despite being considered a personality trait, it is not classified by the American Psychological Association (APA) in what it identifies as one of the big five personality traits that include:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

Out of these five traits, high sensitivity may be most closely connected with conscientiousness, which describes people who are very careful or detail-oriented.

To be this meticulous, it is necessary for such people to be highly sensitive.

A highly sensitive person is more attuned than the average person to the subtleties of what’s going on around them, including tuning into other people.

For a sensitive person, it seems like everything is turned to a higher volume than it is for the average person.

So, they feel things more intensely. They tend to get overstimulated more easily and frequently. As a result, they might get labeled as overly sensitive or thin-skinned.

Some examples of this may include sensitivity to:

  • Criticism
  • Jokes
  • Death of animals
  • Noise

2. 6 Signs of Highly Sensitive People

Do people tell you that you are too sensitive, or do you constantly overthink everything? These factors are not enough to label you as a highly sensitive person.

Check out the following signs. If you find that most of them apply to you, you might be a highly sensitive person.

1. You Are Intuitive

Have you ever had a gut feeling that something is wrong or right, and it is usually, right?

For example, you can feel the mood of a room when you enter it. Likewise, you can just tell if something is wrong with a person. Often, you know how they are feeling before they’ve even had the chance to tell you.

2. You Get Emotionally Exhausted from Absorbing Others’ Feelings

People with high sensitivity tend to absorb other people’s emotions as an empath. What other people feel or act substantially impacts you.

For example, being ignored by your friend when you need their support can make you feel terrible and emotional.

You may constantly surround yourself with people while simultaneously worrying about what those people think of you.

3. You Are Sensitive to Environmental Stimuli

Do you feel overwhelmed by bright lights, large crowds, strong smells, or rough fabrics?

Maybe you also feel out of sorts if you have too much on your schedule at once. You may find yourself avoiding commitments that are in overly stimulating situations.

HSPs tend to find comfort in their routines because the familiar is far less exciting than something new. For this reason, any change, whether positive or negative can throw off highly sensitive people.

Why am I so sensitive

Characteristics Found in Highly Sensitive People

4. Difficulty Processing Grief

Both joy and sorrow might strongly affect you. This could make you more at risk for developing anxiety and depression.

Studies show that there is a significant correlation between being a highly sensitive person and having a higher risk for a mental illness [2*] , especially mood and anxiety disorders.

This is because HSPs typically allow their grief to linger in their heads longer than it should and ruminate over things that make them upset, angry, or hurt.

5. You Perceive Details Others Don’t

Are you extremely detail-oriented?

As a highly sensitive person, you often have a natural talent for remembering and appreciating the most refined details that other people usually overlook.

As a result, you are self-aware and observant. It’s for this reason that you might find yourself drawn to creative arts like poetry, painting, or music.

6. Always Ready to Listen to Others

HSPs are always ready to lend someone an ear for their troubles. For highly sensitive people, active listening just comes naturally.

Sensitive people have a unique perspective and are intensely aware of the emotions in the room.

They are usually the ones that loved ones go for advice or counsel. For example, when times get tough, your friends can always count on you to be there for them or when they want to pour their hearts out.

3. 6 Types of Highly Sensitive People

You can be a highly sensitive person if you have the previously mentioned symptoms. Still, not all HSPs are the same, and characteristics can vary from person to person.

Below we have a breakdown of six types of HSPs:

1. Psychomotor

For these highly sensitive people, standing still can be as difficult as climbing a mountain. Psychomotor HSPs have a surplus of energy. They love physical activities, such as sports or extreme thrill rides.

These types of HSPs talk compulsively, usually very fast, and are very personal and touchy. Some of their faults may include being too competitive and prone to nervous habits, such as biting fingernails.

2. Sensual

For these HSPs, life is lived in a kaleidoscopic sensory wonderland. All five senses are enhanced and highly accurate.

Some of these HSPs can taste flavors that others just don’t pick on. As children, they can be very fussy eaters. They are predisposed to overstimulation and need to have a lot of downtimes away from noisy crowds or flashy lights.

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3. Intellectual

An intellectual HSP is characterized by a liking for asking questions and reflecting over their concentrated thoughts.

These HSPs have a tenacity for problem-solving, can recall information in vivid detail, and serve others with a keen sense of a hawk.

The search for truth is important to them. The problem with this type is that they are too preoccupied with logic and can be extremely critical to others.

4. Imaginational

These HSPs are the people who have notebooks filled with scribbles of characters and writings.

Their minds’ inner thoughts are often dramatic and poetic depictions of what they perceive in real life.

Often, their intense emotions spill over into vivid dreams. It can be challenging for these HSPs to distinguish between what is real and what is fake.

5. The Orchid Child

Orchid children are biologically sensitive. This means they are more sensitive than their gender counterparts. Nurtured with quality parenting and programs, they can turn spectacularly into society’s happiest, most productive people.

However, when given poor parenting and sketchy surroundings, they are at greater risk of ending up wrestling with:

6. Emotional

All highly sensitive people have powerful connections to their emotions. But for these HSPs, their emotions become so intense that they manifest into physical symptoms.

This type can be best described as empathetic or able to be affected by the feelings of others. The bond these HSPs create with other people is powerful.

4. Personality Test for Highly Sensitive People

Bear in mind that being highly sensitive is not a disorder. It is a personality trait. Therefore, to ensure that you are a person with high sensitivity, you don’t necessarily need to go to a doctor.

Here is a quiz that will help you determine whether you are a highly sensitive person or not.

Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Select the ranking that best describes you. At the end of the questionnaire, you can calculate your score using the given key.

Slightly agree Strongly agree Disagree
1 I am sensitive to physical stimuli in the environment.
2 Other people’s moods affect me.
3 I am conscientious.
4 I easily notice delicate or fine senses such as scents, tastes, sounds, and works of art.
5 I cannot handle many things going around me at once.
6 During hectic days, I find myself having to retreat to a quiet place to get some privacy and reprieve from external stimuli.
7 It’s difficult for me to forget my mistakes or what someone said to me.
8 I easily get confused if I am being observed by others.
9 I am not comfortable with life changes.
10 Being hungry creates a strong reaction in me, and disturbs my concentration or mood.
  • Scoring Scale

Slightly agree: 0

Strongly agree: 0

Disagree: 0

  • Score Key

Mild sensitivity: 5 or less

High sensitivity: More than 5

Why am i so sensitive

How Does Being an HSP Affect Your Life?

5. Challenges Highly Sensitive People May Face

Being so sensitive may sometimes feel like a gift but at other times a curse. While being empathic is a commendable human trait, sometimes you might have to pay a high cost for your highly sensitive nature.

Below are some challenges that a highly sensitive person might face throughout their life.

1. Easily Stressed by Conflicts

Many highly sensitive people try to avoid overwhelming stimuli or stressful situations like conflict or confrontation.

Unfortunately, this can lead to codependency on other people due to their constant effort to keep things peaceful, thus limiting their self-expression.

2. Easily Affected by Negative Emotions

A highly sensitive person by nature is kind-hearted and highly empathic. Therefore, people naturally gravitate toward them and tend to pour out their problems onto them.

But HSPs can also end up absorbing their energies and be deeply affected by other people’s moods.

So, while the other person often reports feeling better or lighter after speaking to them, HSPs are often left feeling drained or weighed down from absorbing others’ emotions.

3. Self-Esteem or Self-Worth Issues

As an HSP, you might sometimes experience poor self-esteem, a lack of confidence, or feelings of not being good enough. Most often, this occurs if your sensitive nature has been criticized or judged by someone in your life.

As a result, many HSPs become people-pleasers and try to fix or rescue others, which can often be an unconscious attempt to get their own unmet needs satisfied.

4. Difficulties Setting Boundaries

Highly sensitive people can also struggle to set boundaries when it comes to their own needs. Even though they are incredibly compassionate about the needs of others, they can sometimes neglect their own.

They very often put other people’s needs before their own and find it difficult to say ‘no’ or assert themselves. This can be exhausting, and it eventually takes its toll in the long run!

5. Overthinking

HSPs can spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing, and reflecting on situations. Unfortunately, this makes them more prone to becoming emotionally overwhelmed and burnt-out from their overactive minds.

If left unchecked, highly sensitive people are more likely to experience periods of extreme:

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6. Strengths Sensitive People Tend to Have

So, is it good to be a sensitive person or is sensitivity considered to be a negative trait?

Despite its many challenges, it’s not inherently bad to be sensitive. Although it often becomes overwhelming and challenging to be HSP, there are also many benefits to being a highly sensitive person that we often overlook.

Below are some of the more significant and overlooked benefits of being a highly sensitive person. Here you will see why being a highly sensitive person can be beneficial to both ourselves and others.

1. Detail-Oriented and Conscientious

Having a keen eye for detail and being industrious are the most important strengths of a highly sensitive person.

A sensitive person picks up the details others may not notice, for example, noticing a slight change in the environment or detecting another person’s mood.

This attention to detail can be extended to many other tasks. It will allow you to excel at projects best suited for a detail-oriented, conscientious worker.

2. Empathy

For an HSP, putting themselves in someone else’s shoes happens automatically. HSPs intuitively attempt to understand the world using their emotions. Of course, being humans, we all have an empathetic trait.

Still, higher levels of empathy in HSPs are a special quality they can bring to their relationships. Being empathetic makes you a good listener, amazing friend, partner, and parent.

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3. Leadership Qualities

Many inherent qualities of HSPs such as empathy and being detail-oriented make them great leaders and an asset to any team. As a leader, they can offer emotional awareness, dedication to treating colleagues fairly, and passion.

Also, they often have good intuition about what will move other people emotionally. This quality is a definite benefit in any business that relies on connecting with consumers.

4. Self-awareness

Highly sensitive people are not only good at noticing details around them, but they also have good self-awareness. They often find themselves hyper-tuned, not only with their wide range of emotions but also with the reactions that follow.

They know their triggers and begin to recognize that their strong emotions are real and should not be ignored.

5. Creativity

Sometimes sensitivity leads to creativity. Sensitive people seek outlets to express themselves, often through interests like art, writing, music, and dance.

This is beneficial if you choose to pursue a creative hobby as a career.

Since HSPs see the world through a unique lens, they can tell a creative, exciting story through their chosen art form.

6. Appreciative of Small Details

Highly sensitive people find wonders in the most minor things.

Whether it’s a green tree against the backdrop of the blue sky or a warm squeeze of the hand from a loved one. Appreciating life’s small joys help you realize the true meaning of life.

7. Why Are You Sensitive? 16 Possible Answers to Consider

If you have reached this point in this article, you should have most of the answers to your questions about the characteristics of being a highly sensitive individual. You might be wondering why you are so sensitive to everything if you meet the criteria.

Now we will categorize and explain the possible reasons behind your high-sensitive personality.

1. Biological Factors

  • Genetics

Like emotions, sensitivity for others is a human characteristic we are born with, but what about a highly sensitive nature?

It can be linked to genes.

Suppose one of your parents or family members is sensitive. In that case, it is more likely this characteristic may pass to the next generation. If you have this sensitivity in your genes, the things around you might affect you more than others.

Why am I so sensitive?

Challenges Faced by Highly Sensitive People

Variations in the following neurotransmitters are often linked to sensitivity:

  • Dopamine

Dopamine is also known as the brain’s reward chemical. Researchers have found a connection between sensitivity and ten different gene variants related to dopamine. [3*]

  • Serotonin

Serotonin stabilizes your moods. Whereas a serotonin transporter is a chemical that helps move serotonin out of the brain. Highly sensitive people have a special variation of the serotonin transporter gene that acts a little different.

If you have this variant, you have lower serotonin levels and are more likely to be a highly sensitive person.

  • Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that helps the body respond to stress.

There is one variant that is frequently found in HSPs. If you have it, you will have significantly greater activity in the areas of your brain that form internal emotional responses to your experiences, as well as a more vivid perception of the word’s emotional components.

  • Hormones

Hormones are the chemical messengers of our bodies. They have both physical and psychological effects on our bodies. Hormonal imbalances can cause changes in your emotions and make you a sensitive person. For example, imbalances in the adrenal gland or insulin levels could affect your feelings and mood.

Potential causes of hormonal imbalance include:

  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Thyroid issues
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Some changes in hormones also cause mental health symptoms- Click below to get those symptoms checked and treated.

2. Past Experiences

  • Early Childhood Years and Traumas

Early childhood experiences and bad memories can make you sensitive. These experiences can involve losing parents or loved ones in past and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Children with a history of complex trauma may have difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing emotions.

Studies suggest that early life trauma exposure [4*] may sensitize young children and place them at risk for internalizing or externalizing problems when exposed to subsequent, nontraumatic life stressors. This results in a highly sensitive personality.

  • Flawed Parenting

Parenting styles or the behavior of the parents/caregivers while raising children leaves long-lasting effects on children’s mental health.

According to attachment theory, a child needs at least one caregiver who offers unconditional love and is trustworthy.

Mentally ill and emotionally unavailable parents end up raising a child with anxious attachment, which leaves a child overly attuned and responsive to other people’s actions. How you were brought up can make you a highly sensitive person.

  • Emotional Invalidation

Although emotions are innate, HSPs learn how to express and value them from their caregivers and the people around them as they grow up. Emotional validation is the phenomenon that tells someone that their emotions are respected. It makes space for another person’s emotions to exist.

People who experienced invalid emotions in childhood are prone to be emotionally sensitive. It can make a person highly sensitive, and create difficulty in managing emotions, issues in personal identity, and other mental health issues.

3. Mental Health Issues

  • Depression

Depression is a severe mental health condition. It affects the way we think, feel or act. People who go through a dark period of depression experience higher levels of negative emotions, lower positive emotions, and difficulty regulating their moods.

While depression is treatable, it often leaves traces on your mental health. People who are recovering or have recovered from depression can be highly sensitive in terms of their feelings or the people around them.

  • Stress

We all experience minor to major stressors in life. Some people are able to deal with their stress in a better way than others with the help of solution-oriented strategies.

But for others, stress can take a toll on their minds and bodies. Chronic stress can have long-term mental and physical effects on your health. 

Your high sensitivity might be a result of long-lasting stress, such as:

Why am I so sensitive?

Strengths of Highly Sensitive People

  • Anxiety

Just like depression, anxiety is another common mental health illness. It is marked by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

People with anxiety disorders usually have repeated intrusive thoughts or concerns about the things going to happen in the future.

When you’re anxious, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Staying in this state for a long time can increase tension, irritability, physical symptoms, and your ability to regulate your emotions. Anxiety patients are more likely to be sensitive as compared to others.

  • Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are marked by unhealthy patterns of thinking, behaving, and functioning. They are categorized according to their particular traits. Emotional dysregulation is a common trait of many personality disorders.

The most common characteristics of personality disorders are:

  • Hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection
  • Inappropriate emotional responses
  • Uncommon thinking patterns

One of the personality disorders that can be closely related to high sensitivity is borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Classic symptoms of BPD include:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Occasional outbursts
  • Mood swings

Other examples can be obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and narcissistic personality disorders.

  • ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting children. But it also affects many adults.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

The attribute of hypersensitivity is common in people with ADHD. They can be sensitive to physical stimuli (sound, touch, and sight), emotional stimuli, and excessive information.

  • Social Anxiety

Social anxiety or social phobia is a mental health condition where a person avoids all social contact because things other people consider normal, like making small talk and eye contact make them extremely uncomfortable. Because of social anxiety, all aspects of the person’s life, including mental health, could suffer.

Social anxiety and sensitivity are highly correlated. A highly sensitive person can have social anxiety, just as someone with social anxiety is more sensitive. Particularly, people who have social anxiety are highly sensitive to criticism by others.

Social anxiety may give rise to higher sensitivity among people. Click below to get it under control.

4. Sensory Processing

  •  Information Processing

Information processing is the ability of a person to perceive, analyze, modify and remember information. As previously discussed, highly sensitive people are detail-oriented.

It is possible that this trait stems from information-processing abilities. HSPs can be good in information processing and receiving cues from the environment or other people.

  • Emotional Responsiveness

Emotional responsiveness is the ability to respond to other people with appropriate feelings. According to brain scans, HSPs have more active mirror neurons, which are essential for feelings of empathy for others.

They also have higher activity in areas involved in emotional reactions. Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to both positive and negative emotions than non-HSPs.

5. Other Factors

Sometimes people are not sensitive by nature. Maybe their routine or repeated daily life factors have caused them to become highly sensitive people.

These factors can include:

  • Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is essential for a sound body and mind. Sleep deprivation can also affect your mood and the way you react to people and things around you. Studies show that sleep may be linked to emotional regulation [5*] . Therefore, getting less sleep may make your emotions feel out of control and lead to emotional sensitivity.

  • Diet

What you eat also affects your mind and body. Researchers link a healthy diet with emotional health and an unhealthy diet with increased levels of distress. So, an unhealthy diet can make you more sensitive.

  • Gender

Generally, it is considered that women are more sensitive to perceive subtle, i.e., low intensity or ambiguous emotional cues than males. However, this notion is not entirely supported by research studies. 

Why am I so Sensitive

HSP Tricks for a Happier Life

8. 6 Tips to Help You Stop Being Highly Sensitive

If your sensitivity is getting in your way, it’s helpful to understand a little more about it and what your triggers are. First, highly sensitive people may find it difficult to cope with the hectic world around them. Even normal situations can be overwhelming.

But, because they often exhibit their sensitivity, HSPs rarely avoid those overburdened situations. If you are an HSP, make it a goal to bring emotional control back into your life.

Here are six tips for self-care to reduce your stress and make you mentally and physically happier.

Tip #1 – Write Down Your Feelings

Writing is cathartic. It doesn’t matter if you have good writing skills or not. Writing down what you feel on a piece of paper will help you untangle your complicated emotions. You will have a better understanding of yourself and be able to positively express your sensitive nature.

Tip #2 – Adopt an Anti-Fragility Mindset

The more something is put under pressure, the stronger it becomes. For example, the most powerful way to learn something is by making a mistake.

The pain of failure brands the lesson in your mind for the rest of your life, making your instincts sharper and your decision-making abilities wiser.

Adopt a mantra and simply repeat something like messing up makes me stronger every time you make a mistake. Over time with enough repetitions, you will start to believe it.

Tip #3 – Build a Habit of Meditation

You can control your bad feelings and the length of time you think about them. Developing a habit of meditation can help you step back and distance yourself from negative thoughts over time. Eventually, you will be able to manually insert new ideas into your thinking, such as anti-fragility ones.

Meditation is a simple practice.

Here are some basic tips to get you started on a paard greater equanimity.

  • Sit in a comfortable place before meditation.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Decide a time for how long you want to meditate.
  • Do stretches to prevent stiffness.
  • Straighten your spine once you’re seated.
  • Closing your eyes will help to relax and focus.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Try concentrating on a simple visual object to relieve stress.
  • Do a body scan to find and release tension.
  • Try to meditate at the same time every day.

Tip #4 – Zoom Out

Most of the time, highly sensitive people are zoomed in. HSPs look at their life through a microscope. You might be focusing on things in your school, your work, or even your home that are not as important as you may think.

As long as you look at things through this microscope, problems that appear in these environments will always seem big, so it’s time to zoom out.

Little drama between who dislikes who or he said, she said ends up becoming a major issue in your life that can absorb 50 percent of your daily mental energy. To overcome this, you must zoom out! 

The easiest way to do this is by spending time thinking about how small you are in the grand scheme of things. Remember that there are many people on this planet with their own lives and problems that can be worse off than you are.

The more you consider the issues, the clearer it becomes and you start to realize that all of the things you used to worry about all day are nothing in the overall scheme of things.

Tip #5 – Create Healthy But Not Rigid Boundaries

If you want to protect yourself from emotional or any other kind of pain, begin to build boundaries. Successful sensitive people build gentle but firm boundaries.

To practice, learn the skill of saying no with love and grace or carving out alone time to recharge, and decide to feel good about that. If you are HSP, learn to prioritize yourself. Because the habit of not saying no or depending emotionally on people can eventually hurt you.

Tip #6 – Practice Healthy Habits

Try to practice a balanced lifestyle. Most HSP’s are also physically sensitive.

An unhealthy and unbalanced lifestyle can increase the physical sensitivity of a highly sensitive person.

For example, sleeping less and consuming more sugar can affect your health and how you function. So, try to practice good habits. Focus more on sleep and alone time and limit those activities that stimulate or drain you.

A healthy diet does affect the way your brain functions. Click below to get professional guidance regarding this.

A Few Takeaways to Remember

Sensitivity is not a bad thing unless it gets in the way of other important things in your life. For example, in a relationship, it may begin to impact your self-esteem and self-worth. Sensitivity is a human trait and asset.

If you are HSP, you are more likely to feel things deeply, whether those things are positive or negative. You can save yourself from being overwhelmed by emotions or feelings by adopting some or all of the strategies mentioned above.


+5 sources
  1. Big Five personality model. (2018)
    Source link
  2. The highly sensitive brain: an fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others' emotions. (2014)
    Source link
  3. Contributions of Dopamine-Related Genes and Environmental Factors to Highly Sensitive Personality: A Multi-Step Neuronal System-Level Approach. (2011)
    Source link
  4. Early Life Trauma Exposure and Stress Sensitivity in Young Children. (2013)
    Source link
  5. Sleep deprivation impairs recognition of specific emotions. (2017)
    Source link

However, if you believe that things are getting out of your control and impacting your health, you should explore professional counseling sessions. Click below to schedule your appointment with a mental health professional at EZCare Clinic. 

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.