Everybody’s sensitive about some things. Maybe you’re a little touchy if a friend jokes about an embarrassing incident from your past, or you’re more easily irritated when you haven’t had enough sleep. We all feel sensitive at times. Does that mean you’re a “highly sensitive person” (HSP)?
Don’t worry. Being a highly sensitive person isn’t a new mental health diagnosis. It’s a personality characteristic described by Elaine N. Aron, PhD in her book, The Highly Sensitive Person. So how do you know if you have this trait?
Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to criticism, busy or hectic environments, and upsetting images than most other people. They are also detail-oriented, responsible, and empathetic of other people’s feelings. They may need more time alone or time in quiet places to keep from being overwhelmed by too much stimulation, and they may need more sleep than most people. Between 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive people.
Highly sensitive people have both strengths and challenges. As mentioned above, HSPs are conscientious and empathetic, but can have difficulty coping with environments that are too busy or stimulating. It can be hard for HSPs to make decisions, and they may be more prone to depression than others. But with their insights and empathy, HSPs fill many needed roles in society, like teachers, philosophers, writers, artists, and healers.
How do you care for yourself if you are a highly sensitive person? One way is to ensure that you get enough sleep. It is also important to learn to set boundaries by saying “no” to excessive demands on your time and energy. As much as you want to help others, it does no one any good if you become so overwhelmed and fatigued that you aren’t functioning well yourself. In fact, these are good tips for anyone, HSP or not.
So, are you a highly sensitive person? You can take this quiz to find out. I took it and I fit the bill. It’s nice to know that I’m an HSP, as I’ve often been told (and tell myself) that I’m too sensitive, and I kind of hate myself for that. This may help me to better accept that aspect of myself. With knowledge, they say, comes power, and I hope it also brings tolerance. For more information, check out these two sites.