HSP FAQs

HSP FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions about the Highly Sensitive Person

Knowing you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and understanding what being an HSP means are two different things. So, how do you bridge the gap between knowing about and understanding the HSP trait?

You learn everything you need to know to leverage the trait in every area of your life!

On this page, discover answers to frequently asked questions about Highly Sensitive People (HSPs).

Let’s dive in.

10 Frequently Asked Questions about the Highly Sensitive Person

Understanding the Highly Sensitive Person through frequently asked questions.

1. Who is a Highly Sensitive Person?

A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is someone with the trait of High Sensitivity (also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). 

This person feels more than others, processes information more deeply, and is more sensitive to internal and external stimuli.

And by stimuli, we mean any event or thing that triggers a physical, emotional, social, spiritual or behavioural change. Like the discomfort from a clothing tag, a swelling from something you ate, hurt feelings when someone yells at you, or shyness around new people.

If you are a Highly Sensitive Person, you may react strongly to such events more than others. And this may result in people calling you too sensitive, dramatic, or weak. 

But as you will soon understand, being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is your greatest strength.

2. What are the Signs of a Highly Sensitive Person?

We like to use Dr. Elaine Aron’s HSP test to cite the signs of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). She is the Psychologist and Researcher behind the HSP trait. And you can learn more about her and her resources in this post.

So, without further ado, below is a list of 27 signs of a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

  1. Increased sensory input overwhelms you
  2. You are aware of environmental subtleties
  3. The moods of others affect you
  4. You are very sensitive to pain
  5. You require more time to withdraw during busy days
  6. Loud noises make you uncomfortable
  7. You are highly 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 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

Not all of these 27 signs are true for every Highly Sensitive Person. You may find you relate to some, all, most, or few of these signs. 

Either way, take a free HSP test to know where you score on the HSP scale.

3. What are the 4 Characteristics of an HSP?

According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, a Psychologist and leading researcher in High Sensitivity, four main characteristics define a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

And represented by the acronym DOES, they include the following:

  1. Depth of processing: HSPs process information and stimuli in their environment more deeply and extensively than others. So they may be more reflective, analytical, and introspective.
  2. Overstimulation: HSPs are more easily overwhelmed by their environment and may experience overstimulation from loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells. Which can lead to feelings of overwhelm, stress, Anxiety, or fatigue.
  3. Emotional responsiveness and empathy: HSPs experience stronger emotional reactions to the events and people they encounter. They feel things more deeply and are more empathetic to the emotions of others.
  4. Sensing the Subtle: HSPs are more attuned to subtle changes around them. They may be more sensitive to temperature, textures, and sounds. And while this characteristic is a strength for HSPs, it can also lead to overwhelm or discomfort in certain situations.

These characteristics summarize many aspects of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). And when you learn more about the HSP trait, you will see your life make sense through these four characteristics.

4. What are the Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person?

Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) can present some challenges. But there are also many potential benefits to this trait. Below, find some of the positive aspects of being an HSP.

  1. High Empathy: HSPs tend to be more empathetic and compassionate towards others, making them great listeners and supportive friends.
  2. Strong Intuition: HSPs often have a strong sense of intuition and can pick up on subtle cues and information that others may miss. This ability provides an opportunity to make good decisions and navigate complex situations.
  3. Creativity: HSPs tend to have a rich inner world and a deep appreciation for art, music, and other forms of self-expression. This creativity is why many HSPs become talented artists, writers, and musicians.
  4. Attention to Detail: HSPs are often highly observant and detail-oriented. These traits make for excellent problem-solvers and analytical thinkers.
  5. Depth in Relationships: HSPs usually form deep, meaningful relationships with others. They may also crave intimacy and connection, which leads to successful relationships when paired with the right partner.
  6. Heightened Awareness: Since HSPs are more attuned to their environment, they have a greater appreciation for beauty and aesthetics. They are also Highly Sensitive to subtleties, which makes them highly aware.
  7. Emotional Intelligence: HSPs often score high on emotional intelligence and may be more skilled at managing emotions than others. However, this is only true if the HSP has learned to control and calm their emotions.

With that said, it’s important to note that not all HSPs will experience these benefits to the same degree and that being an HSP is only one trait in a sea of many. 

So if you are not seeing these benefits in your life, learn to embrace and manage your sensitivity. It’s the only way to harness these (and more) strengths and live your best HSP life.

5. Are Highly Sensitive People More Prone to Anxiety?

According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron – the researcher and Psychologist who coined the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), yes, Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are more prone to Anxiety than non-HSPs.

But there’s a catch.

“Individuals display this trait mainly if they had a troubled childhood, which makes them more prone than non-sensitive persons to depression, anxiety, and shyness.” – Dr. Elaine N. Aron, Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person.

So if an HSP grows up in an environment that shames and degrades High Sensitivity, they are at a higher risk. And this is what qualifies HSPs as more prone to Anxiety.

On the other hand, if an HSP grows up in an environment that supports and celebrates their High Sensitivity, they are not more likely to be prone to Anxiety than non-HSPs. They instead have an equal footing.

This means that not all HSPs are at risk of Anxiety Disorders.

But if you grew up in a less supportive environment as an HSP, you have a reason for concern. Luckily, there are tools and resources to help you reduce Anxiety when it shows up.

Want to Learn More about High Sensitivity and Anxiety? Take this Free Class!

6. How Do You Know If You Are a Highly Sensitive Person?

You already know the answer if you have read the second question on Signs of an HSP. 

But if you only skimmed through or jumped here ( No judgment, I do that too.), below is what you need to do to know if you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Take a free HSP Test – The internet has several HSP tests. But I recommend the original questionnaire by Dr. Elaine N. Aron and the Sensitivity Quiz by Julie Bjelland. You can also take the Adult test for HSPs by Sensitivity Research.
  2. Go through the signs of an HSP – I prefer the test option because tickling boxes is fun, but you can also check if you possess the traits of a Highly Sensitive Person. Question Two in this guide shares 27 signs of an HSP. The signs are from Dr. Elaine N. Aron’s HSP test, so you know they are factual. 

And if you can relate to the majority of the signs, then there is a chance you are an HSP.

That’s all there is to it. Take a free test or go through the signs. And as I mentioned, the test option is better as it lets you know where you lie on the HSP scale. 

Because the High Sensitivity trait, like any other, is on a spectrum. And being an HSP means you score on the higher side of the spectrum. So take the test to know if you are an HSP.

7. How Do You Communicate with a Highly Sensitive Person?

When communicating with a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), it’s essential to be mindful of their sensitivity and adopt a respectful and understanding approach.

The tips below offer guidance on how to communicate with an HSP effectively. So use them to improve your relationship with that HSP in your life. 

And if you want someone in your life to use them on you, write them down or get them a copy of this Handbook as a gift.

Here are nine tips to help you communicate better:

  1. Create a Safe and Non-Threatening Environment: HSPs are more likely to respond when they feel safe and comfortable. Ensure the conversation happens in a quiet, calm space where they can focus without distractions.
  2. Be Mindful of Your Tone and Volume: HSPs are more sensitive to the tone and volume of speech. Avoid using a harsh or aggressive voice, as raised voices can be overwhelming.
  3. Use Empathy and Active Listening: HSPs appreciate genuine empathy and active listening. So aim to show understanding, validate their feelings, and allow them to express themselves without interruption. And most importantly, empathize.
  4. Choose Your Words Thoughtfully: HSPs often pay close attention to the words used during conversations. So use clear and concise language and avoid harsh or critical remarks. Doing this minimizes the potential for misunderstandings or hurt feelings. And when it comes to HSPs, this is very common.
  5. Give Them Time to Process: HSPs often need more time to process information, especially in emotional situations. Allow them space and time to gather their thoughts and respond at their own pace. Avoid rushing them or pressuring them for an immediate response.
  6. Express Yourself Calmly: Be calm and composed when discussing sensitive topics or addressing potential conflicts. HSPs can become easily overwhelmed by intense emotions or confrontation, so try to express yourself gently and respectfully.
  7. Provide Feedback and Criticism Constructively: How you frame your feedback or criticism is crucial to an HSP. So instead of attacking their character, be constructive and focus on specific behaviours or actions. Offer suggestions for improvement and emphasize your support and belief in their abilities.
  8. Respect Their Need for Space and Boundaries: HSPs require more alone time or quiet spaces to recharge and process emotions. So respect their need for solitude and establish clear boundaries, especially personal space and privacy.
  9. Avoid Overstimulation: The environment you are conversing in matters to an HSP because of their ease of becoming overstimulated. So avoid places with loud noises, bright lights, or excessive multitasking. HSPs may find it challenging to focus or communicate effectively when overwhelmed by sensory input.

And remember, every Highly Sensitive Person is unique. So it’s essential to listen and adapt your communication style based on individual preferences and needs. 

8. Can a Highly Sensitive Person be an Extrovert?

Yes, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) can be an extrovert. Research shows that 30% of Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are extroverts.

So while HSPs are often associated with introversion due to their heightened sensitivity to stimuli and need for solitude, the terms HSP and introvert are not mutually exclusive.

Being an extrovert or introvert depends on the degree to which individuals seek external social stimulation to energize themselves. 

And being an HSP refers to an increased sensitivity to internal and external stimuli. It is not directly related to one’s preference for social interaction. 

So, HSPs who are also extroverts still possess the typical signs of sensitivity to stimuli, such as being easily overwhelmed by loud noises, bright lights, or intense emotions. 

But they also crave social interaction and may gain energy from being around others.

And so, to reduce overwhelm, extroverted HSPs need to find a balance between their need for socializing and their need for solitude. 

9. Why Are HSPs Attracted to Narcissists?

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) are attracted to narcissistic individuals for several reasons. 

But because HSPs are different, it’s important to note that not all HSPs are attracted to narcissists. And that attraction patterns can vary significantly among individuals.

Below are a few reasons HSPs may be attracted to Narcissists.

  1. Complementary qualities: HSPs often possess empathetic and nurturing qualities. These may draw them to narcissists who initially exhibit charisma, confidence, and charm. HSPs may see these traits as desirable and feel they can balance out their sensitive nature with the narcissist’s seemingly self-assured demeanour.
  2. Familiarity and past experiences: HSPs may have grown up in environments with narcissistic individuals, such as narcissistic parents or caregivers. In such cases, they might have become accustomed to this dynamic and subconsciously seek out familiar relationship patterns, even if they are unhealthy.
  3. Empathetic nature: HSPs tend to be highly empathetic and compassionate, often putting the needs of others before their own. And while these traits are a source of strength, they also allow narcissists to manipulate and exploit them. Also, HSPs may have the desire to help and fix the narcissist, believing that their love and care can heal them. But this only makes them fall hard into their trap.
  4. Lack of boundaries: HSPs often experience difficulty setting and maintaining healthy boundaries due to their sensitivity to the emotions of others. Narcissists, on the other hand, tend to disrespect boundaries and may exploit this vulnerability. And because HSPs often prioritize the needs of others, this can lead to an imbalanced and unhealthy dynamic.

As an HSP, please recognize that relationships with narcissists can be emotionally draining, manipulative, and damaging. 

Learn to put your well-being first, set healthy boundaries, and seek support from trusted friends, family, or professionals.

10. Can You Stop Being a Highly Sensitive Person?

Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) cannot be stopped, cured, or eliminated. 

The HSP trait is innate. And this means that HSPs are born with a heightened sensitivity to various stimuli, including emotions, sensory inputs, and environmental factors. 

So even if the trait never presents its complexities to the HSP because of a supportive childhood, it’s still there. It can’t go away, and an HSP cannot stop being Highly Sensitive.

What struggling HSPs can do is learn how to reduce the overwhelm, stress, and Anxiety coming from overstimulation. And because there are thriving HSPs who came before us, tips and tools exist to offer guidance.

Below are some strategies to help you thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person so you can stop wishing it to stop.

  1. Become Self-Aware: Understand and accept your sensitivity as a part of you. Recognize that being highly sensitive can have many positive aspects, such as increased empathy, creativity, and attentiveness. Embrace your strengths and appreciate the unique perspective you bring to the world.
  2. Practise Self-care: Taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being can influence your sensitivity levels. Engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, like practising mindfulness and meditation or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. And remember to prioritize sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet.
  3. Set Healthy Boundaries: As an HSP, it’s important to recognize when to step back, say no, or take a break to prevent emotional overload. Learn to set and maintain healthy boundaries to protect yourself from overwhelming situations or people. 
  4. Master Emotional Regulation: Many HSPs are highly emotional, which often presents a challenge in their daily life. If you struggle with this, learn productive techniques to manage and regulate your emotions. These may include deep breathing exercises, journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or practising relaxation techniques.
  5. Create a Support System: People who validate and appreciate your sensitivity are essential in your HSP journey. Surround yourself with understanding and supportive individuals who respect your sensitivity. 
  6. Learn to Manage Your Stress: Implement stress reduction techniques and activities like yoga, listening to music, or nature walks. Minimizing stress can help prevent overwhelming situations that can trigger sensitivities.

Final Word on The Highly Sensitive Person

If you forget everything we just mentioned, remember this: being a Highly Sensitive Person is not a flaw or something that needs fixing. It’s also not a condition or diagnosis for which you should see a doctor.

Instead, it’s a human trait with unique strengths and perspectives. 

By practising self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can navigate the world in a way that honours your High Sensitivity and allows you to thrive.

***

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