Do you feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster? Do you often have a difficult time with sensory input and find yourself feeling overwhelmed in crowded or noisy environments? If so, then there is a good chance that you are a highly sensitive person. But what is a highly sensitive person? Let's explore what it means to be a highly sensitive person and how the trait affects your life.
What is a highly sensitive person?
Another way to describe a highly sensitive person is someone who has sensory processing sensitivity. This means they are more susceptible to environmental stimuli, including changes in temperature, light, sounds, and smells. The trait can make someone feel overwhelmed or overstimulated when these sensations overwhelm the senses at once.
Not only are they more sensitive to stimuli, but they are also more reactive to it. A highly sensitive person will often avoid certain things that cause them discomfort (overstimulation) because it's painful, highly uncomfortable, or distressing. The time of day or the season can also impact how a highly sensitive person is feeling.
The HSP's nervous system is more sensitive and reactive than most people. They have a lower threshold for sensory input. It also means that when the stimulus is gone or reduced to levels they can handle, these HSPs can function quite well.
Highly sensitive people process a lot of sensory detail
Not only are highly sensitive people more sensitive to stimuli, but they also notice subtleties, like changes in light, temperature, smells, energy levels, etc.
This detailed processing also means that highly sensitive people require more energy to process the details of unfamiliar environments. After a big social gathering or spending time in a fast-paced environment, they may need more time to unwind and process the day's events. They also often require more sleep than people who are not as sensitive.
This deep processing comes with its advantages. HSPs also think more deeply than non-sensitive people and have a greater awareness of thoughts, feelings, and motivations.
Highly sensitive people are more likely to have certain personality traits
Research correlates high sensitivity with three main personality traits: higher conscientiousness, openness to experience, and less extroversion. These traits mean that highly sensitive people are more likely to be aware of thoughts, feelings, and needs. They tend to be introverted as well as creative or artistic types with rich inner lives.
However, not all highly sensitive people have these three personality traits. And not all people with these personality traits are highly sensitive people. Extroverted, less conscientious, and less creative people exist along the sensitivity spectrum.
Highly sensitive people process emotions more deeply
Highly sensitive people tend to have more empathy and insight into their and others' emotions. They tend to have a better ability to understand the feelings of others.
However, deep emotional processing also tends to lead to more emotional reactivity. Highly sensitive people likely cry more than others and are more deeply affected by their own and other's emotions. A highly sensitive person is a person who has an unusual level of emotional sensitivity, especially to things that are not generally considered stressful by most people.
Highly sensitive people are not better or worse off than any other type of person – they experience things differently. And that's okay!
The world needs all different personalities to be a diverse place where everyone can thrive.
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 exact state of your nervous system, and get a free personalized report detailing what's holding you back from a more calm and connected life.