The Highly Sensitive Person


The highly sensitive person (HSP) is one having heightened psychological, physical, and emotional awareness of the world around them. The term was coined by psychotherapist Elaine Aron in 1996 with the book of the same name.

HSPs, who are estimated to be around 15-20 percent of the world’s population, are often confused for introverts (eight out of every ten HSPs is introverted), shy people, or thought to be socially avoidant. A highly sensitive person may be shy or socially avoidant, but high sensitivity is a unique trait caused by a difference in the nervous system.

Because their temperament is at odds with the fast-paced, busy world, HSPs may have a difficult time dealing with the world and feel misunderstood. On the job, they may feel pressured to be perfect in their work. They don’t feel comfortable with every day work situations such as deadlines and working under supervision.

In love, highly sensitive people are either too intense or too reserved. Since they are more sensitive to stimuli, HSPs are easily moved by touch and engagement with their partner. They can feel easily connected. Their love can be demanding and, at times, unrealistic.

How can a HSP be recognized? These are some traits of the highly sensitive person:

  • A low tolerance of strong stimuli in the environment such as noise, bright lights, strong odors, clutter, chaos
  • Often acutely aware of other’s emotions and can be affected by them
  • Strong connection to the arts; deeply moved by music and imagery
  • Reflective: a complex and deep inner life
  • Very conscientious or meticulous
  • Intuitive: insightful and big-picture oriented
  • Often inclined towards spirituality

While the above traits are indicative of a HSP, a psychologist test, either self-tested or with a psychologist will give a more determinant conclusion.

Are you a highly sensitive person? What are your experiences?

See also:

15 thoughts on “The Highly Sensitive Person

  1. Lol, this is a bit weird. I don’t think I’m highly sensitive and the test does not show it.

    I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am in my life right now if I was.

  2. Nkosazana,

    Well if the self-test is negative, then you’re probably not.

    “I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am in my life right now if I was.”

    Where are you? 🙂

    Highly sensitive people can go places in life. It’ll just take more doing; figuring out what works with them and what doesn’t.

  3. I checked 16 boxes, and the threshold was 14, though I’m still not sure. The test should’ve had “negative” answers as well. /nitpick

  4. Ah you should read this blog entry.

    It’s about where I grew and it’s very funny and there’s so much truth to it. I don’t take my husband to visit part of my family in KwaMashu, just in case if something happens.

    But I got out of that place and got myself a university degree, there’s not that many people from where I grew up that can say the same. And having a handicap as HSP seems to be, is not at all good for a young girl in SA. People prey on weakness.

    A job, education, a good husband with a good education and job as well and two wonderful babies is where I’m at 🙂

  5. Jasmin,

    “I checked 16 boxes, and the threshold was 14, though I’m still not sure. The test should’ve had “negative” answers as well. /nitpick”

    I thought the same. I got 16 as well.


    Is KwaMashu really that bad? Sounds like the equivalent of some of the really high crime areas in the U.S.

    “…having a handicap as HSP seems to be”

    It’s not a handicap. Just a “difference”. I think a person could actually use it to their advantage, if they know how.

    A job, education, a good husband with a good education and job as well and two wonderful babies is where I’m at”

    Two wonderful, beautiful babies. They’re adorable. 🙂

  6. Yes it’s pretty unsafe, last year over 300 people were killed there pretty high for a place with not that many people. Child abuse and stuff like that is very common. It’s not a place my children will grow up. Not to mention they would be outcasts for being coloured and having light skin would make them a target.

    I guess “handicap” wasn’t the right word.

    Hah love my little babies, I call them yin and yang for fun cause it’s so cute how one is darker than the other 🙂

  7. I think it’s a bit of a handicap, but I only say that because my 14 year old is, no doubt, an HSP. I think she has a touch of (or is mildly) Aspergers too, but she’s maturing and learning how to deal with her social “issues”….
    she can only eat certain foods, smells totally overwhelm her (tantrum anyone?), she used to scream at loud(ish) noises, texture is everything (eating).
    it is hard on her sometimes and people become very annoyed with her, but she’s very smart, very gorgeous, and is learning….I am hopeful for her, but still concerned…..

  8. Hmmm, the Highly Sensitive Person and Asperger’s. On one hand it seems to fit — trouble with social situations, easily stressed. But on the other hand HSPs are very empathic, and Asperger’s most of the time indicates trouble with empathy and relating emotionally to other people.

  9. I think people with Asperger’s have more of a problem expressing empathy the right way (the way other people can understand it)… Not that they don’t feel it.

    Well, it depends on a person. There are “aspies” who are extremely sensitive; people who can go to the point of tears when, say, a random character in a movie is hurt (or an animal, or an object). Others, not so much.

    Also, physical sensitivity varies, too. Some people with Asperger’s are extremely sensitive to touch, smell, etc. Others aren’t. This can be seen in sexuality: some are hyper sexual, others are almost asexual.

    Of course, there are people with Asperger’s who don’t fit any of these extremes. I guess it’s quite complicated.

  10. Thanks, Mira. I was hoping you’d chime in. I may be doing a post on Asperger’s soon, so I may need your help!

  11. I clearly am. And it´s okay. We have to see the joy in it. We shouldnt change who we are, but be the best of ourselves. Today, I´ve studied the brain, an actual brain, in school, and God are we complex, we are much more than we know. We are our brain.. Life isn´t always easy, especially not for the HSP, but it´s easier when we at least know we´re not alone.

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