The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) explained

 Pearl S. Buck, (1892-1973), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 said  the following about Highly Sensitive People;



“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him… a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) 

Is this you?


  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

Ever since you were small, people have called you sensitive – You have a social and empathic nature, You feel other people’s feelings, You need creative outlets, Multitasking overwhelmes you, Others come to you with their pain and problems, You manage your environment around your sensitivity, You are easily upset by negative emotions, news or images, You ‘feel’ the days of the week, You ‘feel’ the seasons of the year, You are a great listener, You are sensitive to loud noise and other intense sensations, You can easily tell when someone is lying, You often feel drained of energy, Stress causes physical problems, You are more sensitive to stimulants and medication, You take on the symptoms of those around you, You need time alone to recharge, You feel pain more intensely, You have a strong intuition and know things without being told, You hate crowded places, Negativity overwhelms you, You have a vibrant inner life.

Is this you, or someone you know?
Then this information will be valuable to you ..

Know the following


  • Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
  • It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it in over 100 species (and probably there are many more) from fruit flies, birds, and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’. To learn more about this, see Research. (more research sources below this post)
  • You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
  • You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
  • This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy,” but shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
  • Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “don’t be so sensitive” so that they feel abnormal..

You are definitely not alone! 



Elaine N. Aron, PhD

Pioneer in the research of highly sensitivity, is the American clinical research  psychologist and author, Elaine N. Aron, PhD. She studies high sensitivity since 1992 and introduced the term ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ or ‘HSP’ in 1996 in her book; The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You. (more books in the info section at the bottom of this page)

HSP Official website of Elaine N. Aron

Research is still ongoing and researchers are dedicated to research these issues and to educating the public and professionals about the symptoms and challenges that are associated with SPS. (You will find references in the info section at the bottom of this page)


Playlist with informative video’s about and related to HSP


 What is highly sensitivity?

Highly sensitivity is an innate trait named Sensory Processing Sensitivity and is found in about 20% of people and in about that percentage of animals as well.
It’s also found in as many men as women.

The concept was made by Elaine N Aron when she realised there was an inheritate trait, studied under other names, such as shyness or introversion, but with its basic characteristics based on something else. For example 30% of sensitive people are actually extroverts.

A person who is highly sensitive has an innate tendency to progress information more carefully, to study a situation more thoroughly before acting. This makes HSP’s very aware of subtleties and also easily overwhelmed.
And for anyone that is overhelmed, they don’t feel good or perform well.
This is important to know if you are highly sensitive, so you can make full use of it’s advantages while compensating for it’s other effects.

So how do you know if you are highly sensitive?

Elaine N Aron created a test based on her research which you can find at her books or at her website.

Here are a few of the questions:

Are you very sensitive to pain or cafeine or medications?
Do you dislike having a lot going on at once?
Do you have a rich inner life and startle easily?
Do you go off by yourself on busy days to recover?
Do you try extra hard not to make mistakes?
Do you avoid violent movies or upsetting scenes or chaotic environments?
Do you find that other peoples moods effects you?
Did your parents or teachers thought you were shy or sensitive when you were a child?

If you are highly sensitive you need to make some changes

  1. You will want to look again at your past like the decisions you regret or the times you feel that you have failed.
    Most likely these can be explained by your sensitivity, that you were too overstimulated at the time.
  2. You need to try to stop living like the non sensitive live. For example, you need more downtime and you need meaningful work.
  3. You need to work on your self-esteem, because our culture generally does not value sensitivity.
  4. Being highly sensitive effects your relationships. Others will need to understand that certain things about you, such as your need for downtime and gently remarks, are beyond your control.
    You will see that a non sensitive friend or partner also can not help the way they are, but can complement your own temperament nicely.
  5. If you had a troubled childhood, you will be more anxious and depressed than non sensitive people.
    If you did not had a troubled childhood however, you are no more likely to have these problems than anyone else. Indeed there’s some evidence that you will be better off than others.
  6. Finally, if you are raising a sensitive child, you really need to be well informed on how to do that. For example, your child will do better with fewer outside activities than other children, and punishment must be gentler.

So thats high sensitivity in a nutshell, i hope this information will be helpfull.

If you would like to know more, keep on reading …


What is Sensory processing sensitivity or SPS?


sensoryA Highly Sensitive Person or HSP is a person having the innate trait of High Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it).

Research has shown that highly sensitive people process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.
Sensory Processing Sensitivity or SPS is the scientific term for the trait.

(not to be confused with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or also known as Sensory Integration Disorder).

overstimulation“Most of us feel overstimulated
every once in a while,

but for the Highly Sensitive Person, it’s a way of life”

The difference between hsp’s and non-hsp’s is that the level of overstimulation is reached much earlier.

For the highly sensitive person a seemingly ordinary day can be overwhelming.
They can quickly become over aroused or even hyperoveraroused.

(Also see sensory overload, stress, fight-or-flight responseburnout and depression).


SPS or Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a temperament / personality trait characterized by sensitivity to both internal and external stimuli, including social and emotional cues.


social-sensesItems include are; being aware of subtleties, bothered by intense stimuli and strongly affected by caffeine, pain and time pressures; startling easily, being more aware of others’ moods; and performing poorly when observed (due to over arousal).  (source)


Rather than just being a personality type, like being shy or outgoing, being a HSP is defined as having a hypersensitive nervous system. As well as being easily overwhelmed by emotional things

Examples are;
being on the phone while the tv or radio is playing in the background, interuption of activities or concentration, disruption of plans, social gatherings, chaotic environments, people talking, people talking at the same time, someone raising his/her voice, the sound of the doorbell, phone, mosquito, or the flute of a kettle, waking up by an alarmclock, being late, lack of sleep, tickling, noisy fabrics, lables in clothing, warmth or cold, strong smells, spicy foods, cafeine, alcohol, medicine, a puncture at the doctor, being touched by strangers, expectations, emotions, people in pain, feelings or thoughts, music, atmosphere, nuance, emotional pressure, too many choices, crowdy places, deadlines, strong or negative emotions (from yourself or others), non verbal behavior, denial, violence, lies, superficiality, talking in front of a group of people, working or being in the same room with other people, a lot of things at once or after eachother, multitasking, unexpected events, forgetting or losing things, invalidation, rejection, failure, making mistakes, misfortune of others, injustice, being aware of yourself or others, someone making you a compliment or doing something nice for you, surprises, etc, etc. Each of these things can already upset and over arouse an HSP. 


fMRI composite comparison of the brains of highly sensitive people (HSP) compared to non-HSPs - AFigure3BrainImages

This is an overall fMRI composite comparison of the brains of highly sensitive people (HSP) compared to non-HSPs. The areas in color represent some of the regions of the brain where greater activation occurs in HSPs compared to non-HSPs. The brain region highly associated with empathy and noticing emotion (Anterior Insula) shows significantly greater activation in HSPs than non-HSPs when viewing a photo of their partner smiling. (source & source)

Social and emotional cues

Studies have shown that high-SPS individuals or HSP’s are strongly affected by others’ moods.
HSP scores are associated with stronger activation of brain regions involved in awareness, integration of sensory information, empathy, self-other processing, and action planning.
They have greater activity in areas of the brain concerned with high-order visual processing.

These results provide evidence that awareness and responsiveness are fundamental features of SPS, and show how the brain may mediate these traits. (source)



The highly sensoring and processing sensitive empath 

 hugEmpathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes.

Sympathy or empathic concern is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them happier or better off.
Pity or “feeling sorry” for someone, is feeling that another is in trouble and in need of help as they may cannot fix their problems themselves. Emotional contagion is when a person (especially an infant or a member of a mob) imitatively “catches” the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening.


The items reflect the many ways in which the single attribute of depth of processing affects multiple areas of life. Hence from a measurement standpoint, what is more surprising is how well these various items do correlate.

Let’s look at a sampling of brain parts in the empathy circuits to learn what they actually do for us. Realize that each part is not so functional by itself but needs the other circuits to carry out the complex  task of stepping into the shoes of another person.

Brain Anatomy and Functions

  • The medial prefrontal cortex compares your perspective to another person’s perspective.
  • The dorsal medial prefrontal cortex helps you understand your own thoughts and feelings.
  • The ventral medial prefrontal cortex stores information about how strongly you feel about a course of action.
  • The inferior frontal gyrus helps with emotion recognition.
  • The caudal anterior cingulate cortex is activated with pain, both when you feel yours and observe it in others.
  • The anterior insula is involved in bodily self-awareness, something that is tied to empathy.
  • The right temporoparietal junction helps you judge another person’s intentions and beliefs.
  • The amygdala plays a central role in empathy because of its connection to fear, thereby cueing you to look at someone’s eyes to help you gather information about that person’s emotions and intentions.
  • The mirror neuron system connects several parts of the brain. It responds when you engage in an action and when you observe others engage in an action. For example, these neurons fire when you gaze in a certain direction or observe another person gazing in the same direction (hence, “mirroring”). The interplay of these multiple and interacting empathy circuits is complicated. Your mirror neurons make you look in the same direction as the speaker, also activates other empathy circuits to make meaning of why you are looking.

These are just a few regions of the brain’s empathy circuits. You can see that it’s a very complex system.

HSP’s are highly sensitive empaths and strongly effected by the emotions and moods of others.


They experience emotions more deeply and are instinctively aware and highly responsive to those in need and feel a strong empathy and responsibility in helping them.

Because they are good listeners and process information more deeply (pausing to check, observe, and reflect on or process what has been noticed), they often know exactly what is bothering the other person and quickly see what can be done to solve their problem. They are solution oriented, which often makes them excellent consultants with a mutual attraction to those in need. The HSP sets high standards to themselves and finds it difficult to say ‘no’. They also have a strong tendency to worry and of caring too much. If they could, they would change all the cruelty and solve all problems in the world, all by themselves. But everything has it’s limits, also an HSP.


The most basic aspect of the HSP is the depth of processing 


social lifeMany hsp’s have adopted a survival strategy of pausing to check, observe, and reflect on or process what has been noticed before choosing an action. Slowness to act, however, is not the hallmark of the trait.

When sensitive individuals sense right away that a situation is like a past one, they react to a danger or opportunity faster than others. Thanks to having learned from thinking over so thoroughly that last time.

For this reason, the most basic aspect of the trait—the depth of processing—has been difficult to observe without knowing about it. When someone is pausing before acting, others can only guess what is happening inside that person.

So let’s look into that …

Survival Strategy 

Physiological or biological stress is an organism’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus. Stress is a body’s method of reacting to a challenge. According to the stressful event, the body’s way to respond to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation, which results in the fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response. Because the body cannot keep this state for long periods of time, the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” (activities that occur when the body is at rest), returns the body’s physiological conditions to normal (homeostasis). In humans, stress typically describes a negative condition or a positive condition that can have an impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being.

overloadThe fight or flight response

The Fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response, or overarousal, or being overwhelmed, occurs at a wide varity of situations, and interactions between external stimuli (sources outside of the body such as sounds, lights, cold, pressure, information, etc) and internal stimuli (emotional, physical or mental stimuli such as pain, sleep deprivation, anxiety, anger, being in love, emotion- or information regulation, high concentration, exercise, etc.)

The fight-or-flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon. Cannon realized that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body, help to mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening or overwhelming circumstances.

Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behavior. The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern (FAP), in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus.

This unique part of the population often becomes a valued resource who predict and warn others of trends and trouble: “For instance, the sensitive horse that intuits danger first and is able to warn the other horses of potential danger becomes the leader of his group” (Zeff 7)

Emotional Self Regulation

Emotional self-regulation or regulation of emotion is the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions, as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed. It can also be defined as extrinsic and intrinsic processes, responsible for monitoring, evaluating, and modifying emotional reactions. Emotion self-regulation belongs to the broader set of emotion-regulation processes, which includes the regulation of one’s own feelings and the regulation of other people’s feelings.

Emotional regulation or self-control is a complex process that involves initiating, inhibiting, or modulating one’s state or behavior in a given situation – for example the subjective experience (feelings), cognitive responses (thoughts), emotion-related physiological responses (for example heart rate or hormonal activity), and emotion-related behavior (bodily actions or expressions).
Functionally, emotional regulation can also refer to processes such as the tendency to focus one’s attention to a task and the ability to suppress inappropriate behavior under instruction.
Emotional regulation is a highly significant function in human life.

Every day, people are continually exposed to a wide variety of potentially arousing stimuli. Inappropriate, extreme or unchecked emotional reactions to such stimuli could impede functional fit within society; therefore, people engage in some form of emotion regulation almost all of the time. Especially hsp’s because much more is coming in and happening inside, of which they have to keep control.

Generally speaking, emotional dysregulation has been defined as difficulties in controlling the influence of emotional arousal on the organization and quality of thoughts, actions, and interactions. Individuals who are emotionally dysregulated, exhibit patterns of responding in which there is a mismatch between their goals, responses, and/or modes of expression, and the demands of the social environmentFor example, there is a significant association between emotion dysregulation and symptoms of  depression, anxiety, eating pathology, and substance abuseDuring the reaction, the intensity of emotion that is brought on by the stimulus will also determine the nature and intensity of the behavioral response. Individuals with higher levels of emotional reactivity may be more prone to possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation such as anxiety and aggression, including angry outbursts or behavior outbursts, which also illustrates the implications of appropriate emotional reaction in the fight or flight response. Essentially, the response prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. It is also important to note that the response can be triggered due to both real and imaginary threats. 


Higher levels of emotion regulation (emotional intelligence) are related to both high levels of social competence and the expression of socially appropriate emotions.

A useful method of emotional reaction that scientists praise is distracting yourself through thinking about other things, like turning to your work or creative outlets. Watching funny movies or spending quiet time with an empathic friend for example can also help.

a flower does not think of competingIn the context of the HSP’s fight or flight response, emotional self-regulation is used proactively to avoid threats of stress or to control the level of emotional over arousal.

The stress response is one of the major topics studied in the rapidly-growing field of health psychology.

Energy and costs 



Sensitivity, or responsivity as biologists also called it, involves paying more attention to details than others do, then using that knowledge to make better predictions in the future. Sometimes you are better off doing so, other times it is a waste of energy.

Sensitivity does have its costs. It really can be a waste of energy if what is happening now has nothing to do with past experiences. Further, when a past experience was very bad, an HSP can overgeneralize and avoid or feel anxious in too many situations, just because the new ones resemble in some small way the past bad one.

The biggest cost of being highly sensitive, however, is that the nervous system can become overloaded. Everyone has a limit as to how much information or stimulation can be taken in before getting overloaded, over stimulated, overaroused, overwhelmed, and just over! They simply reach that point sooner than others.

Possible signs that things are going wrong:
you feel out of energy, you become slower, you are more touchy, you become less articulate or sometimes maybe even rude, you defend yourself, you feel frustrated, you draw back, you feel misunderstood, you put on a mask, you see no way out, you are not involved anymore, you feel lost or might feel like you are losing yourself, you get problems performing in work, school, relationships and physical complaints. Ultimately, it can lead to a qualitative burnout.

A useful coping method is a very restful type of meditation such as TM (Transcendental Meditation), downtime in general, time in nature, time in or near water, and plenty of sleep.


arousal and performance

exhaustedwoman_illussmaller1Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work or activities. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload). However, there is growing evidence that its etiology is multifactorial in nature, with dispositional factors playing an important role. Although it is widespread, burnout is not recognized as a distinct disorder, in the DSM-5, due to the fact that burnout is close to depression, but it is included in the ICD-10, and can be found under problems related to life-management difficulty (XXI)

– Fortunately, as soon as an HSP gets some downtime they recover nicely.

– Unfortunately, another source for overload is often just around the corner which constantly keeps an HSP on high alert, with not much space for downtime.

This is why HSP’s often experience difficulties in their life with performing routines and activities involving school, work, social life, close relationships, and recreation.

– In a state of optimal arousal an HSP is capable of excellent and high performances.

– In a state of overarousal (or underarousal) the HSP performs poorly .

“This makes downtime for information-regulation, stress management, emotional self-regulation and the avoidance of overstimulation, an essential need for an HSP to lead a quality life, in which they can optimally function, and wherefore the HSP functions differently from a non HSP. They have different needs and priorities because the level of overstimulation is reached much earlier.” 




A trait that has been misunderstood

CJ - If one does not understand a person– Have you ever been crying and someone said “Don’t cry”? – Yes.
Did it help? – No.
– Have you ever been sad and someone said “Don’t be sad”? – Yes.
Did it help? – No.
– Have you ever been worried and someone said “Don’t worry”? – Yes.
Did it help? – No
– Have you ever been angry and someone said “Don’t get angry”? – Yes
Did it help? – No 

Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. It is an attempt to control how and what they should feel and/or how long they should feel it.

When someone tells us not to feel how we are feeling, it is a form of invalidation, even if they have good intentions and are sincerely trying to help us.


Cultural and social struggles


SPS is a normal genetic temperament variation and by itself does not cause impairment or distress, only when the nervous system gets beat up.

Due to over arousal, HSP’s often experience difficulties in their life with concentration and performing routines and activities involving school, work, social life, close relationships, and recreation.

People are often critical and keen on what is “wrong”. HSP’s are often told, ‘This is not good, we do it differently.



HSP’s often struggle because they are misunderstood for mostly all of their life.

They are often called ‘too sensitive’, ‘overly focused’, ‘overly analyzing’, or introverted, or get bullied or accused of exaggeration or of intense and ‘different’ responses or behavior and for their need for downtime.  Because this trait has not been understood, they often feel ‘abnormal’ and alone.

It takes a lot of energy to constantly need to defend and explain your actions and to stand up for yourself . It is a constant and exhausting fight.

Because of their struggle and the misunderstandings of this trait, many HSP’s think something is wrong with them, because no matter how hard they try, they can’t seem to fit into the expectations of their environment and to be accepted and understood for who they are.
This commonly results in; depression, underachievement, social isolation, low self-esteem, insecurity, frustration, loneliness, and/or other secondary effects, for which they may seek help.
Sadly, misdiagnosis is also common because many healthcare professionals are not trained to recognize SPS.

It is of essential importance for HSP’s to make certain adjustments in their life’s to enable them to lead a quality life, to be able to optimally perform. Misunderstandings and misdiagnosis due to cultural, social and personal differences are often the cause for a lack of support, which makes this hard on them.

The trait is often mislabeled as 

“Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait

They process and reflect on sensory data more deeply, are more sensitive to both internal and external stimuli, are therefore more easily over aroused and need to withdraw to recover. They often lead an “introvert” lifestyle and respond in a certain way because of that.


SPS is a specific trait, a genetic trait, it’s not a disorder, nor an illness or a flaw. 

CJ - diagnoses

This has key consequences for how people are viewed, that in the past, often have been confused with symptoms and behaviors related to personality or mental disorders.

HSP’s have often been misdiagnosed and inappropriately treated and/or medicated based on a similarity of symptoms or behaviors that are classified in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used by healthcare professionals. Most healthcare professionals are not trained to recognize and to distinguish SPS.

Read: Distinguishing Sensitivity From DSM Disorders >>

SPS is not classified in the DSM because it is not a disorder but a trait and therefore needs a different view and treatment. Treatment often takes longer because building trust requires more time. HSP’s need an approach in which all their sensitivities are centered. This is different from the conventional approach where a defined path is followed in tight timeframes, which for an HSP works counterproductive. This is also the case for medication, they are more sensitive and may respond stronger, including to side effects for example

Researchers are dedicated to research these issues and are educating the public and professionals about the symptoms and challenges that are associated with SPS.


HSP Tests 

This specific trait is measured using the HSP Scale, which has been demonstrated to have both internal and external validity.

There appear to be no differences in the number of males and females born with this trait. Yet men tend to score lower than women on the Scale itself. Given that this appears to be a genetic trait, it’s suspected this gender bias is for cultural reasons; “men are not ‘supposed to be’ sensitive, that’s what they are taught, and therefore don’t easily admit to be sensitive, as sensitivity is not accepted and often seen as a weakness or something of a negative nature.

The HSP Measurement Scale 

The standard measure of Sensory processing sensitivity or SPS is the 27-item Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSP Scale or HSPS), validated using a variety of methods and populations (Aron and Aron, 1997)

hsp01The classical ‘tests’ below are no exclusive basis for diagnosis, as they were developed for the purpose of research.
* For a professional opinion always visit a professional.

Taking the test may give you insight on the possibility that you might have this trait according to shared qualities or characteristics.

(Tips for SPS Researchers)


Dr. Elaine N. Aron created the 27-item Highly Sensitive People scale (HSPS), consisting of a variety of items related to sensitivity. The HSP Scale was considered a unidimensional measure of sensory processing sensitivity with an acceptable reliability coefficient (a = 0.87). However, more recent studies suggest that the HSP Scale can be divided into three distinct factors, namely Aesthetic Sensitivity, Low Sensory Threshold, and Ease of Excitation.

Criteria as how to determine hsp’s are:

  • A great depth of processing – leading to intensive intellectual reflection.
  • A tendency towards overarousal – HSPs often show greater nervousness which may lead to chronic symptoms which appear like the results of an overdose of cortisol. (as for example chronic stress, fear, sleep deprivationallergies, moodswingsburnout, depression, etc)
  • Strong emotional intensity, which might also manifest itself in the hsp’s ability to feel other people’s feelings with great intensity. However, also seen (amongst a variety of other perceived symptoms) are fear and anxiety without a cause, sensitivity towards stimuli, and lack of self-esteem as a result of emotional stress.

CJ - A special abillityThe finding of subscales is not surprising, however, given the variety of items in the HSP Scale, which was based on 40 qualitative interviews.

Tips for SPS Researchers >>







A distinction between two types of hsp’s


Not all HSP’s are introvert, in fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion

Research has shown that there are significant differences within the group of hsp’s which can be divided into two types of hsp’s. The introvert (HSP) and the extravert (also called HSS, or High Sensation Seeker).

Introversion and extraversion

In Jung’s Psychological Types (pdf), he theorizes that each person falls into one of two categories, the introvert and the extravert. These two psychological types Jung compares to the ancient archetypes, Apollo and Dionysus.

CJ - The knowledge of the heartThe introvert – HSP or Highly Sensitive Person

The introvert is likened with Apollo, who shines light on understanding. The introvert is focused on the internal world of reflection, dreaming and vision. Thoughtful and insightful, the introvert can sometimes be disinterested in joining the activities of others.

Introversion is one of the major personality traits identified in many theories of personality. People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation.

Introversion is generally viewed as existing as part of a continuum along with extraversion. Introversion indicates one end of the scale, while extraversion represents the other end.

CJ - outside searchThe extravert – HSS or High Sensation Seeker

The extravert is associated with Dionysus, interested in joining the activities of the world. The extravert is focused on the outside world of objects, sensory perception and action. Energetic and lively, the extrovert may lose their sense of self in the intoxication of Dionysian pursuits.

Extraversion is characterized by sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability. People who are high in extraversion tend to seek out social stimulation and opportunities to engage with others. These individuals are often described as being full of life, energy and positivity. In group situations, extraverts are likely to talk often and assert themselves.

Even though the HSS is more outgoing and looking for arousal, their sensitivity still makes them just as vulnerable to over arousal.

Ambiversion:  is the spectrum inbetween introvertion and extravertion, an ambivert can be a combination of both.

Biologists have agreed that within one species there can be two equally successful “personalities.”  The hsp sensitive type, always a minority, chooses to observe longer before acting, as if doing their exploring with their brains rather than their limbs.  The other type “boldly or hss extravert goes where no one has gone before.”  The sensitive’s strategy, sometimes called reactive or responsive, is better when danger is present, opportunities are similar and hard to choose between, or a clever approach is needed.  It is not an advantage when resources are plentiful or quick, aggressive action is required.
Those studying human personality have not focussed on genetics and evolution until recently, these two fundamental innate styles in humans have been largely overlooked. Studies have now shown that compared to the majority of people, hsp’s tend to prefer to take longer to make decisions, are more conscientious, need more time to themselves in order to reflect, and are more easily bored with small talk. The theory that what created the difference, was processing rather than mere sensitivity and is now validated.
(Also see Sensory Processing Sensitivity – A Review in the Light of the Evolution of Biological Responsivity.pdf  2012)

More about Personality Types

MyersBriggsTypes (1)

The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator proposed on theories of Carl G Jung, also see Socionics

In the book Psychological Types Jung categorized people into primary types of psychological function. He proposed four main functions of consciousness:
-Two perceiving functions: Sensation and Intuition
-Two judging functions: Thinking and Feeling

The functions are modified by two main attitude types: extraversion and introversion.
Jung theorized that the dominant function characterizes consciousness, while its opposite is repressed and characterizes unconsciousness behavior.

The eight psychological types are as follows:

In Psychological Types, Jung describes in detail the effects of tensions between the complexes associated with the dominant and inferior differentiating functions in highly and even extremely one-sided types.

Theories of Carl G. Jung (26 July 1875 – 6 June 1961)

Main article: Analytical psychology

Jung‘s theories include:

Take the Personality Test based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach to personality



Factors of influence



antennaHighly sensitive children are like radios with the antennas up, only they are not picking up just one station but ALL the stations at once.

Sensitive children may notice everything from the tag in their t-shirt to the temperature of their milk. They often perceive minus changes in their environments. Because of this awareness, they can become easily overwhelmed or over-stimulated, especially in busy environments. They perceive others’ feelings and their own feelings and may be easily hurt. But they are also very empathetic and conscientious.

colors-of-spring-donald-zolans-oil-paintings-of-early-childhood-87223If you are raising a sensitive child, you really need to be well informed on how to do that

For example, your child will do better with fewer outside activities than other children, and punishment must be gentler.

About half of all clients are likely to be HSPs; their major problems tend to be depression, anxiety and shyness, which are probably caused by bad childhood experiences.
Although many HSPs believe to be suffering from a disorder, sps itself is said not to be one – Elaine Aron’s most important argument is the extraordinary benefit HSPs receive from good childhoods. Her major experience as a professional therapist is that therapies take longer due to the fact that building trust requires more time.

Childhood difficulties

A sensitive person with a difficult childhood, and probably other stressful events in their life, are more prone to anxiety, depression and shyness than the same non sensitive person with the same level of dificulties in their life.

A complex is a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious organized around a common theme, such as power or status (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S., 2009).
Primarily a psychoanalytic term, it is found extensively in the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

An example of a complex would be as follows:
if you had a leg amputated when you were a child, this would influence your life in profound ways, even if you were wonderfully successful in overcoming the handicap. You might have many thoughts, emotions, memories, feelings of inferiority, triumphs, bitterness and determinations centering on that one aspect of your life. If these thoughts troubled you, Jung would say you had a complex about the leg (Dewey, 2007).

Complex existence is widely agreed upon in the area of depth psychology. It assumes the most important factors influencing your personality are deep in the unconscious (Dewey, 2007). They are generally a way of mapping the psyche, and are crucial theoretical items of common reference to be found in therapy. Complexes are believed by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud to influence the individual’s attitude and behavior.

When you compare a sensitive person with a good support system in childhood and compare them with a non sensitive person, they’re actually less anxious or depressed, more socially compotent, than the non sensitive person with a good upbringing.

Research in developmental psychology provides further evidence that individuals differ in their sensitivity. According to the differential susceptibility hypothesis by Belsky (1997b; 1997a; 2005) individuals vary in the degree they are affected by experiences or qualities of the environment they are exposed to. Some individuals are more susceptible (or sensitive) to such influences than others however, not only to negative but also to positive ones. For example, research by Pluess & Belsky has shown that children with difficult temperaments in infancy are more susceptible to the effects of parenting and child care quality in the first 5 years of life. Intriguingly, these children not only had more behavioral problems in response to low quality care, they also had the least problems of all children when having a history of high quality care. This suggests that children with difficult temperament are highly susceptible rather than difficult and therefore able to benefit significantly more from positive experiences compared to other less susceptible children. These discoveries have prompted Pluess & Belsky to use the term vantage sensitivity in their review of such results, highlighting the evolutionary advantages of the trait.

An HSP is unusually aware of supportive as well as negative cues from caregivers. Given this interaction, one treatment task is to distinguish the effects of such childhood difficulties from what does not need treatment, which are the typical effects of the trait itself on an adult without a troubled developmental history.
A certain innate sensitiveness produces a special prehistory, a special way of experiencing infantile events, which in their turn are not without influence on the development of the child’s view of the world. Events bound up with powerful impressions can never pass off without leaving some trace on sensitive people.



Social gatherings or crowdy places, bright lights, lots of noise, sounds, information, movement, impressions, etc, are very  overstimulating, exausting and uncomfortable for an HSP, because it activates their senses, brain and nervous system to an overdrive.

HSP’s often experience difficulties with concentration, planning and structuring, because often too much stimuli is coming in to cope with. Therefore they prefer a quiet and adjusted lifestyle for which they are often mistaken for introverts.

social life

“A boisterous social event may just be the perfect finish to a non sensitive person’s Saturday errands.

For a highly sensitive person, a day of errands will leave them in overload and needing quiet recovery time”.

Highly sensitive people often have difficulty maintaining control over their own lives, because of overstimulation. 

The HSP can be so overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, that he can not decide where to begin and therefore often doesn’t begin at all. Another feature is that they often perform below their level when they are under pressure or observed.

They may experience a hard time with social situations, maintaining relationships or performing in work situations because of that. The needs and priorities of a sensitive person are therefore different from non-HSPs, for which they are often misunderstood or outnumbered.




Romance3Sensitive people are different in relationships, they are actually different in everything they do.
They have a very rich and complex inner life because of their sensitivity and they experience emotions, information and sensory stimuli at an intense and deep level.

When it comes to meeting people or committing themselves in a friendship or relationship, they don’t like to be involved in something similar to speed-dating because of their need of pausing to check, observe, and reflect on or process what has been noticed before choosing an action. They also have an aversion to superficiality. They like depth, things of meaning and the time and space to reflect.

They don’t like meetings in social gatherings, because they get so easily over aroused.
They rather meet in places where they can gradually get to know a person, like a quiet romantic dinner, being in the same course or workplace or something similar with common interests.

The social circle of an HSP often contain’s no more than only a very few intimate friends and relatives.

RelationshipAs far as committing to someone they are often slow to commit.
They struggle making decisions, especially rapidly. They are perfectionists and like to make ‘good’ decisions.
They take commitment very seriously. (Since doing nothing is a decision on itself they eventually will decide).
They set high standards, even to themselves, so the other persons flaws or drawbacks are thoroughly considered because they worry how that is gonna be, about the problems that could arise, the risks that are gonna be involved in a relationship, etc. But as much as they worry, they intensively enjoy the positive too and are very loyal, highly caring and anticipating on the needs of others.

relationship-statusIn a relationship, emotionally often too much is coming in (internally and externally), from which they need to withdraw to recover. Misunderstandings, tensions and problems rising along may be too intense and cause too much over arousal. This may contribute for some HSP’s to choose for a life alone.

HSPs do not necessarily have difficulties at establishing relationships. However, they may be easily bored and annoyed with ordinary everyday contacts.


Strengths and pitfalls of a relationship between an HSP and a non HSP 


They can supplement each other well by complementing each others strengths and pitfalls.

Misunderstandings due to a different level of sensitivity and processing.
The non hsp is often experienced as non considerate by the hsp, and the hsp as too intense by the non hsp
Different needs (like in social contacts, depth, activities or environments for example)
More fights due to differences.
HSP’s often efface themselves for the needs of the other, they usually adapt, which can result in an unequal relationship.

Strengths and pitfalls of a relationship between an HSP and an HSP 


Understanding of each others needs due to an equal or similar level of sensitivity and processing.
Both are caring, creative and solution oriented

They can be too much a like

Overall, a relationship between hsp’s often seems to work better than a relationship between an hsp and a non hsp, which doesn’t mean that a relationship between an hsp and a non hsp will not work, but often does take more understanding, effort and compromising.

More in the book Aron, Elaine. 2000. The Highly Sensitive Person in Love. ISBN 0-7679-0336-6.


10 Things To Understand About Highly Sensitive People


HSP’s respond to in- and external stimuli differently than non-HSP’s. They simply have a different way of processing sensory information due to parts of their brain that regulate emotions being more responsive than the brains of their less sensitive counterparts.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in order to understand a highly sensitive person and to build on a healthy relationship together.


social lifeBefore the 1990s, no one had really heard about extreme sensitivity in humans, but in 1991, a psychologist named Dr. Elaine Aron began to study this trait more closely. Surprisingly, she found that 15-20% of the population carries the trait that classifies them as highly sensitive, which means they respond to external stimuli differently than non-HSP’s. They simply have a different way of processing sensory information due to parts of their brain that regulate emotions being more responsive than the brains of their less sensitive counterparts.



1. Highly sensitive people might not even be aware of this fact about them.
thoughtfulMany highly sensitive people live their life without even knowing they carry this trait.
They may experience a hard time with social situations, maintaining relationships or performing in work situations because of that. The needs and priorities of a sensitive person are different from non-HSPs, for which they are often misunderstood or outnumbered.
This can also effect their relationships, so if you have a close bond with anyone who you think might be highly sensitive, take note of how they respond to emotional experiences and overly stimulating environments, in particular.

You will find that highly sensitive people share one obvious characteristic:
they are very emphatic and analytical and usually think more than they speak.

2. HSP’s need ample alone time to recharge their batteries.

Highly sensitive people are usually introverts, so that means they derive their energy from within themselves, not from external sources. They tend to avoid big crowds of people because it seems overwhelming and nerve-racking to them. HSP’s enjoy doing quiet activities, such as hiking in nature, drawing, writing, painting, or anything that allows them to express their creativity.
They easily pick up on other’s emotions and energies, meaning that their own energy can become drained or frazzled when bombarded with stimuli coming in from all directions. Solitude gives them a chance to align themselves once again and clear their energy of any negativity they may have picked up from others.

3. Men have the same likelihood of being highly sensitive as women.
legoOn her website, Dr. Aron notes that just as many men as woman have an innate tendency to be more sensitive, but our society just accepts sensitivity more in women. Sensitive males in particular might have a difficult time managing this characteristic due to social norms and conditioning.
If you know a male who shows high sensitivity, make sure to allow him to express his feelings without judgment, as HSP’s, or empaths, need the added emotional support.


4. Highly sensitive people view sex as a deeply sacred, meaningful act rather than just a physical one.
sacred-sexuality-e1413050416456In order for an HSP to become interested in intimacy with a partner, he or she must feel completely comfortable with the person on a deep spiritual level. They might identify with the term sapiosexual, which means they find human intelligence to be the most attractive feature about a person.
They won’t consent to sex unless they feel a soul connection to another person. Sex is not taken lightly or seen as a game by highly sensitive people.

Reflections On Research:
Results of the First Temperament and Sexuality Survey

5. They have a hard time falling asleep because of their highly active brains.
Lack-of-sleep--007Their minds work on overdrive most of the day, so turning the lights out and laying their head down doesn’t do much good for a brain that doesn’t want to sleep. They might lie awake some nights just tossing and turning, contemplating life and all its mysteries.
Highly sensitive people often suffer from insomnia due to their overactive minds, and might sleep at odd hours of the day to make up for it. Most people know them as a night owl, because they seem to come alive at night.


6. Because they analyze things, they make better decisions overall.

rendering of character with magnifying glass

They take longer to contemplate important decisions, and therefore make good choices most of the time due to their patience and extreme analysis of different variables. They have never been one to make hasty decisions, because they don’t want to deal with the consequences of a bad choice.
Highly sensitive people would rather take their time mulling over something than make a decision they will regret later.




7. Having greater sensitivity is actually a genetic trait.


Oftentimes, sensitive people are misunderstood because others think they just want attention, but high sensitivity is actually an inborn trait. They can’t help the fact that their brains are wired differently than others, but this makes them feel like an outcast much of the time, unfortunately.
If you know a highly sensitive person, the best gift you can give is your unconditional love and kindness, and an ear to listen.


8. They don’t enjoy arguing or feeling shamed by friends, coworkers, partners, or family members.
illustration-of-helping-man-stressed-between-two-arguing-and-fighting-person-3d-rendering-of-disp-Stock-Illustration (1)Because they feel emotions so deeply, they don’t like to get into heated debates or arguments with people. They’d rather walk away from a confrontation, or at least talk things out rationally. They also embarrass easily, and get deeply hurt when others bring up their past mistakes or shortcomings.




9. Highly sensitive people shy away from overly noisy or crowded places.
. will see them hanging out in a quiet coffee shop or book store rather than at a bar or mall, most likely. They like places where they can hear their own thoughts and process stimuli slowly, which makes busy, loud establishments an infrequent stop for highly sensitive people.




10. They can’t stand violent scenes in real life or on TV.
bambi-25497Highly sensitive people feel deeply in tune with all life on Earth, and don’t enjoy watching their fellow humans or other animal friends endure pain or torture.
They are highly sensitive empaths and strongly effected by the emotions of others.

They rather stick to documentaries or funny TV shows or movies, steering clear of anything that exhibits negativity or violence.




Related article: 6 Things Sensitive People Do Differently  



Students and Employees 

our education system


student_imgHSP students work differently from others. They pick up on subtleties quickly but may think about them for a long time before demonstrating their grasp of a subject.
If an HSP student is not contributing much to a discussion, it does not necessarily mean he or she does not understand or is too shy. HSPs often have insights they are afraid to reveal because they differ from the common view, or because speaking up is too over arousing for them.

For ideas on teaching sensitive students, see The Temperament Perspective or the final pages of The Highly Sensitive Person.

Also read: Learning Styles Based on Jung’s Theory of Personality 


thoughtful-writer-9809934This also applies to work situations; HSPs can be great employees—good with details, thoughtful and loyal, but they do tend to work best when conditions are quiet and calm. Because HSPs perform less well when being watched, they may be overlooked for a promotion. HSPs tend to socialize less with others, often preferring to process experiences quietly by themselves. The ability to unconsciously or semi-consciously process environmental subtleties often contributes to an HSP seeming “gifted” or possessing a “sixth sense”.




Pearl S. Buck, (1892-1973), recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938, had this to say about sensitive people:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

Left brain vs Right brain

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him… a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” – Pearl S. Buck

ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.

Even if they are not working in an obviously “creative” job or career, if you are highly sensitive you can benefit emotionally and spiritually from engaging with and making use of your creative abilities. That is, of course, also true for the other 80 percent of people who are not highly sensitive, but especially for those who are.

“Highly sensitive people often have difficulty maintaining control over their own lives, because they have different priorities from non-HSPs, which means that they often have little say over work and social agendas, because highly sensitive people are usually outnumbered. Therefore in work and social situations they often get preempted which is very uncomfortable.”

“However, HSPs are very creative. In embracing the creative process they can start to regain control over their agenda. The creative process is about setting your own agenda and following it through to completion. When you take back your life using the creative process you start to create freedom for yourself not only by choosing what you want but by becoming so in tune with what is needed to make your goals happen that you can start to use that skill in all areas of your life.”


Gift or Curse 

Every coin has two sides, as many HSP’s experience the disadvantages of their trait as a curse, they are also blessed with many gifts and qualities that are in their advantage and can compensate the disadvantages.
Highly sensitivity is a trait they can embrace and use to be more creative and aware. But it demands taking care to live strategically, even outside popular values, to avoid overwhelm so they can better nurture their abilities and creative talents.


Sensory detail:  One of the prominent “virtues” of high sensitivity is the richness and joy of sensory detail that life provides. The sounds of music or the smell of fragrances and the beautiful colors of nature. The subtle shades of texture in clothing, and foods when cooking.  Feelings of love, joy and gratitude. All of these may be more intense for highly sensitive people. Of course, people are not simply “sensitive” or “not sensitive”, like other qualities and traits, it’s a matter of degree.

Nuances in meaning: The trait of high sensitivity also includes a strong tendency to be aware of nuances in meaning, and to be more cautious about taking action, and to more carefully consider options and possible outcomes.

Emotional awareness: They also tend to be more aware of their inner emotional states, which can make for richer and more profound creative work as designers, writers, musicians, actors or other artists.
A greater response to pain, discomfort, and physical experience can mean sensitive people have the potential, at least, to take better care of themselves and others.

Greater empathy: High sensitivity to other people’s emotions can be a powerful asset for teachers, managers, therapists and others.

Creativity: Estimates are that about twenty percent of people are highly sensitive, and seventy percent of those are introverted, which is a trait that also encourages creativity. HSP’s are often creative by definition.


Easily overwhelmed, overstimulated: The biggest challenge in high sensitivity is probably being vulnerable to sensory or emotional overwhelm. Taking in and processing so much information from both inner and outer worlds can be “too much” at times and result in more pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety and other reactions. People with nervous systems having decreased latent inhibition, are more open to incoming stimuli. Which can be a good thing, or not so good. Pain or discomfort can mean they don’t choose to experience some things that might actually be fun or enriching.

Affected by emotions of others: Another aspect of sensitivity can be reacting to the emotions and perhaps thoughts of others. Being in the vicinity of angry people, for example, can be more distressing.

Needs lots of space and time for themselves: They may need to “retreat” and emotionally “refresh” themselves at times that are not always best for their goals or personal growth. For example, being at a professional development conference, it may not be the most helpful thing to leave a long presentation or workshop in order to recuperate from the emotional intensity of the crowd.

Perfectionism: There can  be qualities of thinking or analyzing that lead to unhealthy perfectionism, or stressful responses to objects, people or situations that are “too much” or “wrong” for our sensitivities.

Living out of sync with our culture: Living in a culture that devalues sensitivity and introversion means there are many pressures to be “normal” — meaning extroverted, sociable and outgoing.


Pitfalls and Strengths of HSP’s


  • Perfectionism
  • Over-stimulation
  • Introvert, looking for space and distance
  • Too much compassion
  • Struggle to make decisions
  • Difficulty with planning and structuring
  • Restless, watchful
  • Little delegating


  • Original, creative, quirky
  • Sensitive to nuances mood and atmosphere
  • Sets high standards, also to themselves
  • Caring, loyal, anticipating on needs of others
  • Strong in advisory roles, insightful, aware
  • Accurate, precise, attention to detail
  • Solution oriented, strong in brainstorming
  • Averse ‘superficiality’, strong in pioneering


Optimal Arousal 

All people operate best at their optimal level of nervous system arousal.


HSP performance


Too little arousal Optimal arousal Over arousal
– boredom
– lack of motivation
– difficulty engaging in anything
– engaged
– motivated
– relatively pleasant
– functioning effectively
– stressed
– frazzled
– not effective
– not pleasant
Poor performance Maximum performance Poor performance


The opposite ends of the sensitivity spectrum are utterly alien to each other:

What engages a not sensitive person might blow an HSP’s fuse.
And an optimal level of stimulation for an HSP would turn a not sensitive person into sludge.


How to reduce sensory overload symptoms 

Coping methods



Reduce, eliminate or avoid stimuli

Sensory overload can result from the over stimulation of any of the senses.

  • Hearing: Loud noise or sound from multiple sources, such as several people talking at once or a loud fire alarm.
  • Sight: Bright lights, strobing lights, or environments with lots of movement such as crowds or frequent scene changes on television.
  • Smell and taste: Strong aromas or spicy foods.
  • Touch: Tactile sensations such as being touched by another person or the feel of cloth on skin.
  • Feeling: emotions such as strong and intense emotions of yourself or others

There are many different ways to reduce or treat sensory overload, and stress.

There are many ways for people with symptoms to reduce it themselves.

“Being able to identify one’s own triggers of sensory overload can help reduce, eliminate, or avoid them.

Most often the quickest way to ease sensory overload symptoms is to remove oneself from the situation”.

changeReducing sensory input such as eliminating distressing sounds and lowering the lights can help. Calming, focusing music works for some. Or look for a quiet place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation, like a quiet room, or a walk in nature. Also meditation, self-massage or yoga are beneficial.

If a quick break does not relieve the problem, an extended rest is advised.

People with sensory processing issues may benefit from a sensory diet of activities and accommodations designed to prevent sensory overload and retrain the brain to process sensory input more typically. It is important in situations of sensory overload to calm oneself and return to a normal level.

Self-help tips on the long run 

Create a Daily Routine

1. Your morning routine will set the tone for your day while your evening routine will influence the quality of your sleep.
2. Wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than usual to begin your morning routine.
3. Begin with some gentle stretching, yoga postures or light calisthenics.
4. Spend at least 15 minutes centering yourself through meditation, like TM (Transcendental Meditation) progressive relaxation or listening to a meditation tape.
5. Eat a nourishing breakfast slowly.
6. Leave plenty of time to commute to work.
7. Your evening activities should consist of calming endeavors such as reading uplifting books, writing, meditating, taking a bath or having light discussions.
8. Try not to watch over-stimulating or violent television shows in the evening.
9. For 30 minutes prior to going to sleep, turn off the day and go inward by meditating, listening to a relaxation tape or whatever helps you make the transition to a restful sleep.

Using the senses to calm the HSP

1. Avoid jarring noises by listening to relaxing background music or wearing earplugs.
2. Give yourself or receive a massage on a regular bases.
3. Reduce the time you are sitting in front of a television or computer screen and gaze at beautiful pictures or nature frequently.
4. Reduce your use of caffeine while drinking calming herbal teas and a lot of pure water.
5. Eat warm, nurturing food.
6. Try inhaling calming essential oils or incense.
7. Take a mini retreat twice a week and a longer retreat several times a year.

Continued in longer article on this site: Coping Strategies.

Also see TM (Transcendental Meditation) and Stress Management and Reduction >>

Need extra help? 

Read: How to find a good therapist (Article by Elaine Aron, Ph.D)
Seeking an HSP-knowledgeable Therapist? >>



pareto-principle-efficientThe Pareto Principle and Highly Sensitive People 

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule, rule of the “vital few and trivial many, and the principle of factor sparsity, states that, for many events, 20% of the input are accountable for 80% of the results.

The Pareto Principle was developed in the late 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran, a business scholar, who named the rule after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.
Juran described it as the rule of the “vital few and trivial many” since it’s used to weed out less important factors in decision making. The 80-20 rule is frequently used in business, but has been applied to a wide variety of subjects.

Applying the 80-20 rule to improve your life as an HSP

Applying the 80-20 rule helps to narrow your focus when making decisions to get optimal results.

This narrowed focus makes it easier to target the triggers of sensory overload and to reduce, eliminate, or avoid them so you can focuss on working with your positive qualities and energy, which are truly influential and also the real lesson of the 80-20 rule. But just like the proverbial half full or half empty glass, the rule works both ways, depending on your focus.

Here are some tips for HSP’s to start with





More Info

HSP Official website of Elaine N. Aron
About being Highly Sensitive
Highly Sensitive Society
HSP wiki
Trait Theory of personality
Trait Theory (Psychology)
Phenotipic Trait (Biology)
The Highly Sensitive Person
How to find a good therapist 
Seeking an HSP-knowledgeable Therapist?
HSP Coaching (Dutch)

HSP Tests

Measurement Scales for Researchers
If you wish to use the HSP Scale for research purposes, see Tips for Researchers. You may download the measure here.

Foundation for the Study of Highly Sensitive Persons

Coping Methods
TM (Transcendental Meditation)


Academic Research papers & References


Books by Elaine N. Aron


HSP Meetings

Elaine Aron and Highly Sensitive Persons Meetups

HSP Websites

HSP Official website of Elaine N. Aron |
Highly Sensitive
The Highly Sensitive Person
Dr Ted Zeff


Tips from and for HSP’s

Real World Advice Specifically for Highly Sensitive People (HSP)Website

HSP Coaching (Dutch)


Links to subjects for information

Personality Test based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ typological approach to personality
The Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) by Kazimierz Dabrowski describes a theory of personality development | Website | pdf’s
Jerome Kagandevelopmental psychology
Reinforcement sensitivity theory
Gray’s biopsychological theory of personality
Fight or flight response
Fight-or-flight response (in humans)
Defence Mechanisms
Dissociation (Psychology)
Stress Management
Extrasensory perception
Intuitive learners

Psychology Dictionary: Terms from A to Z
Personality Psychology Study Guide
Trait Theory of personality
Mental Disorders
Personality Disorders
WHO | International Classification of Diseases (ICD)
–  R50-R69 General symptoms and signs
– R40-R46 Symptoms and signs involving cognition, perception, emotional state and behaviour

3 thoughts on “The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) explained

  1. Pingback: numerology | darbi sue dunbar

  2. What a beautiful article. Thank you so much for putting all of this information together. Helpful, extremely informative and very uplifting. I am just starting to learn more about and accept my condition as an HSP and I’ve never seen my qualities written as ‘gifts’ before as they were put across here. Usually they have been undervalued or put down by myself or others, ‘misunderstood’ is probably the better word. Seeing it re-framed really made my day. I’ve recently come to really embrace the notion that I shouldn’t have to adapt and change, invalidate my sensitive being, but that perhaps I can embrace it and learn from these gifts and perhaps other people could learn from them too, rather than society tending toward the other end of the spectrum and misunderstanding the other 15% or so.

    I have actually come up with a similar routine to the one listed here but still struggling with sleeping due to the reasons mentioned. I take melatonin which is, at least, a more natural sleeping aid, but I am going to keep working on my sleep patterns so that I can gently allow my mind to switch off at the end of the day. I am generally thinking about or in the process of creating many different things so finding a balance with resting my self-imposed hyper-arousal is very necessary : ) Thank you for helping me to understand and see the light in my heightened sensitivity. It is my true self that I want to grow to love and bring forward more, rather than wearing armour and pretending that the harshness of the outside world, wherein many are desensitised, doesn’t deeply affect me. I feel it all and there is more compassion that I want to express openly, once I have found a way to balance my gifts and social spaces. With high sensitivity there is also a very deep love for people and the world, but a need to protect oneself can also arise when you feel that it isn’t safe to be so vulnerable in this world. Perhaps that is just my perspective. So much love : )

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  3. Pingback: How I Realized I Was In A Relationship With A Narcissist And That I Was HSP? | counterfeitconfessions

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