Hi, my name is Gabrielle. I’m a writer for Pscyh2Go and a highly sensitive person.
Recently I noticed how I seemed to be overwhelmed by the smallest things: the sound of police sirens, the way a friend asked a question, or simply walking into a room full of people. I found myself withdrawing from the world until I learned to understand what I’m feeling and how I can use it to my advantage. I consider myself a Highly Sensitive Person, which means that I pick up on sensations and details that others might dismiss. According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, a clinical psychologist and author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You, a highly sensitive individual “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
If this sounds a lot like you, it may help to check out our video “8 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person” on YouTube for more information about living life as a highly sensitive individual.
Being highly sensitive might be isolating, but I know I am not alone. I’ve found many Facebook groups, local workshops, and other resources to help me manage my overwhelming emotions. At the very least, it’s comforting just to be heard and to relate to others who are experiencing the same daily struggles. Here are 7 things highly sensitive people can relate to:
1. People Say I’m “Too Sensitive”
It can be easy to misinterpret and misunderstand sensitivities, especially if you’re not the one experiencing them. To the untrained eye, they may look like limitations or worse– self-inflicted restrictions. It’s not always easy to see how being a highly sensitive person can actually work to your advantage and help you pick up on details that others do not, but these abilities can truly be a gift. From the outside, it may look like I am powerless and easily overwhelmed, but being able to feel so deeply is like having my own type of superpower.
2. Shopping = Stress
At this point in my life, I cannot think of a more overstimulating and overwhelming activity than shopping at the mall. Crowds create instant stress for me, and I don’t like feeling bombarded by others’ energies while trying to shop for myself–it’s distracting and honestly annoying. The scents that flood from certain stores hits my nose like smelling salts, so I tend to avoid those stores. I also try to avoid bright lighting and loud music in stores, but that has proven to be a difficult time and time again. I’m incredibly sensitive to the feelings of clothes on my body, and I’m an expert and noticing everything that feels even slightly off. It’s frustrating to find comfortable clothes so rarely and to spend so much time shopping in vain, but I still enjoy the thrill of an exciting purchase.
3. When You’re Highly Sensitive, Going Out Doesn’t Always Go As Planned
Being incredibly sensitive means that I run into a lot of triggers in my day to day life. Some I can avoid by leaving the room or blocking it with headphones and sunglasses, but others can’t be dodged. I’m grateful that I was able to turn my apartment into a space that works for me, but I still have to be flexible when I’m outside of my home. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to leave the room or go home altogether (or how many times I’ve been excited to return to the comforts of my bed), but sometimes the change of plans can lead to an even more exciting day out.
4. Your Feelings Are Basically My Feelings
While many people only consider physical sensations when they think of sensitivities, emotional energies can be just as influential. When I walk into a room I’m often taken aback by the rush in energy that I pick up. I can tell immediately if I’ve walked in on a serious conversation or if something exciting is about to happen. And however others feel, I feel. When I’m around strong emotional energy, I can’t help but pick it up and take it on myself; sometimes I don’t understand why I feel a certain way because the feelings aren’t even my own. I am no stranger to secondhand stress over problems I’m not even facing, but I’m thankful for the chance to be able to understand what someone else is going through.
5. Me Time Is Necessary For My Sanity
Because I am so impressionable to emotional energy, I need to spend a lot of time by myself in order to reset and get back in touch with my own feelings. This helps me set boundaries between myself and the chaos around me so that I can focus on myself instead of taking on the weight of the world. It’s always refreshing to come home to a space that is entirely my own, where I can adjust everything to my own comfort without having to worry about interfering with others. My ideal evening of self-focus includes a warm bath and soft light (usually candles or my favorite Himalayan salt lamp) to calm my senses, and a book or writing activity to let my brain have a vacation.
6. Don’t Touch Me
Physical contact with people I don’t know can make me incredibly nervous depending on the circumstances. This has made dating in today’s hookup culture extremely limiting, as not a lot of people out there want to take things as slowly as I do. Even casual conversations can overwhelm me if a person is too close. It’s not to say that I don’t like physical interaction; my desire for it is just limited. I wouldn’t say no to giving a hug or squeezing into a photo booth for a few minutes, but I still need my personal space.
7. It Takes Forever To Find The Right Clothes
As a highly sensitive person, it matters what I put on my body. I’ll often go through dozens of outfits before finding the one that both looks and feels right. The tiniest issues like a scratchy tag or a too-tight waistband make me so uncomfortable that I often panic instantly, suddenly feeling like I’m suffocating in my own clothes. When in doubt, I usually pick out a loose, t-shirt-style dress to stay comfy and cool. Since I’m sensitive to temperature, it’s also important that I can layer something warm over my outfit if I need to, so I tend to stick with neutral colors in my closet for when I need to grab a jacket and go.