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?