Have you ever been told that you are too sensitive or that you need to toughen up? Do you find the conversation to be a bit too loud and the light too bright?  Or maybe you are moved to tears by works of art? Startle easily?

If so, you may be a highly sensitive person.

This guide has all the information you need to know about the highly sensitive person and will help you determine if you are one too.

1. Defining a Highly Sensitive Person

2. The trait of high sensitivity

3. How to know if you’re a highly sensitive person

4. The benefits of being a highly sensitive person

5. The challenges of being a highly sensitive person

According to research, around 20-30% of the population is highly sensitive. But what is a highly sensitive person (HSP)? Is it just a label psychologists want to use, a disorder, or something else?

Read on to learn what is a highly sensitive person and what life is like for an HSP.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

A highly sensitive person is someone who feels emotions and sensory experiences strongly. HSP’s are aware of subtleties in their surroundings often missed by everyone else. A highly sensitive person often navigates the world with compassion, caring and creativity. 

While a highly sensitive person has probably been called “too sensitive,” this is more of a misunderstanding of this trait rather than there being “something wrong” with the sensitive person. Most of the population has a threshold for stimulation that is way above what a highly sensitive person can process. An environment with too much noise, too many people to talk to, smells that are strong, too much light etc. can easily overwhelm and frazzle a highly sensitive person. 

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Life as a highly sensitive person is not worse or bad, it is just different. It can be helpful to see your traits as neutral, but also celebrate what makes you different. 

As a highly sensitive person you are conscientious, try your best, and are highly intuitive. You often get things done. You have a higher sense of purpose, and you are highly creative. You are a high achiever, and you care deeply for the community.

As a highly sensitive person, you have a greater appreciation for nature. You thrive in natural surroundings and use them for inspiration, creativity, and as a refuge.

Being affected by other people’s emotions and moods means you can understand their feelings and make deep connections.

Challenges of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Because an HSP has sensory processing sensitivity, being out in the world can pose challenges. The noisy streets or shopping malls are more stimulating than to a non highly sensitive person. This can be exhausting. If an HSP gets down on oneself for the sensitivity or feels judged for their temperament, this can bring on stress and anxiety. 

Generally HSP’s need more breaks from co-workers, other students, and social situations. This can sometimes be perceived as anti-social or “not being a team player”. 

As a highly sensitive person you may take certain things more personally, which may lead you to avoid conflicts. You may hold onto your thoughts and feelings because you are afraid you will hurt the other person. This may mean you don’t get your needs met and have unhealthy boundaries.

Coping as a Highly Sensitive Person

As you can see, there are benefits to being a highly sensitive person, but there are also challenges. Being a highly sensitive person is not a disorder, but a trait. Just like all traits we are born with, understanding them better can help us navigate the unique way we best live in the world.

Give yourself permission to take time and space to process your experiences privately. Take frequent breaks from activities, go outdoors, gently move your body, take gentle breaths. When feeling overstimulated give yourself permission to take breaks, process and recuperate. 

Learn what your tolerance is for being out in the world, and learn to see the signs when you have also been “staying” in too long. 

But you also can seek help from a mental health therapist.

A body-centered approach, such as somatic therapy, focuses on the body-mind connection and the sensations you feel in your body.

This type of therapy helps with self-exploration and identifying unsupportive behavioral patterns. It can help you to build strong boundaries and relationships as well as manage stress, anxiety, and unprocessed trauma.

Additionally, therapies such as expressive therapy or dance/movement therapy can also help with dealing with your emotions and accepting your sensitive nature.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Take this free quiz by Dr. Elaine Aron to see if you are a highly sensitive person.

Body-centered therapies, such as somatic therapy and dance/movement therapy can help you learn to cope and thrive as a highly sensitive person. If you are looking for a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in working with highly sensitive people, contact me today to schedule a free initial phone call. I am currently accepting new clients who live across Massachusetts, including Boston and the surrounding area such as Allston, Belmont, Brookline, Chestnut Hill, Concord, Jamaica Plain, Lexington, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Newton, Needham, Norwood, Milton, Somerville, Waltham,Watertown, Wellesley, West Roxbury, Westwood and more.