Who are Highly Sensitive People?

I find that many of you come to see me because you often feel overwhelmed, when events like work or relationships are just too much. You have thought and felt it so much that you are wondering if you are going crazy, or if there is something wrong with you. When I hear you explain situations like this, I wonder if you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which is a temperament; a genetic trait. More often than not you are an HSP, since you belong to a select group of people who comprise only 20% of the human population. There are as many Highly Sensitive men as there are Highly Sensitive women. Being an HSP is not a diagnostic category. There is nothing wrong with you.

Highly Sensitive Person

We (I am an HSP also) are a group that is very intense and passionate about our work, which we have usually chosen very carefully. We are highly aware of our environment - colours and sounds impact us. We have physical sensitivities, such as a more reactive immune system, a faster startle response, greater sensitivity to medication, or greater sensitivity to stimulants like caffeine. We find that florescent lights often bother us greatly, since their flicker produces over- stimulating environments. We like to watch events unfold before we commit to an action.

Emotional situations impact us greatly, so much so, that other people comment that we are "too sensitive" and we are considered too vulnerable or weak by our society. We are teased or ridiculed for our temperament, which our culture does not understand or acknowledge. Most often HSPs like you come to see me since you are having difficulty resolving past events that are now causing difficulties in your current relationships or work. HSPs often endure very cruel types of shaming and bullying, simply because we have a different and misunderstood temperament. Members of our family, our "friends", colleagues or work mates may have done the bullying and shaming. Most often if you have had a difficult childhood, where the shaming and bullying started, you often feel anxious, depressed, and shy, as well as overwhelmed. You may want to resolve those issues so that you stop feeling those disturbing emotions every day of your life. What I like to do for you is to provide ways for you to experience a change in the way your life is progressing. Mostly, you want to "feel better" emotionally and/or mentally. For example, if you come to see me for panic attacks, you may want to feel fewer panic attacks to the point where your panic attacks stop. If you feel anxious, you may want your anxiety to decrease considerably. Whatever your situation is, I will be here to help you.

Am I a Highly Sensitive Person?

Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Check the box if it is at least somewhat true for you; leave unchecked if it is not very true or not at all true for you.

This following quiz has been used with permission from Dr. Elaine Aron's website.

I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.
Other people's moods affect me.
I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days,into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.
I have a rich, complex inner life.
I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.
I am deeply moved by the arts or music.
My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.
I am conscientious.
I startle easily.
I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.
When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).
I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.
I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.
I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.
I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.
Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.
Changes in my life shake me up.
I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.
I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.
I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.
When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

You are a Highly Sensitive Person.

You answered more than twelve questions as true of yourself, meaning you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response.

If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.

You are not a Highly Sensitive Person.

You answered twelve or fewer questions as true of yourself, meaning you are probably not highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response.

If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.