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Living Life as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

Many of us are told we are too sensitive, emotional, or take matters too personally. Or, perhaps a bright light or noise causes us to feel distressed and disoriented. It is easy to write off these traits as little personality quirks, but what if they signify something more?

Overly sensitive individuals are frequently bullied, misrepresented, or made to feel weak in our society. Our culture values self-determination, strength, and resilience. When a person is overly sensitive, others may take advantage of these individuals or have false misconceptions.

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The inability to understand HSPs can hurt the sensitive person and prevent him/her from achieving goals and interacting with others. Sensitivity is not a bad personality trait, but a virtue that correlates with creativity, empathy, and intelligence. But, what exactly does it mean to be highly sensitive? Here is what the experts say.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

A highly sensitive person is a term that describes people who are internally more sensitive to physical, emotional, or other stimuli. While some refer to this as sensory processing sensitivity, others label these individuals as HSPs. This is not a mental health condition, but a personality trait that comes with benefits and downsides.

A highly sensitive person is someone who tends to overthink situations, respond to other's emotions, and react to social stimuli more than others. These individuals may avoid certain television shows because they impact their emotional state. They may respond deeply to artwork or a story and think about it for days. They may have trouble functioning in crowded spaces or sitting in a location with bright lights.

HSPs have an inherent need for regular downtime, away from other individuals. They use this time to retreat to a quiet, dark place where they can spend time alone. They usually have strong opinions, thoughts, and feelings that accompany them. While many people can have a few of these traits, HSPS tends to have all of them. Roughly 20% of the population are HSPs.

Positives and Downsides to Being an HSP

HSPs tend to notice more than others. They have an inherently intuitive nature and an ability to “peel the onion”. On the other hand, it can be hard for HSPs to handle aggressive behavior, be challenged, or sit through uncomfortable situations.

HSPs may avoid certain situations that lead to overwhelming feelings. For example, an HSP may not enjoy a movie where the main character is frequently embarrassed. This is because the HSP can feel the embarrassment of the main character, even though he/she knows it is just a movie.

On the other hand, HSPs enjoy complex conversations and enjoy the beauty in nature and art. They empathize and understand other people and tend to see their perspectives. They grow attached to people and build close relationships with those they trust.

These individuals make excellent writers, artists, or conversationalists. If HSPs know how to mitigate some of the negative parts of being overly sensitive, they can use these gifts to their benefit. Unfortunately, many HSPs become more stressed and are more prone to anxiety disorders. They have a hard time with conflict and tend to avoid confrontation. This can be challenging in the workplace or at home. They also feel responsible for others’ expectations, which makes it harder to let people down.

HSPS can overcome many of these downsides through therapy and learning to be more assertive. Some therapists may use exposure therapy to help HSPs adjust to bright lights, awkward social situations, or confrontation. If the downsides of being an HSP are impacting one’s life, individuals should speak with a counselor or healthcare provider.

Do you feel hypersensitive, anxious, or stressed? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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