The 3 Subtypes of Highly Sensitive People

If you're a highly sensitive person (HSP), you know you're easily overstimulated/over-aroused, emotionally reactive, and sensitive to subtle stimuli. You are keenly aware of lights, sounds, smells, and temperature changes. You also process your thoughts, feelings, and emotions very deeply. But did you know that there are 3 subtypes of highly sensitive people? In this post, we'll explore the 3 subtypes identified by research. 

The three subtypes of highly sensitive people include Aesthetic Sensitivity (AES), Low Sensory Threshold (LST), and Ease of Excitation (EOE). Before we explain what each of these means, it's important to note that HSPs can fit into more than one subtype, each subtype has its characteristics. Your unique sensitivity profile depends on the balance between these three subtypes. You may identify with one or all of them or any combination.

Aesthetic Sensitivity

HSPs with aesthetic sensitivity have a deep awareness of and concern with nature and appreciation of beauty. This subtype is deeply moved by art and music and often needs one or both in their life to feel at peace and ease. They are also the most affected by environments that are not aesthetically pleasing.

Individuals with aesthetic sensitivity can use this to their advantage by using music, art, and the beauty of nature to soothe their sensitive nature and regulate their nervous system. Check out our Pinterest board of fractals, which are infinitely complex patterns found in nature that have a powerful soothing effect on anyone who beholds their beauty. 

Low Sensory Threshold

HSPs with low sensory threshold are easily overwhelmed by unpleasant stimuli, including bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud or distracting noises nearby. They are more sensitive to the level of noise or external stimuli in the environment, and too much going on at once can be very distressing.

Individuals with low sensory threshold need time to decompress from sensory overload and need others in their environment to be aware of their need for less sensory input. Alane Freund, LMFT, recommends regularly closing your eyes for a few seconds to minutes, especially during transitions between environments, social interactions, etc. Closing your eyes will help you focus on your needs, shut out visual stimuli briefly, and allow your nervous system to downregulate.

Ease of Excitation

HSPs with ease of excitation become mentally overwhelmed by external demands like multitasking or time constraints and internal demands such as being hungry or tired. For example, they may not do as well working in a fast-paced environment because of their sensitivity to this kind of stress. They will likely not perform well when they are experiencing minor discomforts in their body. 

Individuals with ease of excitation should pay special attention to meeting their basic needs of sleep, rest, food, and drink. For example, it may be essential to keep their blood sugar stable, drink enough water, and keep a healthy sleep schedule. This subtype should also be aware of under what conditions they feel at their best and what situations/environments cause them extra stress.

Understanding Yourself as a Highly Sensitive Person

Highly sensitive people are typically very gifted. But your high sensitivity could be getting in the way of you performing at your best. Part of building on your strengths and growing as a highly sensitive person is understanding yourself better and working with, not against, your unique sensitivity profile. 

If you fall anywhere on the spectrum, you could benefit from learning about your sensitivity and how you can better exist within the world as a sensitive person.

Want to learn more about how you can turn your sensitivity into your superpower and practice more highly effective self-care?

A dysregulated nervous system could further exacerbate your highly sensitive symptoms. Take our FREE nervous system quiz to find out the state of your nervous system. Plus, get a free personalized report.

The 3 Subtypes of Highly Sensitive People

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About the Author

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea has dedicated 20+ years serving patients, first to a small number of individuals and then to thousands of people all over the world through digital technology. As a highly sensitive person, she understands the challenges faced by those with a sensitive nervous system and created HYNS with them in mind.