Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? 10 Signs You Might Have This Inherited Trait

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10 signs you might be a highly sensitive person |


The word “sensitive” has different connotations for different people. Some might think of it in the sense of being sensitive to the feeling of others or maybe having a sensitivity to a certain food or chemical. Oftentimes, the word is used in a negative sense as when people are described as being “overly sensitive.”

The word “sensitive,” as used in the term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), refers to an innate trait studied by researcher Dr. Elaine Aron. Being a highly sensitive person means that your nervous system reacts differently than for others who don’t have this trait.

Highly sensitive people process information (sensory data, thoughts, emotions, etc.) at a very deep level and are very aware of subtleties in their environment, and because they are so aware, that means that they are easily overwhelmed by them too.

Highly sensitive people usually tend to be more the “look before you leap” type, especially in unfamiliar situations, and their first reaction is usually to pause and observe first, taking in all of the details, information, and sensory data. HSPs also tend to be very drawn to art, poetry, music, etc. and they often feel a strong connection to animals. Being out in nature is usually especially calming for HSPs.

A few facts about the trait of High Sensitivity:

  • HSPs make up about 15-20% of the population
  • The trait is found in animals as well as in humans
  • High sensitivity is an inherited trait
  • High sensitivity is considered a “normal” trait, not a disease or a disorder
  • Most HSPs are introverts (about 70%), but around 30% are extroverts

10 Signs You Might Be a Highly Sensitive Person

1) You notice subtleties. You’re aware of small details and slight changes. You notice if something is a little bit out of place or if the position of something has shifted slightly since the last time you saw it. You pick up on subtle details like a color that’s a shade darker or lighter, a subtle scent, or a slight change in someone’s tone of voice or facial expression.

2) You’re affected by the moods of other people. Being around somebody who is stressed makes you feel tense and stressed too, even if their stress has nothing to do with you personally. You still pick up on it and feel the effect of their mood in your body.

3) You feel overwhelmed if there is too much going on around you at once. You get frazzled if you have to do many things at once or with a time limit. Having too many activities scheduled into the same day feels like too much to handle and you get very stressed if you’re running late or have to rush to try to finish something before a deadline.

4) You’re strongly affected by bright lights, strong smells, crowds etc. Being in huge crowds makes you feel stressed and walking past the perfume counter at a department store makes you feel like you’re suffocating. You prefer dimmer, ambient lighting or natural light from windows to bright fluorescent lights.

5) You need downtime. You need some time alone every day in a quiet, peaceful environment to rest and recharge. If you go straight from work to running errands to going to a party, you feel exhausted and need quiet time to recover.

6) You startle easily. Sudden noises, like the phone ringing or an ambulance siren make you jump or make your pulse rise.

7) You tend to observe and reflect first. Decisions often take longer to make because you are reflecting on and processing all of the information and subtle details. At a party or large gathering, your tendency is usually to observe and listen first.

8) You don’t perform as well when being observed by others. Even if you can do it perfectly when practicing by yourself, when you have to do it with other people watching, it never goes quite as well.

9) You’re bothered by loud noises and chaotic environments. Being surrounded by noise and chaos makes you want to just snap your fingers and disappear into a place that’s peaceful and quiet. Even if you’re doing something that you really enjoy, you can’t last for as long in these sorts of environments as others can who aren’t highly sensitive.

10) You have a rich and complex inner life. You need time alone to think things through and process everything. You probably think a lot more than you speak, and tend to be very introspective and reflective.

Not every HSP will necessarily relate to all of these 10 signs, but if these descriptions sound like you, you can find the full HSP self-test on the Highly Sensitive Person website. When I took the self-test, I couldn’t believe how accurate it was for me. I found myself going down the list, putting check marks in just about every single box, and it was like somebody I had never met before had described me perfectly!

Many who take the self-test either say “Yes, that’s definitely me!” or “No, that doesn’t really sound like me at all.” And then there is a smaller amount of people who feel that they fall somewhere in the middle. So, even if you aren’t an HSP yourself, chances are that you probably know somebody who is.

HSPs and non-HSPs often share many of these traits, too. Anybody can be bothered by loud noises, for example, but the difference is that highly sensitive people will usually be bothered much sooner and to a greater degree than people who aren’t highly sensitive.

And just because you’re not a highly sensitive person doesn’t mean you’re insensitive either. Both HSPs and non HSPs can be empathetic and sensitive to other people. It just means that your nervous system reacts in a different way than for those who have the trait of high sensitivity.

(Note: It’s also possible to be a highly sensitive person and a “high sensation seeker.” There’s a separate self-test for high sensation seeking on the same website. I definitely don’t fit into this category, but there are lots of HSPs who do, so if you feel like you’re always wanting to try new things and do lots of activities but then feel exhausted after and need recovery time, you might be a high sensation seeking HSP.)

Understanding Yourself Through the Perspective of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

Finding out about the trait of high sensitivity was a big “aha” moment for me. For one thing, it meant that I wasn’t completely crazy (even though it felt like it a lot of the time!) And a lot of things seem to make more sense in light of this trait.

Now I understand, for example, why I would often feel lightheaded and almost dizzy at places like amusement parks or the boardwalk at the beach. Between the flashing bright lights, the scents of popcorn and trash barrels and cigarette smoke all mixed together, and the noises of crowds of people and music so loud that I could actually feel the rhythm pounding in my body, I was completely overwhelmed with sensory overload. A few minutes of rest in a quieter place were usually all I needed to start feeling better again.

It makes sense to me now why I always feel like I need to “recover” after a long day or a night out at a party or why it always seems to take me forever to make a decision about even something very small. Looking back on my life with the perspective of the trait of high sensitivity, I can think of time after time where this trait has influenced the way I reacted to and was affected by certain situations and environments.

Finding out that I am a Highly Sensitive Person has helped me to understand myself better, and it’s also helped me to realize some of the ways that I can help myself to manage this trait, like reducing sensory overload when possible, and allowing more downtime into my day and not over-scheduling myself so that my body can have the time to rest that it needs.

More Helpful Information About Highly Sensitive People:

If you want to learn more, a couple of great resources are these books about HSPs:

And if you want to read more posts about Highly Sensitive People, you can check out my second blog: Redefining Quiet – A New Definition of Quiet for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People.

How did you score on the self-test? Do you feel like you might be a Highly Sensitive Person? Let us know in the comments! 🙂

10 signs you might be a highly sensitive person |

Photo credit (C)[BalazsKovacs]


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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

25 thoughts on “Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? 10 Signs You Might Have This Inherited Trait”

  1. Words can’t describe how much I needed to read this. I can look at a person that I don’t know, and start crying for them, because I feel their pain. Once, after fighting tons of fears, I walked up to a woman whose pain I felt and I asked her if I could pray for her. She looked at me and tears rolled down her face. She asked how I knew she was in pain. I don’t know. I hate it. I hate feeling other people’s pain. I cry for people I don’t even know. People tell me I’m too sensitive but they don’t understand that I can’t make it stop. I am an artist, a musician and I write poetry. I prefer to sit by the fireplace and write instead of shopping. This article helps me so much.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful to you, Colleen. Having a high degree of sensitivity can be both a blessing and a curse at times. Reading and learning more about the trait has been been something that’s helped me a lot, too. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  2. Hi there, I did’not need to check the larger list even though I will later. From the ten signs I could relate to more than six of them. One in particular is discerning moods in others. Also I just love the outdoors I feel my best when I am in the woods and watching wild life. My fave shows on television are Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel when they are going ‘wild’, and The Discovery Channel when the episodes are about wild life. Thank you for bringing this to my attention as sometimes I too feel as though I am strange. Blessings.

    • It sounds like you have quite a few qualities of an HSP, Rhoda! I feel my best when out in nature, too, and I love animals 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us!

  3. Hi, Lori. Just got this in my inbox and would like to elaborate on this topic. When I was very young I was criticized by my mother for being “too sensitive”. I always wondered why this would be considered a flaw rather than an exceptional trait of the spiritual self. This question led me to the study of Astrology and within the Birth Map I found the answer to exceptional sensitivity to one’s environment. Astrology appears to be a very controversial topic in most forums and I can understand why this is so. Lack of understanding this language leads to all kinds of misconceptions, but, I can attest that this invaluable tool has been a saving grace in my life.
    Inheriting someone else’s sensitivity is actually impossible. What is possible is that the sensitivity of a parent of caregiver, though, creates an environment that is conducive to cultivating empathy.
    Astrologically there are markers for profound empaths/sensitives.
    Usually the Moon/Neptune and Venus are in close proximity to each other making soft aspects ( trines and sextiles ). Hard aspects ( Squares, oppositions and sometimes Conjunctions )can work just as well if not even more pronounced than the softer aspects.
    If you would like you could go to and provide your complete birth info for a Birth Map. If you see the Moon in aspect to Venus and Neptune then you know that this is who you ARE….not an inherited trait from another soul. 🙂

    I hope this helps you in your journey in understanding yourself and what you personally came to BE and DO on planet Earth.

    For people like us it can actually ‘hurt’ to live on planet Earth; So much crime, corruption and suffering. The key to balancing this sensitivity in the environment is to maintain as much separation from participating in this system as your conscience dictates while always being a soft place for others to land. It is a very tall order but one I think we chose. 🙂

    Keep doing what it is that you are doing, Lori, because I know that you are a positive influence in a negative social structure. Others will be greatly affected by just being in your sympathetic and gentle nature.

    • Hi, Jamie 🙂 I agree that it doesn’t really make sense to say that sensitivity is always a flaw, especially since sensitivity is valued different in other cultures. From what I’ve read, it does seem like there has been quite a bit of research linking being highly sensitive within members of the same family (not necessarily always parent-child, though), but like you mentioned, the factor of the environment could play into that too. I’ve always found the nature vs. nurture topic to be very interesting. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for your kind words, too. I really appreciate it!

      • Hi, again, Lori! I have studied this too for over 14 years and have found that we are guided by institutions to believe certain things that really do not explain who or what we are. 🙂 A lot of either denial by these researchers or intentional deception? I am not sure but one thing I know for sure is that we are pure energy having a physical existence, and, while in this condition our environment affects us either negatively or positively. Since societies are structured by those in power ( I mean….NO ONE asked ME if I wanted the current world we have. It certainly would NOT be one that I would have dreamed up.) it is usually a negative environment that one is forced to grow within. This can cause the soul all sorts of psychopathy…..unless they are advanced or mature. According to that fabulous Astrologer Jeffrey Wolfe Green, 15% of the population of the world is evolved to a state of seminal maturation ( ready to blossom ) :-), 85 % struggle to evolve and live in a low state of maturation and the last 5 % are your empaths and sensitives; Highly evolved.
        Most people would balk at the idea of calling themselves superior or inferior but the more advanced someone is the more responsibility one has to his family. So….no accolades, Nobel prizes or canonizations for them! This concept of ‘more awareness = more responsibility’ is unlike what we are taught and what we see within the structure of society. Anyway, it takes many, many lifetimes to evolve to a highly sensitive state of awareness.
        I do hope you check out the resources I listed. They are invaluable tools for self awareness.

  4. P.S. I also forgot to mention Jupiter and Chiron in context to empathic markers in the Birth Map. Also, Water Signs ( Scorpio, Cancer, Pisces ) seem to possess the greatest capacity for profound sensitivity. This is a formula….a logarithm….that speaks volumes of the intent of the spiritual self.
    If you have any questions on this topic please feel free to give me a holler…..or maybe a whisper….us being sensitive and all. 😉

  5. Gosh… Does this mean I am developing high sensitivity? Recently, I got startled easily from doors being slammed to my wife waking me up in the morning. Now, I am afraid that if I take the test, I would be positive to the sense that I totallly changed as a person. I used to be ralex and calm all the time. Any suggestions to remedy this, Lori?

    Regards… – Nick

    • Hi Nick, Being easily startled from doors slamming doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the trait of high sensitivity. There are several different qualities involved in the trait besides just being easily startled. It’s possible that you have always been a highly sensitive person and it seems as though you suddenly have become more sensitive because you are now more aware of it, but it’s also equally possible that your being easily startled now is caused by something else other than this trait. Since I don’t know your situation and since I’m not a medical professional, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to give you any advice for how to remedy it, but I hope you are able to find something that will help you to feel more relaxed and calm again!

  6. It really is a curse and a blessing… I have a new job where i have to pick up the phone all the time, running to the desk, getting questions which i do not (yet) know the answer to. After two weeks, I experience constant tension headaches with dizziness when i turnover in my bed at night and in the morning. Does anyone else ever had this? This job is a great career opportunity for me, but i wonder if its healthy to go on like this… What should I do?

    • Hi John,

      That’s a really difficult situation! I think finding the right kind of work is one of the hardest things for a HSP to do. There are many jobs and work environments that really aren’t the best situations for us to be in, and it’s not always easy finding one that is well-suited for us. I think it’s very common to experience tension headaches and dizziness with the stress of starting a new job – especially if it’s one that’s in a chaotic environment (which can be very overstimulating for an HSP). It’s hard when you have a job that could be a good opportunity but is also very stressful. One thing you could do is to give it a few more weeks so you can see whether it might be just the stress of starting something new and being in a new environment and whether it’s something that you will eventually be able to adjust to after some more time goes by. Or, if it continues to be really stressful after you’ve given it a little more time, then you could consider whether it’s something you fee like you should continue doing. I know it’s a really hard decision, but any new job is going to be stressful (especially for an HSP) so it might be worth it to wait a little while longer before deciding.

  7. Hello,
    I would like to share a woman who has changed my life.
    Her name is Carol Tuttle and she has helped me to realize that this is about our energy that we come into the world with. She has helped thousands of people around the world.
    You can find her program at Dressing Your Truth and It’s Just My Nature and Living Your Truth.
    I am a Type 2 energy in her Energy Profiling System.
    This website is wonderful as I relate to everything you are sharing.
    We are beautiful in our soft, subtle, blended, sensitive, caring, loving energy.
    We can share love with the world and pray for them and put our arms around them, and feel their pain when the rest of the world is unconscious.
    This is our gift to the world.
    I am filled with joy in my heart to have found this community.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Dianna,
      I couldn’t agree more! Carol Tuttle’s Dressing Your Truth program has been an amazing experience for me. I’m also a Type 2 energy in her system. I first learned about DYT about two years ago, and it has been life changing for me to understand more about myself and about others. 🙂

  8. I went to therapy as a child because I struggled at school. I would leave the house happy but couldn’t stand the chaotic feeling of everyone’s emotions when I walked in the door at school. I relate to nearly everything on the quiz. I’m s ok glad to know their are other people like me!

    • That must have been really confusing as a child to be so affected by the chaotic feeling of the emotions of those around you. I agree that it’s such a good feeling to know that there are others who are similar!

  9. Wow I have all the traits of Hsp except indeciveness. My mom (I’m adopted ) used to always get after me for being “to sensitive”. Good to know at 52 I share this with many 🙂

  10. Yes , im a HSP … and let me know if that makes me incompatible with my fiance? Who i think knows I’m kinda sensitive .
    One more thing , does that changes the characteristics of my fiance? Is she going to be affected adversely?
    And yes thanks for giving a confirming article about HSP

    • There may be some challenges and things to work out, as there would be in any relationship, but being an HSP doesn’t necessarily mean that you would be incompatible with your fiance. It really all depends on the individual personalities of the people involved. How does your fiance feel about the fact that you’re an HSP, and how does she react when your HSP tendencies mean that you need a quieter environment or need to leave a crowded place (or whatever situations are the most challenging for you? And have you tried talking with your fiance about this? I know it could be a bit awkward of a conversation, but if it’s something that you’re concerned about, then it might be a good idea to talk with her to see how she feels about it and whether she feels like it adversely affects her in any way. Since you say that you think she already knows that you’re a sensitive person, then it might be something that she’s already thought about. I also know that Elaine Aron wrote a book about the topic of HSPs and relationships. I believe it’s called The Highly Sensitive Person in Love. That might be a good book to read to help address some of your concerns.

  11. Wow! I’m a 10 outta 10! You have described me 100%. I will certainly be checking out more articles on this subject. Perhaps I’m not as crazy as I thought!!! Thanks!

    • You’re not crazy at all! Having this trait can come with some challenges, but there are a lot of positives, too, like having a good eye for detail, being really observant, being able to notice subtle things, having a high level of empathy, and being able to deeply appreciate things like beauty, music, art, etc. 🙂

  12. I relate to all of these so deeply. When I was younger, I thought that there was something horribly wrong with me because I just did not enjoy the same things as other children. I liked quiet, peaceful, play areas. I preferred sitting in my room reading a book, or playing with my toys with the door shut. I preferred one friend at a time, over many friends all at once. I very much disliked being made to go to birthday parties, or having large birthday parties myself. I looked forward to when I could go home, or when everyone went home. When I went to school, I would come home completely drained and unable to focus on anything but rest, which caused some problems with homework as I got older. I think I was the only child, that when grounded for not completing their homework, was actually happy because it meant I could use that as an excuse to deflect invitations to go out with friends. lol The labels that followed me were “too sensitive”, “overly cautious”, “needs to get a thicker skin”. Those in my life that should have protected me, made me feel foolish and stupid for just being how I was. When I was 2, my father and my grandfather chased me around the yard popping balloons and bags in my face. I was so traumatized by that that I was screaming and crying uncontrollably, and I wet myself. My mom had to put me in my darkened bedroom by myself, wrapped in blankets so I could reset. To this day, I break out in a cold sweat, my hands and feet tingle, and I feel like I can’t breath when I am around balloons or bags that can be popped. I have such shame attached to it, and at 40 years old, it makes me feel ridiculous. There is literally nothing that I can do about it except pray and try to breathe. I have started taking St. John’s Wort along with Cod Liver Oil capsules, and that helps me exponentially when going out.

    • That sounds very similar to how I was as a child too. I always preferred the quiet, peaceful activities, and I loved reading a book or playing quietly in my room. I enjoyed playing with friends one-on-one or in small groups, but I never felt comfortable in large groups, and I often felt like I was too sensitive or too quiet or too cautious, etc. There are so many people who don’t understand what it’s like to be highly sensitive, and a lot of times adults end up shaming sensitive children or making them feel like there’s something wrong when them because they aren’t as tough as other children. That sounds like such an awful experience you had with the balloons! It makes perfect sense that you be traumatized by that since HSPs process experiences to such a deep level. And unfortunately trauma isn’t easy to get past either 🙁 That’s great that the St. John’s Wort and the Cod Liver Oil have been helping some, though! Hopefully eventually highly sensitive children (and adults) will be better understood and accepted in the future 🙂


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