Are You a Highly Sensitive Person – Like Me?


Have you ever walked into a Super WalMart and felt completely overwhelmed? Do overhead fluorescent lights inspire rage inside you? Does  just the thought of watching a violent horror movie make you sick to your stomach?

Then you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – like me!

Welcome to the club, brothers and sisters. But don’t worry, it’s not the kind of club where you have to go to meetings and stuff, because we all know that would be a little over-stimulating for all of us.

So what the hell is a Highly Sensitive Person? And is it a real thing? According to Dr. Elaine Aron, it is. She coined the term and has been studying the psychological make-up of HSPs for nearly 25 years. According to her, you may be an HSP if you

  • Feel overwhelmed by bright lights, loud sounds, or strong smells.
  • Withdraw from overwhelming situations.
  • Avoid violent TV shows and films.
  • Notice subtleties in your environment that others miss.
  • Were ever characterized as being shy.

Now, I’ve never been called shy. In fact, I used to think I was an extrovert (I fall somewhere in between). But I can pretty much relate to all the other characteristics of an HSP. Sammy Nickalls wrote a post for Hello Giggles called 22 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person (and That’s Okay!). Seriously, I needed someone to say that it’s okay, because I pretty much relate to everything she wrote.

I was starting to feel guilty or somehow flawed that I prefer exercising alone, working alone, have trouble making decisions, and have an extreme sensitivity to sound. I should buy stock in whoever makes earplugs, because I go through several tubs of them each year. And seriously, DO NOT get me started on fluorescent lighting. I would prefer to sit in the dark than subject myself to fluorescent lights. I always thought it was because I had overhead fluorescent lights in my bedroom growing up. Good to know, I suppose, that it’s just part of the package of being an HSP.

Apparently, even the way I eat and treat my body can be traced back to being a Highly Sensitive Person. Shit, even the way I live in my own home, and how I decorate it is probably a result of being an HSP. My husband knows very well not to turn on overhead lights unless it is an EMERGENCY (or if he’s feeling the need to be given the third degree about why he needs to have so much light). And I can finally feel less guilty about always wanting to indulge in some flowers for the house.

I think my creativity is indelibly tied to my high sensitivity, which I see as a good thing. On the flip side, however, I also think my anxiety is tied to my high sensitivity. I struggle more and more with anxiety as I get older, even though I’m totally aware of it, what triggers it, and have many methods to deal with it such as meditation and gardening. But my anxiety persists and grows as my creativity persists and grows. I suspect they will always be tied together somehow, and that it’s something I will deal with over the course of a lifetime.

Think you might be a Highly Sensitive Person? Then head on over to Dr. Elaine Aron’s website and take the self test. And let me know! I’d love to commiserate.




3 thoughts on “Are You a Highly Sensitive Person – Like Me?”

  1. Hi, Amy,

    You wrote a post earlier that I’ve been meaning to comment on but haven’t had the time . This one, however, I feel I can comment on quickly.

    I’m an HSP, and I would love to commiserate with you!

    My husband can’t seem to live without a personal (and often very loud) soundtrack. My daughter is a chatterbox who never shuts up and could never stand to play without the TV playing in the background. We have two large dogs who like to bark. AND a cat who thinks nothing of screaming her guts out if you’re not in the same room as her.

    I can’t think straight when a room is messy, but I live with two slobs and am surrounded by clutter. The sight of all the mess overwhelms me and immediately zaps my energy and makes it impossible for me to focus on anything. As a result, I can often be found at my local McDonald’s drinking unsweetened ice tea as I sit in a corner booth and type in peace. ( I always carry earplugs – which I often insert so the Old Geezer’s Club doesn’t get on my nerves with the loud – and often ignorant – commentary of its members.)

    Don’t even get me started on the Shoe Carnival….

    1. SHOE CARNIVAL! Gosh, I haven’t been there in ages. I hear you about all the household noise. Luckily, hubs is pretty cognizant of it during the day when I’m working. I’ve noticed that I work best in complete silence – I can’t have anything on. No music, no tv, nothing. I’ve also got two messy roommates (hubs and stepkid), luckily they are also somewhat compliant with my organizational needs, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time housekeeping… It’s good that you’ve at least found a place to escape!

      1. “Shoe Hell” is what I renamed it back in the ’90s (although they have definitely calmed down since then, thank goodness).

        I agree about the total silence. I BASK in total silence!

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