Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way.


FYI: I've created an About Me page! In it, I mention in passing that I'm an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I want to expound on that a little bit.

I had never heard of the term Highly Sensitive Person until a couple of years ago, when an online friend posted a self-test. I love personality tests, so I took it just for kicks. To qualify as highly sensitive per the test, you need to score a 14. I was stunned when I scored a 21. Clearly this was something I should look into, so I checked out The Highly Sensitive Person from the library. By the end of the book, my world had been rocked.

Most people whom I've told about this have assumed that high sensitivity only refers to emotions. While I am emotionally sensitive, that's just one facet of HSP-ness. HSPs are neurologically more sensitive to (and sometimes bothered by) light, noise, textures, smells, etc. They're very aware of nontangible things, like the mood of a gathering. They're easily agitated by too much stimulation and overwhelmed by too many possibilities. They're unusually upset by violence. They tend to need more sleep than most people. When they're too busy or have too many demands on their plates, HSPs have a lot of trouble compartmentalizing. These are just a few examples of HSP traits. There are physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects.

As I learned about this, a million things from the whole course of my life suddenly made sense. I never thought that these random traits had anything to do with each other. They were just personal weirdnesses, weaknesses, that I needed to get over (which, as it turns out, is a textbook HSP response). Finding an explanation for why I am this way was so freeing to me. While I'm determined not to use it as a crutch or an excuse, it's helped me to avoid unnecessary stress and stop pushing myself too hard. I know now that if I get really stressed out in a situation where everyone else seems fine, it's not because I'm immature or weak. It's just because I'm HSP. So instead of beating myself up about it like I used to, I can take a deep breath and apply that energy toward the actual situation. It's made a huge difference in the way I approach problems.

If this sounds like you, take the test! If you're a parent and this sounds like your child, there's a separate test and book for Highly Sensitive kids. They'll provide information and tools for dealing with HSP-ness. Knowledge really is power in this case!


  1. I'm so glad you mentioned this... I remember you mentioning this before and was interested in the link... I've been meaning to ask you! I'm pretty sure this is me-we'll find out!

  2. I just got a 21 too! Time to read that book...

  3. I took the test and got an 18! Now I have a book to add to my summer reading list :)

  4. I'm also an HSP. My mom discovered this when I was a kid. I can't remember how old I was...but the term has been around for a while. I've never really read anything about it other than a few blurbs on the internet, but those blurbs described me to a T.

  5. Well, I'll be. I scored a 21. Never would've guessed that (and I don't know why, because now it seems obvious) but only a few of those *don't* apply strongly to me. Do you find the test is in line with the book and the larger definition? I want to know more! I think John might fit this, too.

    One thing I notice at social functions is that if I'm at all uncomfortable with the seating or what I'm wearing, or somebody who's there, I get very hot. Like, sweaty hot. Drives me crazy. But maybe that's just my body reacting to the overload.

  6. I'm curious how many people would be defined as highly sensitive compared to non-HSP, because it seems like maybe being an HSP is the norm, while NOT being highly sensitive is the exception. :P

  7. I'm not surprised that you guys are HSP too! I think HSPs attract other HSPs. :)

    Danielle, the website I linked to is by the woman who wrote the book, so it's consistent!

    Jessica, according to the website it's 15-20% of the population.

  8. I got... a 25. LOL! But that might be due to Aspieness.