Highly sensitive people grow up feeling misunderstood. Not only by others but also by themselves. And that’s why it’s important for you, as a highly sensitive person (HSP), to learn everything there’s to know about high sensitivity.
Because when you do, you’ll feel less misunderstood and can start to own and believe in who you are as an individual.
And that’s why we’re sharing these 13 facts about highly sensitive people.
These are statements that are true for most (if not all) HSPs. They are based on research done by HSP pioneer Dr. Elaine N. Aron, as well as Julie Bjelland– a Psychotherapist specializing in high sensitivity.
If you find you relate to most of the statements below, know you are a highly sensitive person and there’s nothing wrong with you.
And know that when high sensitivity is embraced as a strength rather than shunned for its perceived weakness, HSPs can learn to thrive and live fully in this non-HSP world.
- 1. We think, feel, and notice more
- 2. HSPs are easily overwhelmed
- 3. Our trait is inborn, not learned
- 4. High sensitivity is NOT a disorder
- 5. Not all HSPs are introverts
- 6. We prefer deep conversations over small talk
- 7. We can be slow to make decisions
- 8. HSPs crave meaning and fulfilment
- 9. We need more downtime to be our best selves
- 10. HSPs tend to have low self-esteem and struggle with mental health problems
- 11. We find it hard to be self-compassionate
- 12. HSPs are bothered by having too much to do at once
- 13. We are more aware of subtleties
Here are 13 Top Facts about Highly Sensitive People
1. We think, feel, and notice more
Everything about highly sensitive people is always on overdrive. We cry more, think more, feel more, notice more, and pretty much do everything more.
And this is usually why you’ll find a highly sensitive person being called “too sensitive”, “overdramatic”, and “too emotional”.
But we’re actually not being overemotional, it’s just the way we’re wired.
Our nervous system is more sensitive than that of the average person. And so every reaction or emotion we experience is always heightened.
2. HSPs are easily overwhelmed
As Dr. Elaine puts it:
If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
This is why even a normal day of work is enough to leave a highly sensitive person overwhelmed. So much so that doing anything when we finally get home is nearly impossible.
For instance, an HSP would say no to joining her colleagues for happy hour or cooking herself a nice meal.
And it’s not because we’re lazy or antisocial, we’re just tired from taking in too much during the day. Otherwise known as being overwhelmed.
3. Our trait is inborn, not learned
The trait of high sensitivity is something you’re born with, not something you acquire as a result of your journey from childhood to adulthood.
And according to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, the trait is not only genetically found in humans, but is also found in more than 100 other species. Including birds, horses, dogs, fish, cats, etc.
Considering all facts about highly sensitive people, this one is particularly important.
4. High sensitivity is NOT a disorder
As highly sensitive people, we may seek therapy services because we feel abnormal, or as though we have a disorder. And there’s nothing wrong with this.
In fact, Dr. Aron’s research as published in her book: “Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person“, shows that HSPs are the majority of patients going to a therapist, psychologist, counsellor, or another mental health professional.
But here’s the thing:
Being highly sensitive is not a disorder that requires management or treatment. Being highly sensitive is a temperament trait found in 15-20% of the population. That’s at least 1 person in a group of 5.
And while the trait is not a disorder, it’s important to note that it’s highly misunderstood. This leads many highly sensitive people to feel abnormal, struggle with self-esteem, and become prone to depression and anxiety.
5. Not all HSPs are introverts
Highly sensitive people are often thought of as shy, fearful, and introverted. And while this is true for some highly sensitive people, it’s not true for all.
Research shows that at least 30% of HSPs are actually extroverted, with 70% being the majority that’s introverted.
So while most HSPs are introverts, it’s not right to assume that all of them are. Always remember there’s a small percentage of us that’s as extroverted as any other extrovert.
6. We prefer deep conversations over small talk
Julie Bjelland is a licensed Psychotherapist who focuses on highly sensitive people.
She has created a sensitivity quiz that helps people identify how highly sensitive they are, or not. Over the years, from the results of this quiz, Julie has found that HSPs prefer deep conversations over small talk.
And as a highly sensitive person myself, I can confirm this to be true. So if you feel that you also relate, you might be highly sensitive and can take Julie’s quiz to find out for sure.
7. We can be slow to make decisions
As Dr, Aron says,
This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy — being observant before acting.
For this reason, and the fact that HSPs process information more deeply than others, we can be seen as slow to make decisions.
This is because we will pause to examine all the probabilities, facts, outcomes, and details of an issue before deciding. And this usually takes time – which others (especially non-HSPs) may not have the patience for.
8. HSPs crave meaning and fulfilment
Highly sensitive people are deep processors or deep thinkers. In fact, the D in DOES – a concept used to explain the high sensitivity trait – stands for depth of processing.
And what this means is, that the brain of an HSP takes in information and reflects on it more deeply than a non-HSP would.
This then makes the highly sensitive person not only think, feel and notice deeply but also seek out situations that are deep and fulfilling.
9. We need more downtime to be our best selves
Because we’re easily overwhelmed, as stated in point 2 above, we need more time alone to calm down and recharge.
And without this downtime, we may be less effective, less productive, and less ourselves.
Think of this fact as you when you’ve had a super busy day. Once you’re home, you can’t function right and anything you do will not be your best work. All you need at that time is rest.
And while a quick bath can help you feel relaxed, an HSP will need much more than that. We’ll need the bath, complete silence, a nap, maybe a meditation session, etc.
10. HSPs tend to have low self-esteem and struggle with mental health problems
This is mostly because of the tendency for many HSPs to feel abnormal, different, misunderstood, and like they’re a bother to the people around them.
Unfortunately, this tendency is usually influenced by the environment we grew up in.
So if you, as a highly sensitive person, grew up in an environment that supported your high sensitivity, you may not suffer any low self-esteem or mental health issues.
And if you grew up in an environment that shamed and criticized you for being sensitive, you’re highly likely to struggle with self-esteem and mental health issues in your journey to adulthood.
This is one of those facts about highly sensitive people that’s a little hard to swallow. Because there’s so much truth to it and is a huge lightbulb for many struggling HSPs.
11. We find it hard to be self-compassionate
Highly sensitive people are great lovers. We love people and are compassionate to everyone without question. However, when it comes to showing this same love and compassion to ourselves, it’s usually an uphill battle.
And here we’d like to reference Demi Lovato in her song; “I Love Me”. She says,
I’m a black belt when I’m beating up on myself, but I’m an expert at giving love to somebody else.
Because that’s exactly how HSPs are. And here’s the clip:
12. HSPs are bothered by having too much to do at once
Because we’re easily overwhelmed, we can’t handle many things at once. We’re not your best multitaskers. In fact, just the thought of knowing there’s a lot to get done is enough to get us feeling stressed.
HSPs prefer to handle one task at a time and will prefer an organized schedule that takes into account their mode of work.
And here’s a quote by Jenn Granneman that is just right to take this point home:
Sensitive people like a slower pace of life. We like pondering all our options before making a decision and regularly reflecting on our experiences. We hate busy schedules and rushing from one event to the next. – Jenn Granneman
13. We are more aware of subtleties
Sensing the subtle is the S in the acronym DOES – I mentioned this in fact number 8. The reason for this, as explained by Dr. Aron, is how highly sensitive people process information and reflect on it deeply.
So even when an HSP wears glasses, we may notice more and hence see more.
But this doesn’t mean that HSPs have better senses of smell, sight or taste than non-HSPs. It’s the processing of what we smell, see, and taste that’s heightened. And so we notice more details that other people miss.
In the End
These 13 facts about highly sensitive people are based on scientific research around the trait of high sensitivity. And that’s why we’ve repeatedly referenced Dr. Elaine N. Aron and Julie Bjelland.
So if you’re a highly sensitive person, or you know someone who might be highly sensitive, keep these facts close. You never know when they might come in handy. And also read more from Dr. Aron’s website and Julie Bjelland’s website.
These two HSP experts have a ton of advice and resources for HSPs around the world.