Hsp personality types

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? 14 Ways to Tell — Melody Wilding



HSPs have vibrant inner lives. This means you are an incredibly original, creative thinker who is extremely self-aware. On the flip side, your brain is often racing. It’s not uncommon for you to overthink and over-analyze day-to-day experiences, and your above-average self-awareness can veer into self-consciousness and self-criticism.


Because they are sensitive to subtleties, HSPs react more strongly to criticism than non-HSPs. Therefore, they may go out of their way to avoid being criticized, such as by working extra-hard, which leads to burnout.


HSPs are maximizers, meaning they often struggle to make decisions out of fear of choosing the “wrong” option even if the stakes are low. Because HSPs are so conscientious about how their decisions impact others or how they may be perceived, all choices—even small ones—carry immense weight.


HSPs are extremely perceptive. They pick up on the specifics of situations and notice the tiniest changes—from pointing out that the CEO has a habit of always wearing the same suit Tuesdays to catching typos in a presentation. This detail-orientation is a positive trait in many scenarios. You’re highly attuned to others’ likes, dislikes, and preferences, and that perceptiveness can win you friends and allies right off the bat. On the flip side, your meticulousness can turn into perfectionism if you don’t manage it carefully. Remember, sometimes done is better than perfect.


If you’re often complimented on your politeness, courtesy, and clear understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong, you have many of the characteristics of an HSP. You’re probably the champion of integrity and upholding your word at the office. While these traits are important to creating harmony and likability, HSPs can be easily peeved by difficult co-workers who don’t share the same traits or values.


Commitment and dedication are qualities that make HSPs great team members. Always attentive to the environment, HSPs are able to sense conflict, mitigate problems, and flag new opportunities.


Ever left a meeting and remarked about your boss’ incessant pen-tapping only for your co-worker to say, “Oh, I didn’t notice that”? Highly sensitive people attune to and process noise, chaos, and other external stimuli profoundly, so what may be a major annoyance to you could go pretty much unnoticed by a non-HSP.


Do you cry easily? HSPs become overwhelmed more quickly than others, and that often manifests itself in tears. It’s important to realize that while you may be able to manage your emotions more effectively, they are nothing to be ashamed of.


Highly sensitive people often prefer work environments where they can control the external stimuli, such as how well-lit, quiet, or uncluttered their workspace is, making them partial to working from home as opposed to an office with an open layout.


Unlike most people, HSPs have the rare strength of being able to be alone without being lonely, enabling them to be more productive and satisfied by intrinsic factors (such as finding enjoyment in their work), rather than external ones (such as money or prestige). You are the type of person who looks for work that feels like a calling, rather than taking a job just for a paycheck. You are driven to make an impact but can sometimes get so emotionally invested in your professional life that balance and your well-being go out the window.

If you can relate to any of the above scenarios and have spent your life confused and upset for acting these ways, better understanding the qualities that compose the HSP profile can shed light on some of your challenges.

Next time you’re feeling totally out of sync with other people around you, think instead about ways that you can use these traits as gifts and leverage them as strengths.

Groundbreaking and insightful, TRUST YOURSELF is essential reading for every sensitive, introverted professional. Wilding does a brilliant job of giving you tools to regain your confidence and become your most empowered self.

––Susan Cain, author of Quiet and creator of Quiet Revolution

Trust Yourself offers a neuroscience-based blueprint based on decades of research and client work to help you break free from stress, self-doubt, and perfectionism so you can regain your confidence at work and reclaim control of your life.

In Trust Yourself, discover how to:

  • Achieve confidence and overcome imposter syndrome
  • Find your voice to speak and act with assertiveness
  • Build resilience and bounce back from setbacks
  • Enjoy your success without sacrificing your well-being

If you’re an empathetic, driven person trying to navigate your career and learn how to believe in yourself in the process, Trust Yourself offers the mindset and tools to set you on the path to personal and professional fulfillment.

You're Not 'Crazy,' You're a Highly Sensitive Person

If you’re a sensitive person, you may feel isolated because you don’t enjoy certain activities that others do.

The good news: You’re not “crazy” or difficult.

I can’t stand chaos. I hate loud environments. Art makes me cry. Bright lights hurt my eyes. Were you just kind of a little bit rude in that email you sent me? I’ll have a bad taste in my mouth about it for, oh, probably about a week (*cough* a month) now.

To address what you are no doubt thinking: No, I am not a frigid, unsociable, boring buzzkill. In fact, if I do say so myself, I’m actually quite fun and outgoing when I need to be. I am, however, a very deep processor, extremely aware of the emotions of myself and others, and an avid appreciator of the little things in life that often go unnoticed — in other words, I’m a textbook example of what is referred to as an HSP, or a highly sensitive person.

If you, like myself and about 30 percent of the population, fall into this category, you likely often feel isolated because you’re unable to enjoy (or even simply tolerate) certain tasks and activities in the same way your peers do. The good news: This isn’t because you’re disdainful, “crazy,” or just plain difficult.

Recent research has shown that these reactions are actually due to a slightly different chemistry in the brains of highly sensitive people — notably, increased blood flow in the areas that process emotion, awareness, and empathy. So while your aversions may be difficult to accept at times, it’s important to understand that this is truly just the way you’re wired — and you honestly probably aren’t as weird as you think.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Think about someone you’d consider to be highly sensitive — I’m guessing you probably brought to mind someone who always sobs at chick flicks or is immediately offended by a seemingly harmless, offhand remark from a friend or colleague.

While this type of emotional sensitivity is often apparent in an HSP, it’s not as simple as being “overly emotional.” In fact, there’s one huge indicator of a true HSP that you may not be aware of — physical sensitivity.

Among other telltale signs, HSPs exhibit a high measure of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), which is a personality trait that has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, high emotional reactivity, and greater depth of cognitive processing. Basically, an HSP is someone who’s extra sensitive to all internal and external stimuli, and he or she is probably thinking just a little more about, well, everything, than your average Joe.

(Are you a highly sensitive person? Here are 21 signs that you’re an HSP.)

What It Feels Like to Be Highly Sensitive

From an emotional standpoint, a careless heckle from a road-raging stranger can leave an HSP shaken for hours. Being given an overwhelming assignment at work may cause them to have a mini breakdown — though likely not until later, once they’re alone.

On the other hand, the sight of a grandfather playing with his grandkids or an unexpected compliment from a friend can leave an HSP elated for days. Personally, for reasons I have yet to understand, whenever I walk into an extraordinarily designed church (even though I’m not religious) or hear beautiful, symphonic music, I immediately start to tear up and have little control over it.

From a physical standpoint, sights, sounds, smells, textures, physical pain, consuming too much caffeine or sugar, not getting enough sleep, or even feelings of hunger can really throw an HSP for a loop. When an HSP experiences any of the above beyond a threshold that would seem quite low to a non-HSP, it can make it nearly impossible to concentrate or feel comfortable in their surroundings — and often, for reasons that may come off as bizarre to “outsiders.”

Perhaps an HSP can’t stand a stranger’s perfume at the grocery store, so they switch lines at the checkout. Or maybe they always need to be wearing sunglasses, even on the cloudiest of days, in order to shield their sensitive retinas from the sun. Maybe an hour or two into a party, they’ve disappeared to a quiet corner with fewer people or have even gone home because it was just too noisy.

While this all may seem like odd or reclusive behavior, it likely isn’t because they are either of those things — it’s simply because of their characteristically low tolerance for external stimuli that often feels like it’s attacking from every angle.

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Being an HSP: the Good and the Bad

It’s definitely true that we all have our sensitive moments. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been devastated by a breakup or saddened by harsh criticism.

But for HSPs, the bad news is their physical and emotional experiences are always processed at such a constant, high intensity, that it can really shape their lives — often as much as gender and race do — and often in ways that don’t adhere to the expectations of an extroverted society. Things like job performance, friendship, and romance can be greatly altered when one feels all these stimuli so deeply. Also, because they are so highly aware of their surroundings at all times, HSPs tend to have an increased risk of depression and anxiety — but there are a few ways to help that.

Now, going back to the thought that HSPs aren’t actually buzzkills, I’d like to address all of the good things about being an HSP — because while this personality trait may sometimes feel like a curse, it’s indeed a gift. Here are the top 10 reasons I couldn’t be more grateful to be an HSP:

1. HSPs really, genuinely care — and they’re good at it.

If a loved one, colleague, or acquaintance is going through a tough time, it’s very difficult for an HSP to walk away from the emotional situation without getting invested, thinking deeply about the issue, and offering their insights.

2. HSPs tend to be highly creative.

They’re attuned to subtleties of all kinds, and a richness in things that others may overlook. They draw inspiration from their complex inner lives, and in turn, create beauty, joy, and inspiration for others.

3. HSPs are incredibly conscientious and take great pride in their tasks.

They work hard to make sure things are done right and make great employees in roles that allow for autonomy, space, and time to ponder.

4. HSPs feel things deeply.

While this can be hindering when negative emotions arise, it also means that feelings of elation can reach a higher intensity than in non-HSPs.

5. HSPs are very sensitive to animals.

Because they’re so in tune with the energies, emotions, and lesser-noticed things in life, they’re often especially sensitive to animals and how they are handled.

6. HSPs have passion like no other.

It’s very easy for an HSP to experience genuine, blind passion for a topic — so much so that it seems they’re almost bursting with it.

7. HSPs are a genuine bunch.

They have a hard time faking interest in topics, people, tasks, and activities that don’t suit them, leaving more time to cultivate themselves, friendships, and the interests that help them to feel fulfilled.

8. HSPs make life about finding meaning.

They’re often driven by an internal search for meaning, and if something doesn’t feel meaningful, they can’t just “do it anyway” — they need to silence or filter it out.

9. HSPs are great at having deep, meaningful conversations.

They loathe small talk and unnecessary discussions because really, who has time for that?

10. HSPs are amazing problem solvers.

HSPs are extremely contemplative and will often take time to process and ponder an issue following a conversation. They’re not “out of sight, out of mind” types of people, and will keep cognitively working on solving problems and coming up with ideas if a conversation hasn’t completely resolved a question (bringing us back to No. 1).

Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?

Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEAR. Click here to learn more.

How to Know if You’re an HSP

Thinking you might be a highly sensitive person? Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself to better assess:

  • Do loud environments make you want to run and hide?
  • Do you get really irritable when you’re hungry?
  • Does attending a musical, visiting an art gallery, or reading poetry stir up your emotions?
  • Does having several different tasks to complete make you less productive because you become overwhelmed and stressed?
  • Do you consider yourself abnormally empathetic?
  • Does it take you longer than most to make decisions?
  • Do you hate open office plans and prefer to work in private, calm environments?
  • Do you despise gory, violent movies?
  • Do you easily sense when other people are feeling overwhelmed?
  • Does presenting to an audience often go poorly because you loathe working in front of watchful eyes?
  • After a long day, do you need quiet time to recharge?

If you answered yes more times than not, chances are you’re an HSP. Congrats! You’re part of a club of deep-thinking, creative doers who might just need a little more downtime than most.

If you’d like to take a slightly more official self-assessment, check out this quiz created by Dr. Elaine Aron, who began studying the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity back in 1991. Dr. Aron is the reason for my interest in HSPs, as I discovered I was one after reading her book, The Highly Sensitive Person — I couldn’t recommend it more.

Embrace Your Sensitivity

Being a highly sensitive person doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you — it simply means that you process sensory data more deeply than most. And while this has its drawbacks, it also has many beautiful and unique advantages. Recognizing that you’re an HSP is the first step to embracing it and learning how to better care for yourself. Now get out there and make that sensitivity work for you!

You might like:

  • Why Highly Sensitive People Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
  • 21 Signs That You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
  • What Happens When a Highly Sensitive Person Grows Up with Emotional Neglect?

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9 signs that you are a hypersensitive person (and why it is good)

Did you know that there are 15-20% of hypersensitive people in the world? (HSP - Highly Sensitive Person)

However, many do not know what hypersensitivity is. This is not introversion, although there is a certain connection. Hypersensitive people overreact to all sorts of stimuli, whether it's caffeine, anxiety, or pain.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, there are several signs of hypersensitive people.

Below we will outline some of these signs and discuss why it is good to be hypersensitive.

Hypersensitive people associate noise with chaos

They cannot work in open offices because their senses are turned off by the abundance of sounds, colors and smells.

They get lost if they need to switch from one task to another

Hypersensitive people prefer to complete one task to the end and achieve the highest quality result.

Hypersensitive people are angry from hunger

Hunger generates such anger that they splash out anger and irritation on everyone who comes to hand. Why? They feel their hunger as strongly as anyone else!

Hypersensitive people feel when others are uncomfortable

They are able to feel other people's emotions and willingly empathize with other people.

They cannot work under supervision

Unsupervised hypersensitive people work to the limit. If they are forced to work in the presence of other people, the results are disastrous.

Hypersensitive people love art

They appreciate the creative process and enjoy the moment an idea is born.

They avoid violence, especially in the media

Hypersensitive people don't play violent video games or watch violent movies, even horror movies!

Loud noises make them uncomfortable.

Hypersensitive people can't stand loud sounds, whether it's a rock concert or fireworks.

They try to stay away from the crowd

Hypersensitive people prefer solitude - for example, a dark bedroom after a long day at work. So they replenish the reserve of strength and improve health.

Despite all that has been said, hypersensitivity is not a mental disorder. This is only the ability to pass deep into oneself the information received with the help of the senses.

Hypersensitive people often consider themselves "morally weak" or "emotionally unstable". Unfortunately, such stereotypes are very common in society.

However, it is important to know that they are far from the truth. Hypersensitivity is the clearest proof that you know how to sympathize, love and live!

Those who are not capable of an open demonstration of feelings should be shy.

This is not normal! If we can't be honest with each other, we won't move forward.

Do you still doubt the correctness of these judgments? Here is a wonderful quote that reminds you of the need and importance of sensitive people in a world that is losing face more and more every day.

"Many people consider hypersensitive people weaklings, "defective goods", but bright emotions are not a sign of weakness! They are the hallmark of those who live and know how to be compassionate. Empaths are not "defective", but a divided and emotionally crippled society. There is nothing wrong is to express true feelings. Those who are called "pathetic" and "problematic" actually realize the dream of a caring and humane world. Do not hesitate to cry. They bring light to our world." - Anton Maarten

First published: 2017-06-16

PR people's sensitivity is an advantage, not a weakness

"Because their thoughts, ideas, and experiences tend to be richer and more a deep understanding of what makes a person feel affected.” This ability is invaluable in PR and communications more broadly. It's the spark that brightens up winning campaigns and convinces new business partners to work with you. It's what made fictional advertising executive Don Draper win every time.

I've been called "too sensitive" several times in my career. Because of my sensitivity, there was a time when I took it as an insult, a sign of personal failure. But as I got older and more confident, I began to "wear" my sensitivity as a badge of honor. This is part of my personality that makes me attuned to the needs of clients. It is the quiet voice that says that the way we present the survey results may not fit well with our target audience, or worse, may cause backlash from certain groups. It is an intuition that something may be happening to the employee, that something is holding her back from doing her job as well as possible.

This self-understanding changed my personnel policy. My most valuable employees are, of course, those who deliver results - but beyond that, when I think about the traits I need when I form a team, I try to include at least one colleague who has this innate sensitivity. He will be the one to notice when a campaign idea doesn't seem to work, or when we've framed a project in such a way that one employee is bearing an unreasonable burden but can't say it himself. He will be conscious in his dealings with clients and journalists, understanding what will hook them and what will disappoint them. He will notice a popular trend on social media and tell the team, "This is what we need to tap into our next step."

Again, HSPs are not shy flowers; they are perceptive, intuitive people who see more and feel more deeply. Like all successful business people, they need to learn to accept and grow from constructive criticism without doubting themselves. But they are blessed with the ability to do so because they notice when their efforts get backlash from others, they will find creative ways to change their approach and do it better next time.

When you think of your employees, think of those team members who play the devil's advocate rather than agreeing with the group. Think of those who predict unintended consequences and explore the intricacies of language. They are not just "difficult people": these people are your eyes and ears and the eyes and ears of your customers, and they are the ones who can save you from failures and even PR crises.

Learn more