Annabelle Breuer-Udo: Founder of Evocative HealthPath LLC Certified Coach (ACC) I Author I Ayurveda I Mindfulness

What is a Highly Sensitive Person, and what is the relation with stress?

Have you ever heard about high sensitivity, highly sensitive persons, or empaths? Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? In this blog, you will find 15 signs that might show you that you are a highly sensitive person. Also, you will find why the chances are higher for HSP’s to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

What is an HSP?

A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world differently than others. Highly sensitive persons are more aware of subtleties and process information deeply. That means they tend to be insightful, inspirational, and empathetic, and on the other side, it also means they are more disposed than others to stress and overwhelm.

The term high sensitivity (HS) or highly sensitive person (HSP) was characterized in the 1990s by American psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Elaine N. Aron. It is a personal characteristic expressed by increased sensitivity and perception. Furthermore, they perceive information significantly more intensely.

It is assumed that 15–20 percent of the population is highly sensitive persons.

It is a misunderstanding that being highly sensitive is a personal characteristic and not a disease or disorder because only 15 to 20 percent of the population are HSPs. Also, 20 percent of children are highly sensitive. Dr. Elaine Aron considers this an evolutionary development.

Are you a highly sensitive person? If you relate to most of these signs, there is a good chance you are an HSP.

15 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

1. Vivid imagination

Your inner world is alive and very present. As a child, you may have had imaginary friends, enjoyed fantasy-based plays, and were drawn to daydreaming. As an adult, you may have vividly realistic dreams. Due to your deep processing of information, your inner world is rich. 

2. Thinking profoundly and in broader contexts

As an HSP, you process information profoundly and do plenty of reflection on your experiences more than other people do. The downside of it is that you tend to suffer from negative overthinking. Sometimes you run scenarios over and over in your mind and spiral into anxious or desperate thoughts.

3. Emotional exhaustion from absorbing other people’s feelings

HSP’s have tendencies to absorb without filter other people’s emotions, although HSP’s are not necessarily empaths. And many highly sensitive people are also empaths. It is not unusual for an HSP to walk into a room and immediately sense the moods of people and group dynamics. HSP’s are more aware of the subtleties such as body language, facial expressions, double signals, a tone of a voice and emotions. Therefore they can notice the mood and dynamics immediately in others and groups whereas other people even may not notice it. Combine highly sensitivity with empathy, and it is no wonder that HSP’s often feel emotionally exhausted.

4. You have a strong tendency to question things in life and are a seeker

HSP’s seek answers to the big questions in life. They ask what are they here for, what is their life purpose, why are things the way they are and what is their role in it. They seek meaning and are fascinated by the mysteries of life, human nature, and the universe.

5. Increased sensitivity to noises

Some highly sensitive people are susceptible to noises almost can’t stand them, and loud noises may really shake them.

6. You need alone time and withdraw often

Whether you are an introvert and highly sensitive or an extrovert and highly sensitive, you need your alone time and frequently withdraw to recharge and recover. You often find yourself retreating to quieten your mind, lower your stimulation level, and soothe your senses.

7. Your intuition is high

Due to your high perception, feeling things on a deeper level and processing information profoundly, your intuition may be increased. You may have tendencies to clear voyance or clear hearing. 

8. Increased sensitivity to injustice

Highly sensitive people are feeling more triggered in daily situations or world issues that are ruled by injustice and cruelty. They tend to stand for the side and polarity that may seem to be weaker and suppressed. If they smell injustice, their loving warrior heart comes out.

9. Time pressure

Time pressure in any sort, whether it is at home or work can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. As an HSP, when you have too many things on your to-do list and not enough time to finish them, you feel very easily stressed. Highly sensitive people are more vulnerable to stimulation, and time pressure is one of those stimuli that can cause feelings of stress and overwhelm.

10. Pain Intolerance

As an HSP, your pain tolerance is less, and you are more sensitive to the pain of all kinds than non-HSP’s, like headaches, joint pain, injuries, etc…

11. You are mislabeled

High sensitivity is often mislabeled, put in a box, and misunderstood. Often HSP’s are labeled as shy and anxious or introverts. Because introvert, shy, and anxious people and HSP’s have similarities such as needing lots of downtime and withdrawal. But the truth is 30 percent of HSP’s are actually extroverts.

12. You get angry when you are hungry

HSP’s are sensitive to changes in their blood sugar level and can get moody such as angry if they have not eaten in a while.

13. Tendencies to perfectionism

Of course, there are also non-HSP’s out there who are perfectionists. But HSP’s have a higher tendency to avoid mistakes, do it right, make it perfect, striving, and giving things their best effort. Because they often carry feelings such as they are wrong or not enough and being worthless.

14. You love beauty

You are deeply impacted by flowers, trees, water, delicious, colorful food, rich scents, and therapeutic grade oils, beautiful artwork, and music. Sometimes you do not understand how other people are not as moved by beauty and nature as you are and how they can dismiss the beauty.

15. You have a high perception

You are seen as perceptive, insightful, and wise because you are aware of things that others dismiss. Even as a child, you have been wise beyond your years. The world relies on highly sensitive people like you to make it a place with more compassion and understanding.

How can people be highly sensitive?

Due to a more sensitive nervous systems and less filter in their system of perception and processing on a deeper level, highly sensitive people’s body, mind, spirit, and soul system get overstimulated faster than others.

Therefore there is an increased risk for anxiety disorders, depression, burnout, traumatic stress disorders, and psychosomatic symptoms.

As HSP’s notice, they often feel exhausted and run out of balance. They even pick up on stress levels of others and feel it. It is not just people that trigger them; it is also an overload from environmental stimuli, food stimuli, negative thought patterns, stuckness in false emotions, and all the excess information. Consequently, it may show up in their body as chronic pain, stress, exhaustion, restlessness, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and depletion. If you want to find out more about how to be with stress, check out my article “What every person ought to know about living a stress-free life“.

Being a HSP has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. This information has confused some of my clients. They are two different pair of shoes. In the population, 15 to 20 percent are HSP’s, and 30 percent of those HSP’s are extroverts. Introversion or extroversion can overlap. As an HSP, it is crucial to explore how much “in” and “out” time you need to stay healthy and balanced.

How to deal with it

If you want to find out more about high sensitivity and/or to be an empath and how to overcome obstacles, overwhelm, stress, and depletion, you can reach out to me.

Beyond NaturopathyYoga & Meditation and functional nutrition counselling, I also offer different kind of coaching programs. I can support you to explore your gifts and vulnerability, your strengths and weaknesses as an HSP and/or Empath to thrive from a place beyond feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or depleted.

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