Dr. Elaine N. Aron and her husband, Arthur Aron, are the researchers responsible for coining the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). They are the people who conducted research and gave High Sensitivity a name, making millions of sensitive people worldwide feel seen.
However, Dr. Elaine N. Aron has been more vocal about the trait of High Sensitivity over the years. She is the author of The Highly Sensitive Person, a go-to book for anyone needing to understand what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person.
She also writes and shares HSP research on her website, hsperson.com. And she has written more books addressing different HSP topics, such as parenting, therapy, relationships, and Highly Sensitive children.
So today, we are taking a page from Dr. Aron’s library of HSP resources by sharing 27 signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person. These are signs from the original 1996 HSP test.
27 Signs You are a Highly Sensitive Person, according to Dr. Elaine N. Aron
- 1. Strong sensory input easily overwhelms you
- 2. You are aware of environmental subtleties
- 3. Other people’s moods affect you
- 4. You are very sensitive to pain
- 5. You often need to withdraw during busy days
- 6. Loud noises make you uncomfortable
- 7. You are sensitive to the effects of caffeine
- 8. Things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens easily overwhelm you
- 9. You have a rich and complex inner life
- 10. You find arts or music to be deeply moving
- 11. Your nervous system frazzles easily making you want alone time
- 12. You are conscientious
- 13. You startle easily
- 14. Having a lot to do in a short time rattles you
- 15. You are aware of other people’s discomfort
- 16. You try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things
- 17. Doing too many things at once annoys you
- 18. You tend to avoid violent movies and TV shows
- 19. You become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around you
- 20. Being hungry often disrupts your concentration or mood
- 21. Changes affecting your life shake you up
- 22. You notice and enjoy delicate scents, tastes, sounds, works of art, etc.
- 23. Having a lot going on at once makes you uncomfortable
- 24. You will avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations at all costs
- 25. Intense stimuli, like chaotic scenes or strong smells, bother you
- 26. Being put on the spot makes you nervous
- 27. Growing up, people thought of you as shy and sensitive
- In the End
1. Strong sensory input easily overwhelms you
One of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person is when what you hear, taste, smell, touch, and see overwhelms you.
It is when pungent smells and bright lights give you a headache. It is when a clothing tag makes you want to rip your clothes off. And when the different taste in your water (that only you can taste) is unbearable.
2. You are aware of environmental subtleties
You know what you see that other people tend to miss. Those are called subtleties. And as a Highly Sensitive Person, you are likely highly aware of subtleties in your environment.
That means you are the person who notices when a coworker isn’t themselves. You are the one who smells the alcohol in their coffee before everyone else. And you are the one who knows when they didn’t go home last night.
3. Other people’s moods affect you
Other people’s moods affecting you is one of the good and bad signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
Good because you can easily lift your mood by being around happy and joyous people. And bad because you can be sad without knowing that the reason you are sad is that someone else is.
That’s why it’s important to cultivate self-awareness as an HSP. Because when you are self-aware, you can learn to identify in what mood you are. And then choose to separate yourself from others or be in the company of people who will change your mood.
4. You are very sensitive to pain
As a Highly Sensitive Person, you have a more sensitive nervous system than others. This means you feel and experience stimuli much more intensely than most. And when you are feeling pain from a burn, cut, or headache, you can feel like the world is ending.
So don’t feel bad when people say you are exaggerating or being dramatic about your pain. The truth is they don’t understand you. Because you are a Highly Sensitive Person and you are very sensitive to pain.
5. You often need to withdraw during busy days
Have you ever wondered how your colleagues or friends would want to go out after work? Or how do they have the energy to party until 4 am? And then show up for work after just two hours of sleep?
You are not alone. Highly Sensitive Persons often need time to withdraw and recharge during busy days. And busy days for HSPs can mean a normal working day.
So if you often feel the need to retreat to a dark and quiet place by yourself, that’s one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person. And you should honour that feeling to be at your best.
6. Loud noises make you uncomfortable
This is similar to the first entry on strong sensory input. Highly Sensitive Persons have a difficult time dealing with loud noises. They will avoid nightclubs at all costs, due to the loud music and crowds. And they will prefer to be in spaces where the music is mellow and the people are few.
So if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable around loud noises, know it’s not because you are old or not hip enough. You are just a Highly Sensitive Person with not-so-loud needs.
7. You are sensitive to the effects of caffeine
This is one of the signs of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) that doesn’t apply to all HSPs. Because while some HSPs can’t stand the smell of coffee, let alone the effects of caffeine, some will happily enjoy a cup every morning. And maybe even several cups throughout the day.
So with this particular sign, don’t dwell too much if you love your caffeine. And if you are sensitive to caffeine, know that your High Sensitivity trait may be responsible.
8. Things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens easily overwhelm you
Is the brightness on your phone or computer screen always low? Do you squint whenever you leave the house and walk into the daylight? And are your candles, perfumes, and lotions so mild in their scent that other people don’t get you?
You may be a Highly Sensitive Person. And research has shown that HSPs are easily overwhelmed by bright lights, coarse fabrics, and strong smells, among others.
9. You have a rich and complex inner life
Highly Sensitive People are known for their depth in processing information. This ability also means that HSPs have a rich and complex inner life. Highly Sensitive People will live in their minds first, before being present in the world.
That’s why you will find a Highly Sensitive Person slow to answer questions or share their opinion. It’s not because they don’t know what to say, they just need more time to sift through and arrange their thoughts.
And it’s also why many HSPs identify as daydreamers.
10. You find arts or music to be deeply moving
Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) try to find meaning in every situation. And it doesn’t matter if the situation is bad or good. Whatever it is, an HSP will always try to understand the situation concerning their own lives.
And this constant need to find meaning and see beauty in everything is the reason many HSPs find arts or music to be deeply moving.
So if you find the lyrics and melody of a sad song to be deeply soothing and inspirational, that’s one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
11. Your nervous system frazzles easily making you want alone time
Have you ever felt so tired that everyone around you annoys you? And sometimes you just zone out wishing you could escape to a quiet place by yourself.
We imagine this happens to everyone at one time or another.
But when it comes to the Highly Sensitive Person, this feeling may occur daily. You may even find that a normal 9 to 5 work day is enough to make you want to quit, abandon your family and relocate to a place where nobody knows you.
And the reason for this is your highly sensitive nervous system.
Luckily for you, you can learn techniques to calm your nervous system and live a normal life with minimal overwhelm.
12. You are conscientious
While Dr. Elaine N. Aron admits that not every Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a conscientious human being. The fact that you are conscientious is a sign in itself that you are an HSP.
So if you are always taking the necessary measures to ensure everything you do is as good as perfect and is within standards, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person.
13. You startle easily
Did you know some people will stand against the wall to avoid people walking up to them without their knowledge? And that there are people who will avoid wall-facing desks because their back is exposed to that which they can’t see?
Many of these people are not paranoid. They are shielding themselves from the negative effects of being startled. And if this sounds like you, know that startling easily is one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
14. Having a lot to do in a short time rattles you
If you want to sabotage a Highly Sensitive Person’s efforts at being good at something, give them a ton of things to do in a short time.
They will almost always crumble. Not because they are not good at what they do, but because they are too nervous and angry to know where to start.
So if you hate time limits and having to do too many things in a short time frame, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person.
15. You are aware of other people’s discomfort
You know how people know something is smelling funny but can’t point to it? And then you, by just walking into a room, can go straight to where the smell is coming from and identify the culprit.
Or when you can see the light is making people uncomfortable and turn it off to ease their discomfort. This ability is one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person. And it’s tied to your awareness of environmental subtleties.
16. You try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things
Perfectionism and obsessive tendencies are some of the downsides of being a Highly Sensitive Person. And it’s an inborn disadvantage that you can’t avoid, but can be adjusted through learning and training.
So if you are always trying to avoid mistakes through prior planning or repeating a task over and over until you are happy with it (which is usually never), you may be a Highly Sensitive Person.
And if you are quick to make spreadsheets and put up sticky notes everywhere so you don’t forget something, this is a sign you are an HSP.
17. Doing too many things at once annoys you
You may have often heard that women are great at multitasking and men should stay clear because they always mess it up. But what these stereotypes forget to address is the fact that multitasking has nothing to do with gender.
You may be a woman who can’t boil water while dusting the cabinets. Because doing many things at once isn’t something you are wired to see to completion. This doesn’t make you less of a woman, it’s just the way you are.
And the way you are may be a sign you are a Highly Sensitive Person. Because Highly Sensitive Persons are really bad at multitasking.
18. You tend to avoid violent movies and TV shows
Violence and sensitive people do not mix. You may be able to stomach a horror movie because you learned to watch them growing up, or you trained yourself to do it. But inherently, Highly Sensitive Persons are wired to repel violence.
So if you tend to avoid watching violent movies and TV shows, know you are not weak or “too sensitive”. It’s one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person and there’s nothing wrong with you.
19. You become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around you
Some people thrive on being around other people and in settings with a lot of activities. These types of people will enjoy malls, festivals, nightclubs, family gatherings, and more.
And then, some people thrive in quiet spaces. These people will find the corner with minimal activities or noise and camp there. They will pray no one finds them until it’s time to go home or retreat to their bedroom.
These types of people are an example of what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person. And it doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy festivals or gatherings, they just have their way of enjoyment.
20. Being hungry often disrupts your concentration or mood
Have you ever heard of the term hangry? It’s a mashup of the words hungry and angry. And it describes a state of being angry when you are hungry.
If you have found yourself feeling angry, sad, irritable, or another way during a time when you should have eaten, you are probably showing signs of being hangry. And this is another sign you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
21. Changes affecting your life shake you up
Highly Sensitive People don’t like change. And there’s no way to sugarcoat this.
A Highly Sensitive Person will get uncomfortable at the slightest onset of change. Especially when the change that is happening is affecting their day-to-day and requiring them to adapt. They will even voice or show their resistance to the change when given a chance.
Yet, when given enough time and the right tools to adjust to the change, they will be the easiest people to adapt. And even help other people adapt.
So if life changes tend to shake you up, that is one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
22. You notice and enjoy delicate scents, tastes, sounds, works of art, etc.
Like anything in life, being a Highly Sensitive Person has advantages and disadvantages.
On one hand, you may find strong scents, tastes, smells and sounds unbearable. And on the other hand, you may find delicate scents, tastes, smells and sounds pleasant.
It’s just the way it is.
So if you notice and enjoy delicate scents, tastes, sounds and works of art, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person.
23. Having a lot going on at once makes you uncomfortable
Life is full of responsibilities. You have a career, personal life, and family to think about. And when everything is going smoothly, and your roles seem to be on autopilot, it’s hard to notice the difficulty of life.
It is when a lot is going on in the different areas of your life that your HSP trait starts to show itself.
And interestingly, whatever is going on doesn’t have to be negative. For a Highly Sensitive Person, a lot of good things happening can be overwhelming and uncomfortable.
So don’t feel like you are being ungrateful when good things overwhelm you. It’s just that your sensitive nervous system can’t take a lot at once – be it good or bad.
24. You will avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations at all costs
Do you often avoid conflict because of the emotions involved? Or avoid taking on a project because of how the work will affect you emotionally and mentally?
You are not alone.
Many Highly Sensitive Persons will flee an upsetting situation before it even happens. They will run from conflict, say no to a job or project, and even change zip codes. And they will do this because they would rather avoid overwhelming situations than confront them.
So if you are prone to avoiding upsetting situations at all costs, know it has nothing to do with being “man enough” or “woman enough”. It may just be one of the signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
25. Intense stimuli, like chaotic scenes or strong smells, bother you
Have you ever been in a situation where you are uncomfortable but you are not sure why? You’ve checked whether it’s your bra or your clothes that are too tight and it’s not it. You’ve also checked every part of your body and concluded “no, it’s not me”.
If this has happened to you, the reason for your discomfort may be in your environment. Highly Sensitive People are often bothered by strong external stimuli, such as chaotic scenes, strong smells, too much light, etc.
So if such things bother you, they may be a sign you are an HSP.
26. Being put on the spot makes you nervous
If you hate competitions, being observed while you work, someone picking on you to answer a question or share an opinion, and other situations that put you on the spot, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSPs).
HSPs only like attention when they are in full control. But when it comes abruptly and find them unprepared, they will often curl up and wish for a time machine.
And this is a sign that has often led to sensitive people being called shy even though they are not.
27. Growing up, people thought of you as shy and sensitive
If you were called “too sensitive”, shy, fragile, weak, or another related label, you are most likely a Highly Sensitive Person. And this is also true if you were often told to toughen up, stop crying all the time, or grow a strong bone.
These are negative labels associated with the High Sensitivity trait, which means they are obvious signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
In the End
These 27 signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person represent every entry in the free HSP test by Dr. Elaine Aron. You don’t have to identify with every sign to consider yourself an HSP. Being a Highly Sensitive Person means you score higher on the HSP scale.
So the more signs you identify with, the more sensitive you are, and the more possible you are to possess the trait of High Sensitivity.
Go here to take the HSP test. And remember, the test or these signs you are a Highly Sensitive Person are not a diagnosis. Being a Highly Sensitive Person isn’t a condition or diagnosis, it’s a trait like any other.
So enjoy it. And if you don’t know how to, learn. There are 100+ HSP resources on this blog to help you out.
With love and kindness