The Dark Side of Highly Sensitive People (HSP)

What is a highly sensitive person? While the name seems self-explanatory, a highly sensitive person (HSP) isn’t just someone who’s “really sensitive”, but rather, someone with a heightened central nervous system that causes them to be more physically and emotionally responsive to certain stimuli, or “things” part of their surroundings. If you or someone you know is an HSP, you may already be aware that HSPs are people with distinguishing qualities, including attentiveness, creativity, and more. However, just like anyone else, HSPs also have their not-so prideful qualities that balance out their good ones. Are you curious as to what some of these qualities may be, and if you or a friend relate to any? If so, keep reading to find out about the dark side of HSPs.

HSPs Are Critical

Being so in tune with their thoughts and feelings, not only does this make HSPs pensive, deep thinkers, but it can also cause them to be or seem critical towards others, and even towards themselves. Generally, being critical isn’t something HSPs purposely or intentionally do; because of their constant pondering and deep processing of information, they easily form different ideas and opinions in their head, which they might choose to voice as a rebut to someone else’s different ideas and opinions, and possibly offend them. As for criticism aimed at themselves, through all the time HSPs spend reflecting and replaying memories in their head, it can be very easy for them to have a bone to pick with their own self for mistakes they’ve made, or past actions they now regret. Doing so can involve negative self-talk and berating thoughts like, “I should’ve done this instead,” or “How stupid of me to do that”.

HSPs Can Be Moody

One of the most notable qualities that HSPs have are their ability to feel emotions on a deeper level than most. While a non-HSP might not get too giddy over seeing a butterfly, an HSP might find themselves in awe because its color is unique, or feel nostalgic because it reminds them of ones they used to see a lot during their childhood. However, on the flip side, just as HSPs can feel positive emotions more easily and deeply, the same applies to negative emotions like sadness, irritability, guilt, which they can fall victim to within seconds, despite how they may have have been feeling moments before. Not to confuse or characterize them as being bipolar, but because of their more sensitive, larger-scaled emotions, HSPs don’t have the same emotional regulation as most people.

HSPs Are Emotional Sponges

Being people who are so emotionally responsive to their environment and surroundings, this includes other people’s emotions as well. Whether it’s dealing with a boss that woke up on the wrong side of the bed or even simply being around someone in a particularly bad mood, other people’s emotions can rub off on HSPs and turn their mood sour as well. This can be quite inconvenient and frustrating for HSPs because it can completely ruin a good day, or a morning that had a great start to. This quality of being emotionally absorbent ties in with their tendency to have quick changes in mood, as other people’s emotions can play a huge part in dictating an HSP’s current mood.

HSPs Are Easily Overwhelmed

Another weakness HSPs face due to their sensitivity is that they’re more prone to feeling overwhelmed in situations. These feelings can be caused by common, everyday occurrences like loud noises, receiving a large workload, and even being in a messy room; small stimuli like this can set off receptors in an HSP’s brain and become triggers for their stress, making them feel mentally, and even physically, drained. Signs of becoming overwhelmed include a loss of concentration, panic, a short temper, and headaches. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t always a storm that’s quick to pass for an HSP, and it can become a bigger problem when it disturbs productivity at school or work and forces their efficiency and efforts to come to a pause. As a result, this change in pace for an HSP can lead to feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not being able to focus or function as well as they want to, and can even lead to burnout, a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion one enters after having experienced a period of continuous stress. 

HSPs Can Have Difficulty Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries in any relationship is a must. Whether in our friendships or with a romantic partner, boundaries allow us to draw the line between what actions we are and aren’t comfortable with from other people. However, for HSPs, some may have difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries. This is because HSPs are considerate, but sometimes too much for their own good. They’re wary of other people’s emotions and are the type of people that wouldn’t want to put others in uncomfortable situations, or hurt them by voicing a dislike for certain actions they do. As a result, they may choose to sweep these actions under the rug and avoid confronting other people’s behavior in order to keep the peace. By keeping quiet about these problems, this can result in tension within the relationship, an HSP being taken advantage of, and can even lead to future disputes or blow-ups in the relationship once their current concerns eventually evolve into much bigger problems.

HSPs Can Be Insecure Over Their Sensitivity

We all know what it’s like to be insecure. Whether it’s over our appearance or abilities, insecurity is a common human experience that HSPs can also fall victim to, particularly over how they are as a person and over their quality of being more sensitive; in short, HSPs can struggle with insecurity for being a highly sensitive person. This might be because they’ve experienced humiliation or been questioned for why they are the way they are, especially if they showed signs of sensitivity when young. If so, they might have been the kid to cry in school, or the quiet one who didn’t like to interact with others much, both being examples of behavior other non-HSP people might find strange due to not being able to understand. As a result, it’s common for HSPs to be negatively labeled as emotional, quiet, or introverted. Being questioning or criticized for their sensitivity can make it seem like a flaw in character, and this can manifest into an HSP’s insecurity or a feeling of abnormality that can impact their self-esteem and follow them as they grow older.

Just as with all people, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses that make up who we are. For HSPs, their sensitivity and attentiveness can be viewed as being gifted with a sixth sense, but can also contribute to the downsides and flaws in being so. Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below.

References

Aron, Elaine N. “The Shadow Side To High Sensitivity.” The Highly Sensitive Person, The Highly Sensitive Person, 28 Aug. 2005, hsperson.com/the-shadow-side-to-high-sensitivity/.

Collins, Mel. “The Top 7 Challenges of Highly Sensitive People, According to a Therapist.” Highly Sensitive Refuge, Highly Sensitive Refuge, 7 Oct. 2020, highlysensitiverefuge.com/top-7-challenges-of-highly-sensitive-people-according-to-a-therapist/.

Granneman, Jenn. “21 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person.” Highly Sensitive Refuge, Highly Sensitive Refuge, 13 Dec. 2019, highlysensitiverefuge.com/highly-sensitive-person-signs/.

Hill, Maria. “Relationship Boundaries.” Sensitive Evolution, Sensitive Evolution, 16 Nov. 2015, sensitiveevolution.com/sensitive-evolution-library/interpersonal-relationships-hsps/relationship-boundaries/.

Scott, Elizabeth. “What Is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?” Edited by Steven Gans, Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 18 Sept. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/highly-sensitive-persons-traits-that-create-more-stress-4126393.

Stigell, Louise. “5 HSP Things That Used to Embarrass Me (and 3 That Still Do).” Introvert, Dear, Introvert, Dear, 20 July 2020, introvertdear.com/news/highly-sensitive-person-things-i-was-ashamed-of/.

Sólo, Andre. “Why Highly Sensitive People Get Overwhelmed Easily (And How to Fix It).” Highly Sensitive Refuge, Highly Sensitive Refuge, 27 May 2019, highlysensitiverefuge.com/overwhelmed-highly-sensitive-person/.

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