The physical and emotional senses of a highly sensitive person are far more heightened than the average person. Office lighting that is perfectly normal for the average person may induce a migraine in very sensitive people. The light is that much brighter to them. Sounds are that much louder. Colors are more vibrant, and emotions are an avalanche that cannot be stopped or delayed.
They are typically hyper-aware of the things in their environment, and small things most people would tune out or not even notice will drive a sensitive person completely nuts. They live in a much “louder” world than the rest of the population.
What Does the Term Highly Sensitive Person Mean, Precisely?
Dr. Elaine Aron, an acclaimed psychotherapist, coined the term highly sensitive person (HSP) in 1991.
Dr. Aron realized that about fifteen to twenty percent of people displayed a unique personality trait. She called this trait “sensory-processing sensitivity,” or SPS.
She observed that people with SPS reacted to both internal and external stimuli more strongly than those with a lower threshold. Situations that impacted this population keenly included loud noises, bright lights, learning of sad news, and dealing with physical pain.
The HSP lives life with an amplified perspective of everything happening in the world around them. Things that many people don’t see as problematic, like crowded stores or the blaring of sirens in traffic, become intolerable for the HSP.
Being HSP Is a Precious Gift
While that explanation makes it sound like a curse, the highly sensitive person adjusts and learns how to turn this personality trait into a gift.
Dr. Aron noticed that the HSP is likely to display the following abilities:
- Heightened creativity
- Greater appreciation for Mother Nature
- The ability to recognize distress or pain in others
- More empathy for others
- An innate sense of kindness
- Deeper personal relationships
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
If the traits above sound like what you experience, perhaps you are a highly sensitive person. This personality type might explain why you feel depleted during a party when the loud music and large crowd charge everyone else up. Or, it explains why the coffee commercial where the service member surprises his family by coming home for a holiday makes you cry tears of joy.
Dr. Aron developed this special assessment tool to help you evaluate whether or not you display the traits that indicate HSP.
Here are ten things that sensitive people shouldn’t have to deal with.
Every HSP should avoid these situations whenever possible.
1. Holding Back
The HSP finds it nearly impossible to hold back their feelings. Doing so makes them feel tormented; they have to let them out.
Their emotions are a giant ocean wave. You cannot stop it. All they can do is ride it out and try to stay on the surface. They feel more deeply and more powerfully than the average person. Highly sensitive people wear their hearts on their sleeves. They learn early that it is pointless and suppress their emotions, so they give into them and let them all out.
2. Watching Horror Movies
They cannot fathom why anyone would delight in another person’s pain and torture, even a fictitious one on a movie screen. Even the fake Hollywood re-enactment of a scene of murder or torture is unbelievably twisted and perverse to them.
They cannot help but ask, “What kind of person feels good after a horror movie?”
The HSP experiences difficulty with processing this kind of fear and overstimulation. They find the images disturbing for hours after viewing the program.
Most people may see constructive criticism as a way to improve a skill or job performance. But to a sensitive person, it feels like an attack on their very person.
To them, the feedback does not show that they need to improve in that particular area but that they are personally flawed. Because they feel the sting of criticism more keenly than the average person, they will find ways to avoid criticism.
While the HSP realizes that accepting constructive criticism is a natural part of life, they cannot help but take it very personally. This struggle is one the HSP will have to work on throughout life.
4. Hesitation to Make Decision
Overthinking goes hand-in-hand with the decision-making process for a highly sensitive person.
They tend to consider everyone when making a decision and can overanalyze a problem into oblivion.
They find it difficult to make a hasty decision because they need to account for all of the variables. If they make a decision, even the right one, but end up hurting someone’s feelings in the process, they could find it more difficult to make a decision in the future.
They will second guess themselves because they will feel that any decision could wind up adversely affecting someone else.
Sensations, whether physical or emotional, are heightened in a sensitive person.
Thus, most HSPs feel physical pain acutely. They find medical procedures or even suffering minor injuries extremely stressful.
They cannot understand why anyone would voluntarily cause themselves pain for hours, even for a pretty picture on their skin. Being jabbed with a needle at the doctor’s office is bad enough. But to be jabbed a few hundred times a minute is unthinkable for most highly sensitive people.
6. Displays of Rude Behavior
Because they are sensitive to the feelings of others, they cannot understand how people can be so thoughtless and rude to others. They are very polite and have an innate sense of what is kind and fair.
Therefore, boorish people might as well be an alien species to them. It doesn’t make sense to them how someone can be so oblivious to other people’s feelings.
One Quora user, a highly sensitive person, explains that she cannot tolerate any rudeness, so she removes herself from the situation altogether.
Here is what she said:
“If they become offensive, then walk away. Just say, ‘Excuse me,’ turn around, and walk away. They may yell at you but you don’t have to respond.”
That advice seems like a perfect way to break away from a rude person without adding to the drama.
7. Group Exercise or Sports
Sensitive people tend to avoid group exercise or sports because they feel like everyone is watching them and waiting for them to screw up.
They tend to like bicycling, running, hiking, and other solo activities to ones where they compete on a team with many other people.
8. Activities that involve a crowd
Going to a club or concert with loud music and flashing lights is too much stimulation for a sensitive person. Imagine cranking up the volume to twice that and having the lights twice as bright. It would give you a headache really fast. This is how a sensitive person feels when there is too much sensory stimulation.
It is physically painful to them, so they seek out quiet and dimly lit places like bookstores and coffee shops.
Your HSP friends love being social just like you do. But they prefer tamer interactions that foster good conversation and personal connection.
Remember, the HSP uniquely processes this stimulating environment, and that energy level will fatigue them quickly.
9. Annoying Sounds
You may not notice your tapping feet or frenzied pen clicking. But the sensitive person is over there, silently cringing and wishing you would just stop. Just stop already!
Repetitive and loud noises drive sensitive people up the wall. You may not notice it, but they certainly do.
10. Open Office Plans
Sensitive people prefer to work in environments where they can control how much stimulation they receive.
They prefer to work at home or in a place that has buffers to outside stimuli. An open office with rows of cubicles–or worse yet–where there is no buffer or privacy makes it hard for someone who is hyper-aware of their surroundings to concentrate.
Understanding that you are a highly sensitive person can alter your life. All of a sudden, you realize why you get overwhelmed so easily. It explains why you’d rather meet friends for a hot cup of coffee and a chat instead of a night out on the town.
You also know that your unique viewpoint means that you have special gifts that allow you to appreciate the most beautiful parts of life.
Finally, HSP’s realization also helps you find ways to adjust your lifestyle to suit your personality traits. It would be best if you start by avoiding these ten things that can make a highly sensitive person feel exhausted, depleted, or even cranky.