Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – A Personality Trait Often Misunderstood

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“When one cries, the other tastes the salt,” is a very famous quote, which perfectly fits the following article on A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Sensory- Processing Sensitivity or HSP is a well-researched topic by psychologist and author Elaine Aron, who in 1996 published the book The Highly Sensitive Person. It is about individuals with increased sensory processing sensitivity, meaning that such a subset of the population who have high levels of Sensory- Processing Sensitivity display increased emotional sensitivity and stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli- hunger, light, pain, and noise.

According to Aron, HSP’s occupy 15-20% of the population. HSP is not a disorder or condition, it is a genetic personality trait involving an “increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli.” Aron believes that this personality trait evolved in many non-human species as well, because of it being a survival advantage in certain situations.

Not A Wallflower

A highly sensitive person can be an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert. HSP’s have a great ability to empathize, listen, and are very intuitive, they ‘feel too much’ and ‘feel too deep’, which is why they come across as very sensitive people.

People often label HSP’s to be whiners, drama queens, and delicate, failing to understand that such a subset of the population process all emotions and thoughts on a deeper level and can be easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. Highly Sensitive People do not exaggerate their emotions or experiences, they lie on the far end of the sensitive spectrum.

HSP’s are nurturing individuals and the myth that only women are highly sensitive is false, as studies show that 50% of the HSP population is found to be men. In our society men are shunned and mocked upon if they are sensitive, crying is seen as a sign of weakness and fragility, people cannot fathom that men and women can be both sensitive and strong.

Some Insight Into Their Beautiful Personality

  HSP’s can form very deep emotional bonds; they have an eye for detail and can notice the smallest changes in a person- nail paint, voice tone.., they are easily affected by bright lights, loud noises and strong scents. A highly sensitive person can be very imaginative and appreciate art. They make excellent artists, writers, photographers, film- makers and due to their greater empathy and listening skills make good psychologists.

Signs You Are a Highly Sensitive Person

1. You have zero tolerance for violence/ horror movies

You cannot watch any form of cruel/ aggressive movies or brutal acts.

2. Time pressure rattles you

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As you are more sensitive to stimulation, speed tests or timed quizzes make you extremely anxious and disturbed.

3. You think and feel deeply

Since you process everything so deeply; you easily get anxious or depressed about unsettling events and tend to overthink, you may also easily feel emotionally drained.

4. Change can be extremely daunting

You are very comfortable with routines, because familiar is less stimulating, change or adjustments can make you feel stressed or jumpy.

5. Conscientious

You are very disciplined and well mannered in front of others; you try hard to not make any mistakes.

6. Your boundaries are easily crossed

You find difficulty in saying ‘no’ and more often than not say ‘yes’ to everyone around you who needs your help, as discussed earlier you feel an extreme sense of compassion and kindness towards other people, even if it means that your own boundaries are overstepped.

7. You are your own critic

You frequently doubt yourself and second-guess yourself.

The above points are not absolute markers of being a highly sensitive person, if you find yourself fitting in all of the above or majority of the above markers, then there ‘maybe’ a possibility of you being a HSP, however, many of the times the above can be traits of a person and may overlap with other personality characteristics and may have nothing to do with being a highly sensitive person.

HSP is not a disorder that needs diagnosing; it is a personality trait that has to be understood, accepted and normalized just like any other personality characteristic.

Also Read: 10 Reasons Why You Should Date A Sensitive Guy

Beautiful Personality Trait!!

1. Innovative

The highly sensitive are curious, great at problem-solving abilities, intuitive and imaginative. They pay attention to details, colors, and textures and are always on the go to make a difference.

2. Great Empathy

HSP’s are built with great empathy and compassion for others, which makes them very balanced and calm; they are extremely kind and passionate people. Their empathy and connection to people make them good team players and motivators.

3. Emotional Awareness

Highly sensitive people process emotions on a deeper level than an average person, which makes them aware of their inner world. They are insightful and reflective which makes them highly emotionally aware of themselves and others.

4. Fairness and Justice are very important

HSP’s stand for what is right and just. They are ‘relationship-oriented’ and feel and stand with what is right rather than rationalizing.

5. Passionate

Highly sensitive people are extremely passionate about things and people they care about, they would do anything to help people benefit. They are cooperative and extremely hard-working people.

United We Stand- What You and I Can Do to Help Them

As society, we have to break the stigma around the highly sensitive person, we need to stop labeling them and collectively help them feel secure. Authenticity is the greatest boon and instead of belittling their emotions by laughing at their “sensitivity”, we can join hands and make them feel more empowered and accepted. HSP’s are not caterpillars meant to stay in the cocoon and feel guilty for being who they are; they are butterflies that come in different, unique and beautiful ‘sensitivities’ and cloak exceptional gifts.

What They Can Do for Themselves

Embrace the gift of being who you’re, you are just like others, only a little different and this difference is what makes you special and unique, it is this difference that makes you capable of making a ‘difference.’

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Ritika Matta
This is Ritika Matta, I’m a Counseling Psychologist and a writer. I am passionate about spreading mental health awareness and do the same through my work which is reflected in my blogs and articles.

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