23 Signs That You’re A Highly Sensitive Person

Successful sensitive male role models were hard to find growing up in the seventies in a middle-class Boston suburb. So for most of my life I considered myself a fairly thick-skinned, typical guy. “Sensitivity” was not a trait encouraged in men. Stability, strength and steadfastness were more like it. All good traits, but often it seemed like an either or equation rather than a both and.

So I followed in the footsteps of the male role models I had; mostly stoic, emotionally unavailable, intellectually focused men.

That worked for a while but at some point during the past 18 or so years that I have been actively and sometimes intensively engaged in personal growth, I have discovered that behind the walls and under the layers of distance and detachment lives a highly sensitive person.

This awakening sensitivity has, sometimes, felt more like a burden than a blessing. But ultimately, and only quite recently, I have come to accept my sensitivity as a gift and a powerful ally on my journey of personal evolution.

When I began this journey, the term Highly Sensitive Person was not widely known (if at all). But as more has been written about Highly Sensitive People and the concept has gained wider (though certainly not universal) acceptance I have come to recognize and accept myself as a Highly Sensitive Person.

It is estimated that 20% of the human population would test positive for what Carl Jung called Innate Sensitiveness. This innate sensitivity has been well researched and the term Highly Sensitive Person was coined in 1996 by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. and explored in her book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You

Wikipedia has this definition of Highly Sensitive Person:

A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Gustav Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, which would represent about a fifth of the population, process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems. This is a specific trait with key consequences that in the past has often been confused with innate shyness, inhibitedness, innate fearfulness, introversion, and so on. The existence of the trait of innate sensitivity was demonstrated using a test that was shown to have both internal and external validity.

While the idea of highly sensitive people is still shrugged off by the mainstream press and health-care community, I have no doubt that, just as people have different levels of visual acuity, hearing, intelligence and physical grace, there are also varying levels of what I call vibrational sensitivity.

In my observation there is no diagnostic device presently available that is as sensitive as the human body. When properly tuned, our physical bodies have the ability to perceive and respond to our environment with an accuracy that far exceeds the capacity of our present technology. And some of us have bodies that are naturally tuned to be more sensitive to our vibrational environment.

So, for better or worse, that puts highly sensitive people in the unenviable position of being the canaries in the coalmine. Our sensitivity to the auditory, environmental, and vibrational pollution that is prevalent in our world means that we often display physical, emotional and vibrational symptoms long before others less sensitive than us.

That’s the bad news.

But fear not, there is good news! If you are a highly sensitive person, your sensitivity indicates that your body is more highly tuned than most people’s. And, with a bit of effort, training and regular practice, you can learn to leverage your sensitivity to create success and take your life to the next level. I have! More on that later.

For now, let’s look at some of the “symptoms” of highly sensitive people because, if you’re like I was, you might not even know that you’re highly sensitive. And when you don’t know that you’re highly sensitive it can be very difficult and uncomfortable to live in this world filled with less sensitive people who don’t understand why you have to cover your ears when an ambulance goes by, or leave a restaurant that smells like bleach, or sit under a full-spectrum light during the winter.

So if you have ever wondered if you are highly sensitive, here is a list of signs that could indicate that you are a Highly Sensitive Person. (I’ve added some personal notes to a few of the items on the list).

1. Can you hear things others cannot, especially high-pitched sounds?
Do you hear sirens long before anyone else? Does the high-pitched hum of a partially dimmed light fixture get under your skin when no one else seems to notice? Does the whirring fan in your computer distract you? Is it difficult for you to sleep in the same room as a refrigerator? Do you need to cover your ears when a loud siren passes by? Do you use earplugs at concerts or on planes?

2. Do you notice smells that others miss?
I have a weird olfactory sense: When it comes to nice, natural smells such as roses and lilacs, I have to put my nose right into the flower in order to smell it. But when it comes to not-so-nice smells I am highly attuned. I can smell cigarette smoke from 50-feet away when I’m outside and the wind is blowing in the opposite direction. When I walk into a restaurant that has just cleaned up with chlorine bleach, I often have to turn around a leave because the smell is overpowering. I can tell if a home has mold the minute I walk in the door. And don’t get me started on some of the unnatural perfumes that have nearly made me… well I think you get the idea!

3. Do you know what other people need before they ask?
This post, Intuition or Observation & Analysis, provides a great example of this.

4. Do you notice the flicker on older computer screens or older fluorescent fixtures?
I’m still amazed at how often I used to sit down at someone else’s computer and wonder how they were able to work on it with the refresh rate set so low. If they were not looking over my shoulder I would usually go in and quickly increase the refresh rate which took away the flicker and provided me with some relief.

5. Do you get “overwhelmed” by joy when you experience great beauty: A beautiful sunset, an incredible musical performance, the smile of your child?
High vibrational sensitivity is not always triggered by “negative” experiences. Positive, beautiful, sublime experiences can also awaken that sensitivity. But again, the difference and occasionally the difficulty for sensitive people is the intensity of the experience. Highly sensitive people can be truly overwhelmed by a beautiful experience, which is fine if you are alone on the beach watching a spectacular sunset, but may not be so great if you happen to look out the window at work just at the peak moment of that beautiful sunset.

6. Do you feel threatened or uneasy in large crowds or big cities?
Sometimes I enjoy going into San Francisco, and other times I just can’t wait to get out. But no matter how I’m feeling while I’m there, I always notice a distinct sense of calmness descending upon me as I leave the City. It’s as if I’m passing through an invisible energy boundary as I cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

7. Do you have “emotional radar” that picks up on what others are feeling?
Do you know what people are feeling before they tell you? Do you ever walk into a room and sense that there has been an argument?

8. Do you pick up physical symptoms from other people?
Have you ever been feeling great and then run into a friend who had a headache and suddenly noticed a headache coming on? I once massaged a friend’s knee after she tweaked it during a yoga class. When I was done, she felt great, but I could hardly walk!

9. Does reading or hearing about bad news have a dramatic impact on your mood?
Once upon a time I was a news and information junkie. Knowing what was happening in the world was important. As my sensitivity awakened, however, I began to recognize that the news is almost exclusively low-vibration information and had a dramatic and usually negative impact on me. A few years ago I did a week long news fast to see if it would make a difference. It did! Soon after that, I stopped watching, listening to or reading the news on a regular basis. And while I still don’t watch or listen to the news, I am now able to read the paper or gather snippets of news from the Internet without noticing a dramatic effect on my mood.

10. If you see a bad car accident does it affect you for the entire day?
Most people have a reaction when seeing an accident but for some highly sensitive people the effect can be dramatic and long lasting.

11. Have you been diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and/or do you experience a noticeable drop in your energy and mood during the winter?

12. Have you ever had a transcendent or mystical experience?
Highly sensitive people are naturally more open to experiences of bliss, ecstasy and spiritual awakening.

13. Do you have a strong reaction when you drink caffeine or when you attempt to stop?
Everything we put into our bodies has both a physical and energetic effect. For most people the physical effects of caffeine are not that dramatic. But sensitive people also feel the energetic effects of that caffeine and the combination can be quite powerful.

14. Do you have food sensitivities or allergies?
Most of us are putting stuff into our bodies that was never meant to go there. This is fine for people who are not highly sensitive (not really!) but if you are highly sensitive your body may tell you, in no uncertain terms, what you can and cannot put into it. I used to be able to eat pretty much anything. Now, if I have even a bite of gluten or dairy or something really sweet my body reacts instantly!

15. Do you have allergies or asthma?
As with food allergies, environmental allergies can indicate that you are reacting to allergens on both a physical and energetic level.

16. Are you a “lightweight?”
A friend of mine used to say that I could “get drunk from sniffing the bottlecap!” And she wasn’t that far off. My karate buddies nicknamed me “No Mas” because of my tendency to get a little rambunctious after a bottle of beer. If one glass of wine puts you under the table you might be highly sensitive.

17. Are you sensitive to over-the-counter, prescribed or illegal drugs?
Can you take half the recommended dosage of a drug and experience a noticeable effect? Have you had an overwhelming experience when experimenting with other drugs?

18. If you have ever had surgery, did it take longer to recover from the effects of the anesthesia than from the surgery itself?
For many sensitive people anesthesia can have a long-lasting and powerful effect. Anesthesia impacts not only the physical body but also the energy body by putting you into a completely unnatural state. It’s a neither here nor there state that can wreak havoc on a sensitive person’s system.

19. Is being in a calm, peaceful environment very important for you?
Does clutter, stress you out? Do harsh, disharmonious colors fluster you? Do you feel at peace in a beautiful garden? Is it important for you to create a “sanctuary” within your home?

20. Do you get claustrophobic when you spend too much time indoors?
For many sensitive people, being inside for too long leads to a feeling of claustrophobia, lethargy and/or irritation.

21. Is it important for you to spend time alone?
Highly sensitive people often feel better when alone. In extreme cases, this need to be alone can be debilitating to the point where being around others is almost impossible.

22. Do you experience dramatic mood swings, sometimes for no apparent reason?
Have you ever been sitting at work, or on the bus, or in a café, feeling pretty good, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, started to feel sad, or angry? Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to both their own emotional content as well as the emotions of those around them. So if this happens to you, you may be connecting with something happening inside of you, but you might also be unintentionally “tuning in” to the emotional content of someone else.

23. Do you know when people are lying to you?
Have you ever just known that someone is telling you a lie, even when you have no “logical” reason to believe that to be so?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. These are examples of possible “symptoms” of high sensitivity. If ten or more of these experiences rang true for you, it’s highly likely that you’re a highly sensitive person. But even if you said “Yes” to just a handful of these you could be highly sensitive. In fact, even just one or two of these, if they are very strong for you, could indicate high sensitivity.

Ultimately I believe that being a highly sensitive person is a gift. It certainly has become a gift to me! And, yes, I know, it does not always feel that way. It can feel like a burden and a curse. But when you learn how to put boundaries and systems into place you can begin to access and harness that sensitivity and use it to create the life you desire.

86 responses to “23 Signs That You’re A Highly Sensitive Person”

  1. Dude, sign me up and hand me my t-shirt! I’m an HSP! From the sound and smell sensitivities to the bawling in emotional circumstances (like movies and hallmark commercials), I am this list to a T.

  2. Adam: Can’t say that I’m surprised! 😉

    Karen: I hear you on those mood swings. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on that next week. Be sure to tune in!

    Craig: Thanks for checking in. It’s great to have examples, like you, of folks who have learned to use their sensitivity to improve their lives and the lives of others. BTW: I wasn’t falling for your tough guy act! 😉

    Shama: It actually can make you a better marketer. That sensitivity can help you tune in to what your market wants.

  3. “22 Signs That You’re A Highly Sensitive Person”

    23. Do you know when people are lying to you?
    Have you ever just known that someone is…

    why has no-one who claims to be highly sensitive noticed something this obvious?

    I’m pretty sure from this post that I’m highly sensitive

  4. Gabriel: A couple of people have noticed and pointed it out via email. My mistake. I added one in after writing the title and forgot to change it. No harm meant. 😉

  5. I haven’t been leaving comments, as my previous few disappeared… but they truly seem to be working now…

    Add me to the list! I learned that I was a HSP when I was researching about my Highly Sensitive Children, of which my daughter is particularly.

    I love the internet, otherwise I would have continued feeling “different” and defending mine and my HSC’s sensitivities from my husband, who is not highly sensitive. Now your article will do the same for somebody else!

  6. Barb: I’m sorry that your previous comments disappeared. I was having technical problems with the comment form – that I didn’t know about – but they seem to be working now.

    It’s difficult explaining this to people who are not highly sensitive. They just don’t get it. Both my wife and daughter are highly sensitive, so we tend to be pretty compatible in that way. I can’t imagine living with someone who is not highly sensitive. Maybe you could write a post about the strategies you have used to make it work.

  7. Edward,
    LOL – I just got up my first post in forever last night. You should check it out… it includes an image, which would’ve been great for the edition of the Carnival I hosted. 😀

    I have so many posts unfinished… I’ll put this idea on my list of “eventually”. Unless you do it first, as I know you’d do it so much better.

  8. Which is why I always say “I know what I know”. I can rarely convince others WHY I’m uncomfortable with someone (who later turns out to be bad news) I just know that I am.

    Although as far as knowing things, I thought it was just that I am very attentive to details and it just ‘comes to me’ when the pieces don’t fit precisely… the tiniest detail that’s out of place and I start to go through the entire stack of pieces to figure out the truth.

  9. Barb: I’ve got a post coming next week that will look at some tools I use, but it won’t specifically address being in relationship with someone who is not an HSP.

    Just Me: I think Highly Sensitive People ARE very attentive to details. But it’s our sensitivity that allows us to pick up on details that other people miss.

  10. Thanks for the info. finally nice to know I’m not so weird after all. I totally drive my husband crazy. I’m always aware of smells, feel like crap when I wake up from surgery, and have paper towel ready for the next lady to use in the restroom. (I love their reaction). If you all get moody during winter, try living in Florida year round. It’s the worst for HSP. The sun is so intense, great for a spring break, but hurts my skin. Also the humid air is suffocating. I hate being indoors, but living here I have to stay inside. I’ve learned the Florida “seasons” being a HSP, but none-the-less I can’t get into it. Been here 25 years, moving is not an option, it’s a prison! I work in Emergency medicine so have those ghosts to haunt me, yet am thankful for a good job. Hey, I love to work as I work so I can play… in the snow, or rock climbing, or hiking. OK, enough. Thanks again for giving me a definition of why I’m different and no matter how hard I’ve tried blooming where I’ve been planted, I haven’t sprouted so well. 🙂

  11. It is similar to the sensitive teeth :), they react to all external irritants…

    “For many sensitive people, being inside for too long leads to a feeling of claustrophobia, lethargy and/or irritation.”

    This point miss one another my opinion about sensitivity. I think I am this kind of person, but I can live weeks at home…

  12. This is so true. Thanks for the post.

    I realized that I pretend that I’m not sensitive even I am because I don’t like myself called a sensitive person. However, I am a sensitive person after reading the post and I don’t need to pretend and can start enjoying being sensitive now!


  13. Hi Edward,

    i don’t think I am sensitive enough on others feeling and reading the situation. But on the other side, I normally takes too many things personally and think about it for a long time. Does that mean I am a sensitive person or not?

    It’s more like I’m sensitive when someone entering my own space, but I’m not too sensitive when I’m getting into other people’s space.
    Any concept that can explain my behavior clearer? Is it more of selfishness?


  14. Very informative article, thank you.
    Is there a way to stop being a HSP? I don’t want it.
    I am glad that some people can find the positive in it and wish I could as well. I have a good life but I feel as if my emotional nerve endings are on the outside of my body and there is no protection.
    I would welcome any comments.

  15. This is unbelievable. I, myself would consider all but one of these to apply to my personality.

    Personally I consider it a problem. Is there any way I can become less sensitive so I can be comfortable going through the normal confrontations of daily life? To be able to accept failure better?

  16. Yes, this all applies except I hear low freaquency noises. Do any of you seem to absorb negative energy from places where it has dwelled like pieces of property, historical sites, forclosed houses and the like? I am working with an energy healer to try and understand all this. I am a former “bubba from Mn and all this is over whelming but cool stuff. Thanks in advance for comments.

  17. @Russ: Low frequency sensitivity is another sign of HSP. And, yes, absorbing energy from places is definitely a sign! Places store energy. And when you are sensitive, you pick up on that energy, and if you’re not careful you pick that energy up! The good thing is that you also get to pick up on the positive energy that is stored in places. So makes sure you expose yourself to positive places including the oceans, forests and mountains, retreat and meditation centers and any other places you find that fill you with positive energy. I’m glad that you’re working with an energy healer. Nothing wrong with being a former “bubba.” We’ve all been there in one form or another.

  18. I agree it can seem like either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it and deal with it. On the downside, a few times I have become very sick while traveling, due to restaurant food. Yet, as you noted, being sensitive has become a gift to me and I would not want to change. It is well worth the extra effort it requires. Thanks for the great article.

    Mark Nolan

  19. I have learned to look upon the gift of being a HSP as being like a person with one eye in a world full of blind people, or as having a keen grasp of the obvious in an environment where most people are oblivious to the obvious.

  20. OMG!

    Reading this was the biggest ah ha! moment I have ever had. It was like a hand reached inside my head and unlocked a door inside my mind.

    Dr.’s have labelled me as everything in the book and I have been given multiple medications to try to “cover up” what takes place inside my mind and my body.

    I have always known that there was a deeper meaning to my “ways” and my life. I just have not been able to put my finger on it.

    I feel this truth raging through my veins like a fire…did I menttion that I am a 23 out of 23 on the list of symptoms?

    Where do I go from here?

    Thank you for providing me with this outlet. Maybe now I will be able to do something meaningful with my gift!

  21. I learned about HSP, and decided that I certainly was one, a few years ago. Life circumstances eventually made my hypersensitivity feel like a curse, and I pretty much shut down and became non-functional in most aspects of my life. I ended up getting diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder, though the psychologist said that the diagnosis was relatively mild.

    I’ve met other people with Asperger’s since then and I am not like them at all. I am swimming in a churning sea of stimulation and the people with Asperger’s that I’ve met don’t seem to be responding to their environments all that much.

    So whatever it might be, Asperger’s or this somewhat ambiguous HSP thing, I just try to let my sensitivities go free when things are good, and try to tone things down when life is going badly. I’ve done some research on high dopamine levels and it pretty much explains everything from a neurochemical standpoint. Lots of dopamine can make you somewhat socially withdrawn. In good situations, it makes everything seem even better. In bad situations, too much dopamine leads to extreme anxiety and OCD symptoms.

    So anyone that thinks they’re an HSP and wants to know what the next step might be… I’d recommend researching dopamine. If the sensitivity is too much, you can take St John’s Worth (sublingually, not in pill form) to raise your serotonin levels and feel more evened-out when times are tough.

  22. Thank you for this website and article.
    Do HSP folks tend toward less empathy for others? If so, is it because they are so wrapped up in their own experience (which is not always easy in this world) that even though they do indeed “feel” for others, they are at a loss to act upon their feeling, therefore seeming less empathic.
    Thanks for your response in advance.

  23. Let’s see: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 16 (although I never tried anyway), 19, 21 – that’s 10.

    Yep, I’m a HSP.

    I work as a consultant, but prospecting is almost TORTURE for me. Particularly COLD-CALLING. Too many emotions, too much stimilus in too short of a time.

    I hope to find some ways to cope with it.

  24. Greetings,

    Very well written article about HSP. My name is Ted Zeff and I have written several books about HSPs; “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide” (translated into 6 languages) and “The Highly Sensitive Person’s Companion.” I am currently writing a new book entitled “The Highly Sensitive Boy-helping your son grow into a strong, confident, emotionally healthy man.” Elaine Aron will write the introduction to the new book.

    I have interviewed 30 HSM (highly sensitive men) for the research for the new book and am still interested in interviewing some more HSM. If you know of anyone interested in being interviewed please email tedzeff@yahoo.com

    My web site is hspsurvival.com

    Thank you,

    Ted Zeff,Ph.D.

  25. I have seen many phychiatristand they all tell me Im depressed and have anxiety so they give me medicene that I take everyday only for it not to help at all. This is the first time I have heard about this and I wonder why no doctors have ever mentioned it when my symptoms fit perfectly. I dont watch the news or read the paper, I get emotional over the littlest and simplist things and my mood swings are unreal sometimes I take it out on my family. I have always felt emotional damanged for some of the things that I feel, see and hear. Im good at reading people and what is on their mind so I guess thats a benefit cause everyone turns to me for help with their prblems. I just want to know how do you deal with this and can you treat it. Also maybe the statistics are so low because the doctor assumes you are depressed or that it is something else. I think there maybe lots of others like us out there who just dont know about this. Word of advise is that this needs to be made public and something for everyone to check in to.

  26. In response to those who have said “I don’t want it” and/or ask how to become less sensitive:

    I doubt very much that it is possible to reduce one’s sensitivity (even if one was able to actually do so I think it would basically be denying one’s true nature – which would eventually backfire big time!).

    What I believe is a much better idea is to learn how to filter the sensory firestorm so that it doesn’t overwhelm – essentially creating a force field around yourself to block the negative energy especially and perhaps simply reduce the impact of everything on your psyche. The result would be that you would still be aware of being more sensitive than the average person, but it would not be debilitating or unbearable.

    I myself have NOT learned this trick, although I remind myself on a very regular basis that this is something I need to take the time to figure out! [she says, while on day 3 of a headache after her 7-year-old nephew gave himself a nasty concussion on the weekend…]

  27. I fit into everything that is stated in 22 Signs That You’re A Highly Sensitive Person. WOW! I knew I was sensitive, but didn’t know about a lot of signs like the allergies and asthma which I suffer from. I smell and sense ghosts, and the energy around them, moods and colors. I can also sense the mood of a room when I walk in, wow, thanks for making me understand myself a lot better.

  28. Yes, I’m more sensitive than most other persons. It means that I am more caring than other persons. A cup of red wine must be at the end of a big meal and I must only drink 1/2 in 24 hours, the rest of it I put it in the fridge to sip from for the next 5 days. As a boss I would give most people the day off:)
    I let the spouse work because she is inconsiderate, ruthless, uncaring, super strict, and because she won’t sit down with me to plan the future, or read the bible with me. Also, she didn’t want to learn English from me so at work she has to speak with people that don’t speak Spanish. As a result she now speaks English, which was my goal.

  29. I can relate to most of the traits pointed out above. I know I am a highly sensitive person. Sensitivity is in everyone but only the brave ones can assume it and then there are the highly sensitive/oversensitive people such as myself… It is still bewildering that with all the technological/cultural/civilisation growth in the world sensitivity is still perceived as a weakness… How ignorant can anyone be – especially in our day and age – to consider it as such. I myself have had some hard time in dealing with people because of that. Mostly because of attracting what I am (at the moment struggling with everything)
    Thank you for the article, Edward!

  30. Hi Edward! I’m dating a HSP man right now. I just started to learn about all of this. I find your article above to be helpful. Thank you!

    I have a question on #5:

    Do you get “overwhelmed” by joy when you experience great beauty: A beautiful sunset, an incredible musical performance, the smile of your child?

    Can there be physical symptom(s)/reaction(s) with the effects of being “overwhelmed?”

  31. So is HS considered a neurological disorder where the nerves are entirely too receptive to any input, such as the effects with vision from the fluorescent lighting? Has this been considered or debated anywhere? I’m really curious. Not that I am attempting to debunk the HSP (as I think I may be one) but I was curious for the sake of curiosity. There is so much we don’t understand about the inner workings of our minds.

  32. […] Being a HSP makes it easier to understand a few things about what I look for in relationship.  The research shows that “on the average HSPs’ relationships in general are  less happy–implying that relationships HSPs are in are less happy, at  least for the HSP. Why? HSPs have nervous systems that pick up more on subtleties in the world and reflect on them deeply. That means, for  starters, that they will tend to demand more depth in their relationships  in order to be satisfied; see more threatening consequences in their partners’ flaws or behaviors; reflect more and, if the signs indicate it,      worry about how things are going.” Elaine Aron   With regards to sex, Dr Aron tells us “compared to  others, HSPs are more likely to find sex to be mysterious and powerful, to  be turned on by subtle rather than explicit sexual cues, to be easily distracted or physically hurt during sex, and to find it difficult to go right back to normal life afterwards.” And of course, “highly sensitive people are naturally more open to experiences of bliss, ecstasy and spiritual awakening.” Edward Mills […]

  33. Interesting article and I definitely feel that I would like to learn more about this. I may or may not fall into this category, but even if not, I feel there is a benefit to learning more about it. On a side note, the Intuition or Observation & Analysis link is broken.

  34. This may be reaching some, but can a sensitive be affected physically when they are,for example, at school, and class discussion about certain things dealing with human function, such as blood, how different organs work, etc? Say, I get queasy and pass out because I could ‘feel’ whatever condition described as though it were happeing to me. Does this make sense?

    • There’s a phenomenon among med students… they sometimes develop symptoms of diseases & disorders they are studying. I’m inclined to think that this is true of HSPs. I also tend to feel sick when I’m around others who are sick, and have to spend time alone in quiet to calm those feelings, otherwise I DO get sick!

      • This question pertained to my oldest daughter. They were watching a video at school about the lungs. She got a little dizzy then passed out. The doctor blamed anxiety. I’m not too convinced on that. I already know I’m empathic, so she could be too.

    • I have the same problem. I learned in high school that I could never be a veterinarian, doctor or nurse. I shadowed a vet, and passed out cold while he operated on a dog. I was the only student in the room that hit the floor. This is going to sound crazy, but I felt like I was the dog and he was cutting into me! One time, I cut my finger accidentally and it bled for 45 minutes. In the first five, I passed out. I’m fine with surgery videos and horror movies, but when it comes to real life blood, I have a problem.

      • Oh wow! I had the SAME thing happen to me SO much in Science class. And almost everything on this list is true for me, since I am Introverted, Intuative, Feeling and Percieving. I am also a very spritual christain male who is, at school, considered a sissy with long hair and has been told by many people that I can act gay or be to much like a women, especially in emotions. Well, after reading this, I think I understand now. 😀

  35. I do experience physical sensitivity, but there were a few on this list I couldn’t relate to. I do have SAD, but I am a lot more emotionally sensitive, I’m wondering if I’m not a highly sensitive person, if I’m just depressed.

    • Rebecca, though I don’t know you exactly, my case might help you some… I thought, a few years ago, that my issue was just depression. So, I took some antidepressants, went to therapy, learned some self-talk, coping, etc. Then, whether I actually had depression then, or simply caused the symptoms in myself, placebo-effect style, I kept getting worse. The pills started causing rather harmful side effects, too, so everything was confusing – I didn’t know what had caused what! Years later, I was off the antidepressants, and no longer exhibiting depression symptoms. Yet, I’m still reacting quickly, crying form confrontation, moved to tears by the beauty of the light filtering through the trees… As I now know, my core issue is not understanding this personality trait, sensitivity.
      I can’t tell you for sure that you are an HSP and are not depressed… Maybe you are, and should seek treatment as such.
      But I know that’s where I was, and taking the wrong path was very painful. It taught me a great deal, and I don’t regret it… But it was very hard.

  36. I have just read Elaine N. Aron’s book and found you through researching the internet.
    Oh my…I can say yes to pretty much most of these signs…the only one that doesn’t apply is the allergies/sensitivity to food. I am moved to tears often by (apparently to most other people) every day occurrences and it is a great source of amusement to my family! And yes I agree, it does seem weird! it pays to have a good sense of self and humour! For example I am literally overwhelmed by great feats of engineering such as bridges, ocean liners, steam trains, the Hoover Dam; I stand and literally weep at their beauty and strength. And yes, car accidents…as I drive past the scene of an accident I am moved to tears, not just tears of sadness, it actually feels more like the accident has just happened to me; the anxiety, the terror, the shock. I have to stop and calm myself before driving on. One of the strongest characteristics for me is sensing a liar. My husband jokes that I am ‘psychic’ and he wouldn’t even think about telling a white lie anymore because so often I have been right not to believe someone I had an intuitive distrust of. I used to think that maybe it was a ‘sixth sense’ or some other metaphysical phenomena that provided no real explanation for the feelings I was experiencing, but in recognising, researching and understanding the characteristics and behaviour patterns of HSPs we now have a scientific basis on which to anchor our highly sensitive selves. ‘Pull yourself together’ (as we have all been told many times) isn’t helpful and won’t do any good at all!
    Thanks for this article. It’s good to read through all the experiences of contributors and supporters here, its really important to know you are not alone!

  37. I can’t be around large groups of people, its overwhelming for me, especially if the group are in a heated discussion. I especially can’t be touched by someone without warning. I never understood it until I read the signs of HSP. I’m not sure what I am. I just want to fit in with the rest.

  38. Yes this is definitely me. I’ve learned to embrace it somehow. But at times I feel like I’m from another world.I’m an artist and very emotional. Frequencies drives me crazy and fireworks use to make me panic and cry. Lol also hsp’s are more likely to feel uncomfortable in socks. I dntbreally wear them unless necessary. And yes, I feel the emotions of evryone but I leaaarned to block them. As for pms I think it affects hsp’s more. It sure does for me.

  39. Great read from a Male perspective.. I recently turn 31 this past week and this is somethin I have struggled with for years.. but all inspirational pieces were from a female perspective that I could not relate to at all..

    Good article

  40. This really nails it. It’s like my physical body is directly correlated with my emotional, and my immune system is easily taxed! Over the years due to my own trial and error I’ve removed caffeine, gluten and other processed products, and incorporated lots of exercise. I’m definitely a light weight hehe, and experience SAD. Just who I am. My best friend describes me as “just very effected by everything, like a beautiful day is the most beautiful day you’ve ever seen” haha! There are goods and bads but it’s about learning and recognizing and seeking balance and perhaps finding a hobby or job where you can apply it. There is much beauty in sensitivity, and we are only humans regardless of what the modern world tries to say by categorizing and diagnosing everyone because it isn’t “normal”. Embrace your strengths and special ability :). In lieu of this convo, a quote from American Beauty’s Ricky Fitts “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in. “

  41. I am a HSP and just learning as i go, but my son is showing signs of being HS . The moods of the other children at school effect him greatly, and is attuned to what they are feeling. He feels badly when he cant help them. IVe explained as best i could that he and i are sensitive to what other people are feeling and all we can do is lend an ear and comfort them as best we can. Any advice?

  42. finally i know what i’m dealing with. people have been telling me that i might have depression or anxiety. this helped me a lot, and now im able to work on it and tell the people around me, and ask for help (if they want, i dont know). thanks!

  43. I have this bad. Little sounds drive me absolutely crazy. When people scrape their forks against their plates, it physically hurts my ears. The pain is just like when you accidentally turn up your loudest pair of headphones to full blast and press play. My family chocks this behavior up as me being “antisocial.” I would be more social if it weren’t physically painful and or impossibly distracting to be around people and noise. I have to get drunk at every party to tune out the noises. If I’m sober, I can’t focus on any one conversation. I will hear every conversation in the room without meaning to.

    • I can hear every conversation in the room too and I’m a bartender. I don’t want to hear. The people get upset thay I can hear (absolutely not meaning to) so finally I just stated if what you’re is sensitive information or something you don’t want others to know then maybe it should be discussed at a more private place.

  44. Where do you get help? Its getting worse. Tried medical route and nothing helps. Tired of wondering if I’m crazy.

    • your not crazy, most of us feel this way too, I tried the medical route too, I am trying to find ways to cope with the intensity of the emotions as well as balance in everything, helps ground me, washing my hands with cold water after a conversation with a person, I imagine all their problems, emotions being washed down the drain, allow time with nature it recharges the spirit

      • Do you guys also seem to have a strong inner dialogue???I find that I almost “talk to myself” using my inner voice as a coping mechanism during anxiety triggers/situations. This happens during uncomfortable social situations or uncomfortable confrontations that tend to make my heart race, my head blank and my nerves a mess. My inner voice almost directs me in how to approach a situation even if that direction is complete avoidance of people or situations. I also find myself daydreaming a lot! Sometimes it’s an escape from reality. I envision what my life would be life if I didn’t have my shortcomings including being highly sensitive and some social anxieties.

        I’m also very intuitive, I’ve noticed that I can almost tell when something is about to happen, I can gauge negative energy in an environment. I can tell when some is talking/whispering about me and pick on the slightest noises. Anyone else feel like this? It can make you a little paranoid !

        Does anyone here avoid confrontation like the plague??? I find that I have perfected avoidance behaviors over the years so that I can escape any form of confrontation ( i.e. phone, in person, with groups, etc). It literally makes me so uncomfortable that I want to crawl out of my skin. I go over the whole situation in my head over and over and how I would try to approach it. But when the time comes, I’m so overwhelmed by the anxiety and fear, I tend to just blank out and not speak up for myself for fear of a negative reaction or rejection.

        Anyway, I thought i was the only one like this and I was just “weird”. I chalked this up to being raised by overprotective/ overbearing parents who shielded me from life’s experiences in their misguided attempt to raise me the best they could.

        • S.s, I thought I was the only one to feel the way you describe. Your description is accurate of my experience as well.

  45. Yes to everything. Also cannot eat food that has a lot of spices. My friends and family keep telling me I am a psychic. Particular about clothes I wear, cannot drink alcohol, over the counter allergy med can knock me out for hours. I do have a high pain threshold however. I quit watching the news, reading the paper or magazines in 1997 and that has been very good for me. Have not watched any television for years. I cry at good stuff as well as negative stuff. It has been very helpful in my relationships with family when everyone read the hsp book as it has helped my family understand me.

  46. Being a highly sensitive person is not a gift for me at all, negative and bad behaviors make me depress and keep thinking about any bad news on tv specially crimes related to children and women.

  47. Oh my goodness I finally found an answer in this article. I go through these periodic episodes of most of these symptoms including some not mentioned. Usually what triggers me is extreme stressful situations or traumatic things that cause me to react by superseding my coping mechanisms then like a rocket blast I am right in the throws of intuition. I seem to know a total stranger’s emotional state just by looking in their eyes, I draw incredible portraits that I don’t normally do, the music I hear seems directly related to my emotional situation, I shoot to the moon spiritually—cleanse out what I think is evil–because I feel natural pain in my head when I am near it, I threw out anything with a skull on it on one of these episodes. I have had 5 episodes of this in the last 10 years. I can hear a conversation clearly from across the room. I do make decisions that are irrational especially financially because I am thinking the outcome is greater like I will give money to complete strangers and when I get back to reality realize I didn’t pay my car payment or a bill that is needed. I am super sensitive to nature — even the night sky. Some days I love to be around people to help them but then I become recluse for a time. I also develop a super faith and believe when I speak things happen and they do sometimes but the real important things don’t happen then I get fearful, discouraged, and depression—a crash. I am at the crash point right now. but I found this article and now know that this is a gift and I need to learn how to use it but also need to balance it with my life.
    Valerie Bush

  48. I’m stunned, you just listed off almost everything about me… I guess I’m overly sensitive. I think at the begin it attracts most girls, but after awhile they had enough of me. I can’t really blame them for it.

  49. this is rubbish. allergies are due to body immune system. I’ve got a friend who is highly sensitive of people’s remarks. And yet she can sleep in a noisy environment.. What a pack of bull shits… If your body is well, you will sure be very comfortable in any environment.. Bull shits!!!

  50. Maybe I belong in another category. Have you ever had someone really on your mind, contacted them, and been received with, “I was just thinking about you!”? I don’t want to say ‘clairvoyant’. I think “attuned” is more appropriate. Mr. Mills is apt when he says “the unenviable position of being the canary in the coalmine”. I missed this past Christmas Eve gathering with the relatives because they cancelled it due to an impending Christmas Day storm. The anxiety I felt was enormous. I made my cousin promise to get us all together really REALLY soon. I was in a near panic. Jan 4 my aunt, our matriarch, passed away. How do you tell folks in advance this is going to happen?! You can’t. It just happened again with a friend’s pet. She’s kicking herself because I’d told her to drop everything and go NOW and she didn’t. I had the same welling up of anxiety and panic. It is indeed a mixed blessing.

  51. […] If something happens—the phone rings, there’s a knock at the door, someone asks an abrupt question—you often find yourself the first to respond. This also happens with anything regarding emotion. You wouldn’t describe yourself as dramatic, but you feel everything stronger, and that makes you react stronger in turn. “Most people have a reaction when seeing an accident but for some highly sensitive people the effect can be dramatic and long lasting,” writes HSP blogger Edward Mills. […]

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