Are you a highly sensitive person?

Many people consider themselves to be sensitive to some degree but being HIGHLY sensitive is something that is true of only 15 – 20% of the population. Highly sensitive people – or HSP’s – can find life more challenging. They process stimuli differently and can be very affected by what they see, touch and hear, as well as quickly becoming overwhelmed emotionally. They tire more easily, often running on adrenaline and as a result need their sleep!

HSP’s can usually read people well and are naturally intuitive. They may pick up on things others miss, which can be useful, but they are also capable of completely overanalysing an interaction, agonising over every little detail afterwards.

Environments that are noisy and harshly lit can feel overwhelming, so young HSP’s can find school and, later on, social environments, difficult to deal with. If they don’t understand why they respond the way they do, they can end up feeling like there’s something wrong with them. They will probably hate getting told off at school and really don’t like getting shouted at. ‘Don’t be so sensitive’ is something an HSP often hears and this only serves to make them feel that their innate being is in some way lacking. It may not sound like there are many benefits to being a highly sensitive person but there can be…

The advantages of being an HSP:

  • Depth of experience and feeling
  • Strong self-awareness
  • Increased empathy
  • Intuitive nurturing skills
  • Good at self-care
  • Appreciative of the small things
  • Finding beauty in both sadness and joy
  • Good at forming close relationships

If you think you might be an HSP, here’s a checklist devised by Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person:

  • I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment
  • Other people’s moods affect me
  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain
  • I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
  • I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine
  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics or sirens close by.
  • I have a rich, complex inner life 
  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises
  • I am deeply moved by the arts or music
  • I am conscientious
  • I startle easily
  • I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time
  • When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment, I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable like changing the lighting or the seating
  • I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once
  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things
  • I make it a point to avoid violent movies and TV Shows
  • I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me
  • Being hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood
  • Changes in my life shake me up
  • I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art
  • I make it high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations
  • When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise
  • When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy

If you answered more than fourteen of the questions as true of yourself, you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it.

If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.  Also, although there are as many men as women who are highly sensitive, when taking the test highly sensitive men answer slightly fewer items as true than do highly sensitive women.

Being an HSP is really a bit of a double-edged sword so the biggest bit of advice I can give if you think you are a highly sensitive person, is to own it. Once you accept that this is just who you are and that there’s nothing wrong with you, it gets easier. Knowing there are other people like you helps too – see my blog post: The Sensitivity Gene. I love working with HSP’s (probably because I’m one too). They are usually very receptive to positive ways of managing their stress, anxiety and fatigue, all of which they can be prone to.

If you think you’re an HSP and have some of the issues outlined, I’d love to work with you, helping you to embrace your sensitivity and to manage any of the emotional and physical overload that you may feel. Contact me: vanessa@wellbeingandnutrition.co.uk