8 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) And Not ‘Overly Emotional’


by Catherine Huang | Psych2Go

With one third to half of the world’s population made up of introverts, it’s great that we finally began to acknowledge and talk about their unique set of traits and tendencies. Along with introversion, sensitivity has also made the headlines and been widely discussed. The personality trait was first researched by Dr. Elaine N. Aron in 1991. All of her important findings have been published in various articles and in her book The Highly Sensitive Person.

Although it’s a trait being acknowledged more, Aron states that sensitive people are still often considered the “minority” of the population. She emphasizes that culture plays a large role towards how sensitivity is valued. Aron writes, “In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self esteem. They are told ‘don’t be so sensitive’ so that they feel abnormal.” We want to raise this issue and help promote more acceptance towards highly sensitive people. Approximately 70% of the introverted population is made up of HSPs. Not all introverts identify as HSPs, but there seems to be an overlap between the two traits that’s too important to ignore. Are you an introvert wondering if you’re also highly sensitive? Psych2Go shares with you 8 signs you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP):

1. You feel deeply and tend to be more emotionally reactive.

Have people often called you “deep” when you provide your insights? Then, you may be an HSP. HSPs tend to feel things more deeply and are more naturally inclined to react emotionally towards situations. Dr. Ted Zeff, author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, writes, “They like to process things on a deep level. They’re very intuitive, and go very deep inside to try to figure things out.” Overall, HSPs are empathetic and care a lot for others when they are having a tough time. Since your emotions run deep, when others suffer, you can also feel their pain. This helps you stay open-minded when you can easily put yourself in the shoes of another and understand what that person is going through.

2. You prefer to exercise alone.

Highly sensitive people often avoid team sports because they are uncomfortable with an audience watching their every move. According to Dr. Zeff, the majority of HSPs gravitate towards solitary sports, such as running, hiking, and bicycling. This allows time for you to reflect and get away from overly stimulating environments as you simultaneously work on reaching your fitness goals. However, in some circumstances, HSPs may enjoy playing in team sports if they were brought up by parents who provided a supportive environment that made it easier for them to get involved. If you were encouraged by a nurturing family and good friends, then you may find yourself flourishing in team sports, too.

3. It takes you longer to make decisions because you are concerned about making a “wrong” or “bad” decision.

When you’re sensitive, it takes you more time to make decisions, even though there may not be a right or wrong decision. For instance, it may take you longer than others to choose what you want to eat from a restaurant menu. This is because you have a tendency towards weighing all the options that are provided. Even if you already have a good idea about what you want to choose from the menu, you can’t help but think about the what-if’s and explore the possibility of other dishes based on their descriptions. As a result, when it comes to making big, life-changing decisions, such as where you want to move or what career you want to work, you may often feel paralyzed and overwhelmed by the various potential outcomes you imagine from each possibility.

4. You pay attention to subtlety and small details in general.

You’re sensitive to changes in your immediate environment and the people who surround you. You may notice the small details, such as the new color someone paints their nails or the tiny crack on someone’s lamp that wasn’t initially there. When you identify as a highly sensitive person, it’s hard for you to miss subtlety, because you’re prone to reading between the lines. Generally, as someone who has a lot welling up inside of you, you make it a habit to notice things, because everything affects you strongly.

5. You are highly conscientious and have extremely good manners.

When you’re highly sensitive, you care a lot about the way you present yourself and how your own actions may affect others. You tend to be considerate towards others’ needs and want to do things in a way that creates convenience, rather than causing trouble for them. You put a lot of effort in even the smallest actions, such as making sure you put an item back where you got it from as you’re shopping to prevent troubling a staff member to do it. You’re the type of person to always thank your waiter at the end of the night for their service and leave a generous tip. It leaves you feeling uncomfortable when you’re not exhibiting polite mannerisms to the best of your ability.

6. You are prone to having anxiety or depression, especially if you’ve had many bad past experiences.

As an HSP, if you experienced a lot of negative events in your life, you may have developed anxiety or depression over the years. According to Dr. Aron, this is because your nervous system often operates in anxious mode when you don’t feel safe in your environment. Your nervous system is meant to alert you about potential danger, so when it’s used to doing that in abundance, it causes you to stay on edge for long periods of time. This is why it’s crucial to have parents who nurture your sensitivity with just the right amount of care. If they make you feel ashamed for being sensitive, it prevents you from understanding and using your sensitivity in a productive way that can help you grow. But if they protect you too much because of your sensitivity, then it may cause you to have difficulty making transitions in life and adapting to new situations.

7. Violent/horror movies are not your cup of tea.

This is one that I strongly resonate with. As a child, I couldn’t stand being pulled into the same room and forced to watch scary movies. As a result, I’d always stay wide awake because certain scenes would replay again and again in my head that prevented me from falling asleep. When you’re highly sensitive, you are overly stimulated by violent/horror films that sensation-seekers often get a good adrenaline rush from. Realize that there’s nothing wrong with turning down horror movies. Your nervous system will be much happier that you did what’s best for you.

8. You work well in team environments.

When you’re highly sensitive, you tend to be a deep thinker. This makes you a valuable person in team settings because you’re able to analyze situations and figure out how everyone’s strengths and talents can be used to help the team work more efficiently. In addition, you can also identify many of the pros and cons when it comes to decision-making. However, you may not be comfortable with being the person in charge of making the actual decisions. Instead, you may like to play the role of someone who negotiates and helps facilitate discussions, rather than the person who has to take action. Still, with the right amount of encouragement and good practice, HSPs can make exceptional leaders with their ability to empathize with their coworkers and having an open mind when problem-solving.

Would you consider yourself a highly sensitive person? Do you agree with these points? Psych2Go would love to hear your thoughts! Please be sure to leave a comment down below!