Do you wonder whether your child is a highly sensitive person? Does he or she show incredible imaginative or creative talent but struggle socially? Although it can be difficult to tell, there are quite a few signs that you can look out for in your child.
Being a highly sensitive person is neither good nor bad. Yes, some traits exhibited by highly sensitive people can be somewhat negative ones. Conversely, certain characteristics prevalent in highly sensitive people can be remarkable strengths that help them excel where others struggle.
A highly sensitive child is often more imaginative, empathetic, and creative. These traits are highly desirable, of course, but they often accompany other characteristics that make socialization more difficult.
Living with or being close to a highly sensitive person takes special care. If you want to cultivate healthy relationships with them, it is vital to understand the way highly sensitive people think. If you love a highly sensitive person, you have to give them what they need to thrive.
What does it mean to be a highly sensitive person (even a child)?
It is essential to understand that being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is neither a mental disorder nor a medical diagnosis. Instead, it is a personality trait shared by between 15% and 20% of the human population. The scientific term for this trait, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, is Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS).
If you do not fully understand the way their minds work, highly sensitive people can seem needy. But, nothing is further from the truth. It just takes a little bit of understanding. So here are ten ways that you can tell your child might be an HSP.
A highly sensitive child may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics.
10 Signs Your Child Might Be A Highly Sensitive Person
1. Your child seems to have a heightened response to stimuli
One of the main aspects of Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) is being easily overwhelmed. Loud noises, bright lights, and strong scents often cause HSPs to experience high levels of stress and tension.
HSPs tend to dislike multitasking. They typically get stressed when too many things are happening at once and prefer to compartmentalize. Conversations with too many participants, overflowing to-do lists, and large social gatherings tend to overwhelm HSPs.
HSPs are often easily startled. Sudden loud noises, heavy traffic, or other unpleasant situations can rattle them.
There are two types of stimuli: internal and external. A highly sensitive person may be affected by both internal and external stimuli. For example, public crowds (external stimuli) and self-consciousness (internal stimuli) can both be overwhelming to HSPs.
Every experience in life is more pronounced to highly sensitive people. Lights are brighter, noises are louder, and emotions felt more intensely. What might be merely annoying to most can be downright intolerable to an HSP.
An HSP’s sense of physical stimuli is also more pronounced. Painful experiences are more painful to them than others. Likewise, pleasurable experiences, such as pleasant touch or taste, are also intensified.
2. Being greatly affected by the moods of others
Everybody can relate to that elephant-in-the-room vibe; the attitudes of others radiate noticeable energy into the environment. Even non-HSPs can feel this energy, and studies show that HSPs have a higher capacity for empathy than most people.
This fact is why it is vital to watch your moods around HSPs. Of course, that does not mean you can never be in a bad mood, for that is impossible. Instead, make sure you communicate openly about your feelings.
If an HSP understands why you are edgy or disgruntled, he or she is likely to feel a lot less anxiety about it.
3. The child fears even minor rejection
An HSP over-analyzes everything; it is this constant observation and reflection that is responsible for most of his or her observable quirks. Because of this, as Professor Preston Ni points out in Psychology Today, HSPs often possess an unreasonable fear of rejection.
Similarly, an HSP typically spends a lot of time worrying about what others think. Since they spend far more time thinking about themselves and others than non-HSPs, this is perfectly understandable. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes them to believe that other people are judgmental or have difficulty accepting constructive criticism from others.
4. Overreaction is not uncommon for a highly sensitive person
HSPs tend to overreact to everything. What most of us would consider minor may cause an HSP to brood for days. This is especially true of small slights or backhanded compliments at which most people would merely scoff.
5. An HSP will continuously compare themselves to others
HSPs spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others. These comparisons have a wide range; they can be physical, social, financial, work-related, or relational.
HSPs often have negative emotions when comparing themselves to others or following other people’s posts on social media. Because they over-analyze everything, highly sensitive individuals spend a lot of time reflecting on real or perceived failures.
6. An intense aversion to “shock entertainment”
Most highly sensitive people will avoid violent imagery at all costs. An HSP cannot understand how anyone could enjoy being scared or watching bad things happen to even fictional characters.
HSPs also have a difficult time understanding people who are rude, aggressive, or blunt. Because they feel their emotions so profoundly, they have a hard time comprehending people who do not. Highly sensitive people generally put considerable effort into avoiding behavior or remarks that will offend someone else.
7. More likely to make subjective health complaints
Because HSPs display a heightened response to stimuli, subjective health complaints in people with SPS are more prolific. Highly sensitive people, according to Perceptual and Motor Skills, are more likely to complain about things like:
- Back or neck pain
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Abdominal pain
Again, it is not necessarily true that HSPs experience these things more than anybody else. They do, however, feel them more than most other people. It is the intensity of these experiences that is responsible for an HSP’s tendency to complain more about them.
8. Neurotic behavior
Although definitely NOT the same thing, highly sensitive people exhibit a lot of the same actions as people with high levels of neuroticism. Both HSPs and highly-neurotic individuals will often:
- Have difficulty dealing with environmental stress
- Overreact to relatively minor situations
- Feel overwhelmed, depressed or anxious
- worry excessively
Unlike SPS, most agree that neuroticism is an inherently negative trait. Indeed, neuroticism connects specific adverse health effects, but it may not be entirely bad, either.
According to an article published by the Huffington Post, people with high levels of neuroticism:
- Are loyal and dedicated friends
- Suffer from fewer chronic health problems
- Tend to have healthier body weights and lower amounts of inflammation
- Possess high levels of self-awareness
Neurotic individuals share many traits with highly sensitive people, and some of these traits are actually quite positive.
9. Your child feels misunderstood or isolated
Highly sensitive people often feel misunderstood by or isolated from others. They have a good reason: They are isolated and misunderstood.
One reason that HSPs are isolated is that they often need to be. It may sound strange, but social situations are exhausting for HSPs. They simply need time to recharge after social events, which are more stressful to them than to most.
Before 1991, SPS was not even studied, and plenty of people still grossly misunderstand it. Non-HSPs who do not understand SPS often mistake a highly sensitive person as whiny, shy, or even socially awkward.
It is tough for people with SPS to explain their personality traits to others.
10.Talking about negative emotions too much or too little
A lot of highly sensitive people will avoid discussing their negative feelings with others. This is because they often feel like others will judge them as “downers” or “worry warts” if they talk about their fears or anxieties. Conversely, because it is always on their minds, HSPs might speak about their negative thoughts and emotions too much, which may make non-HSPs uncomfortable.
Final Thoughts: Sustaining healthy relationships highly sensitive people
Most people have trouble understanding what it is like to be highly sensitive. Likewise, highly sensitive people have equal trouble understanding the absence of the trait. They do not know any differently.
It is kind of like trying to explain to a blind person what something looks like. You might be able to form the basic idea, but it will always be somewhat foreign. This is okay because a basic idea of what HSPs go through will help you sustain a good relationship with them.
If you notice one or more of these traits in your child, it is likely your child is highly sensitive. Again, this is inherently neither good nor bad. It just means you will need plenty of patience and understanding to help them thrive.