Do you daydream constantly? Does the thought of sitting still make you angry? Can you taste flavors that others just don’t pick up on? You might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)! HSP’s have senses that are very acute and react strongly to their environment. Psychologists have classified this phenomenon as overexcitability. Overexcitability is life lived deeply, experiences felt more vividly. All that extra energy must go somewhere. That energy manifests in unusual ways, sometimes having extreme symptoms. Some indicators include high intelligence, intolerance of noisy environments, a constant need to move, overindulgence of food and many more. Not all HSP’s are the same, and overexcitabilities can vary from person to person. Overexcitabilities are grouped together creating 5 categories of HSP’s. Some are more emotional, some are more academic, but each one is superb in its own way. These are the five types of HSP’s.
For these Highly Sensitive people, standing still is as difficult as climbing a mountain, which they would probably rather do anyway. Psychomotor HSP’s experience a surplus of energy and are excited about life’s possibilities. They love doing intense physical activities, such as sports, or seeking extreme thrill rides. Dancing and grooving are favorite past times. Psychomotor HSP’s also compulsively talk it up, usually very fast. Their minds move as fast as their mouths. They are very personal and can get quite touchy-feely, and they are not afraid to come in for a hug. Some downsides may include being too competitive and prone to nervous habits, such as biting finger nails. They are also sometimes prone to being workaholics.
For these HSP’s, life is lived in a kaleidoscopic sensory wonderland. All five senses are enhanced and highly accurate, picking up on sights, sounds and tastes that others just pass by. Music becomes more soulful, pancakes more flavorful and art can be a downright spiritual experience for these people. As children, sensual HSP’s can be very picky eaters and predisposed to overstimulation very quickly. It’s important for them to have lots of down time to unwind from noisy crowds or flashing lights. By contrast, there is a danger of overindulging in food and sex. Sensual HSP’s like going on shopping sprees for a rush and want other people to notice their fashion and beauty choices, all for external validation.
An intellectual type HSP is characterized by a penchant for asking questions and reflecting over their concentrated thoughts. It could be said that this type loves to think about thinking! Insatiably curious about the world, it is not unusual to find a book, or three, in front of their face. These HSP’s have a tenacity for problem solving, can recall information in vivid detail and observe others with a keen sense of a hawk. Every move they make is carefully calculated. The search for truth is of utmost concern to them in a world that doesn’t seem to make sense. If there is a weakness associated with this type, it is that they are too preoccupied with logic and can be extremely critical of others. They are also extremely critical of themselves.
These are the people who have notebooks filled with scribbles of characters and writings, describing worlds unlike anything we see in real life. The idea of magic excites them, and they well could come up with six impossible things before breakfast. The inner machinations of their mind are often dramatic and poetic depictions of what they perceive in real life. This is all to reconcile the sad truth that reality is just not as good as fantasy. Their intense emotions often spill over into vivid dreams. So physical their fantasies seem, it can be hard for these HSP’s to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. These HSP’s have an extremely low tolerance for anything boring. Being bored is worse than death. This causes this type to seek out any kind of entertainment that can match their own imagination.
All highly sensitive people have powerful connections to their emotions, but for these HSP’s, their emotions become so intense they manifest in the physical. This type can be best described as empathetic, that is, able to feel and be affected by the emotions of others. The bonds that these HSP’s create with other people are stronger and more honest than usual. Animals naturally surround them, which can be a source of great stress relief since dealing with other humans can be draining. Their emotions often come out in physical ways such as through sweaty palms, tense or sensitive stomach, palpitating heartbeats and face blushing. This group is subject to a host of difficulties to include intense mood swings that reach from ecstasy to suicidal depression. There is a difficulty adjusting to new environments and strong social repulsion. This can show as timidity and shyness.
Can you recognize some traits of yourself in the examples given? Maybe you identify with more than one type of Highly Sensitive Person. It is normal for HSP’s to have overlap between types, and no two HSP’s will have the same traits completely. The main characteristic of all HSP’s is that it takes less stimuli to create a reaction within a person. If you are constantly overwhelmed, prone to more emotional outbursts and need to be alone for long stretches of time, then these five lists of characteristics will help you figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Daniels, S., & Piechowski, M. M. (2009). Living with Intensity: Understanding the sensitivity, excitability, and emotional development of gifted children, adolescents, and adults. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.