Do you know what it means to be a Highly Sensitive Person? A term first coined by psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron (1996), a Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP for short) is someone who is born with an innate disposition of processing and understanding information on a much deeper level than most. This makes HSPs more perceptive, self-aware, intuitive, and observant because of their deep-thinking and empathetic nature.
Recent surveys show that up to 15-20% of the global population are Highly Sensitive People – that’s as many as 1 in every 5 people all over the world (Aron, 2013)! Still, even with so many of us experiencing the same thing, Highly Sensitive People remain misunderstood by those around them. So many HSPs don’t even realize that they’re HSPs because there is so little awareness about the matter.
With that said, it would certainly help a lot if you knew a bit more about what it means to be an HSP, so here are 10 things Highly Sensitive People do differently:
1. Experience Emotions
Highly Sensitive People experience emotions in a different way because of their tendency to feel things more deeply than most (Aron, 2013). For them, their emotions are much more intense, lingering, and sometimes even overwhelming to deal with. Empathetic and thoughtful, HSPs wear their heart on their sleeves and sometimes struggle to keep their powerful emotions in check. They cry more easily, get upset more quickly, and react more strongly to the feelings of others because they have so much more emotional depth than most people can even imagine! And that’s a wonderful gift to have.
2. React to Situations
SImilar to the first point, HSPs also have a natural tendency to react more emotionally to certain situations than most. They lead with their heart and let their emotions guide them through life, even if it may not be the most rational or logical thing to do. They just can’t help it! They’re emotional beings through and through, and if something just doesn’t feel right to them, they can’t go through with it. They have such a strong need to be happy and feel at peace that just have to let out any negative emotions they feel the moment they feel it.
3. Make Decisions
Another thing that makes Highly Sensitive People so great is their affinity for both analytical thinking and intuition. They like to take their time when deciding things because they always want to make sure that they’ve made the right choice. They weigh their emotions against their logical reasoning and try to find the best course of action to take. They don’t enjoy impulsivity or spontaneity because they’d much rather be sure about things than regret their decisions later on.
4. Process Their Grief
Sad to say, because HSPs feel things so much more deeply than most of us, they are also more vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that there is a significant correlation between being a Highly Sensitive Person and having a higher risk for mental illness, especially mood and anxiety disorders (Cooper, 2015). This is because HSPs also have a tendency to let their grief linger in their heads longer than it should and ruminate over things that make them upset, angry, or hurt.
5. Perceive Details
Like we said before, being Highly Sensitive doesn’t just mean having more emotional depth – it also means being more perceptive and detail-oriented (Greven, et al., 2019). HSPs have a natural talent for remembering (and appreciating) the finer details most people tend to overlook because they’re so self-aware and observant. And it’s for this very same reason that HSPs find themselves drawn to the creative arts, like painting, poetry, music, and theater.
6. Perceive People
Because of their keen intuition and empathetic nature, HSPs are known for being great judges of character. They are quick to pick up on the little things – like the tone of someone’s voice, their choice of words, or their facial cues – and understand what it all means, so they’re good at reading people and their intentions. They’re usually the first people who’ll notice if something is off with you and they can tell right away if you’re lying or hiding something from them (Piechowski, 2017).
7. Listen to Others
While most of us need to be taught how to be active and attentive listeners, for Highly Sensitive People, it just comes naturally! They are so perceptive and so in tune to the emotions of those around them that they’re usually the person their loved ones go to for advice or counsel. So if you ever need a sympathetic ear to turn to when times get tough, you can always count on an HSP to be there for you when you want to pour your heart out.
8. Love Deeply
When it comes to the ones they love, Highly Sensitive People are fiercely loyal and devoted, whether it’s as friends, family members, or romantic partners. They are thoughtful, caring, and sweet, as well as incredibly trustworthy and true (Zeff, 2004). No one can ever love quite as deeply or as passionately as an HSP because they just have so much love to give. They are big-hearted and generous with their time, energy, affection, and attention. Anyone who has an HSP in their life that loves them and cares for them should consider themselves very lucky indeed.
9. Hate Passionately
Last but certainly not the least, it’s well worth noting that HSPs can hate just as passionately as they can love. Although it’s not something they like to do, Highly Sensitive People can hold grudges like nobody’s business because they’re so used to taking everything to heart. Their sensitivity can make them more critical and less forgiving than most, and they’re not likely to change their mind about you if you’ve done something serious to hurt or upset them. They may even dislike you simply for hurting someone they love, no matter what your reasons behind such actions might be. As people who feel things more deeply, this is hardly surprising.
In the end, being a Highly Sensitive Person isn’t easy. Many HSPs often grow up feeling painfully aware of how different they are from those around them and fearing that they may never understand why. But being a Highly Sensitive Person is a blessing, not a burden! HSPs are some of the most empathetic, self-aware, intuitive, and passionate people around. And if you’re ready to embrace your sensitivity, you can learn more about HSPS by reading our articles: 8 Signs You’re A HSP With a Strong Personality, 10 Strengths of a Highly Sensitive Person, and 10 Signs Your Friend is a Highly Sensitive Person.
- Aron, E. N. (1996). Counseling the highly sensitive person. Counseling and Human Development, 28, 1-7.
- Aron, E. (2013). The highly sensitive person. Kensington Publishing Corp.
- Cooper, T. (2015). The Ordinary Magic of Resilience and the Highly Sensitive Person. The Guilford Press, New York: NY.
- Greven, C., Lionetti, F., Boothe, C., Aron, E., Fox. E., Schendang, H., Pluess, M., Bruining, H., Acevedo, B., Bijttebier, P., and Homberga, J. (2019), Sensory Processing Sensitivity in the context of Environmental Sensitivity: A critical review and development of research agenda. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Volume 98, March 2019, 287-305.
- Piechowski, M. M. (2017). Emotional giftedness: The measure of intrapersonal intelligence. Handbook of gifted education, 2, 366-381.
- Zeff, T. (2004). The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide: Essential Skills for Living Well in an Overstimulating World. New Harbinger Publications.