You know these people.  They have been in your life, your family, and your friendship circles for as long as you can remember.  They are more emotional and enjoy deep meaningful conversation over typical small talk.  Maybe you have even thought they were a weaker type of person.  They are the ones that cry easily and get told to “toughen up” or that they are just “too sensitive”.  You may want to hurry them along when deciding what to order off the menu, or tell them to ‘snap out of it’ when they are upset by something.  Before you send them off crying again, here are the ways you can identify if you are OR if you know a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

Dr. Elaine Aron, author of the book The Highly Sensitive Person  has been researching this phenomenon for over 20 years.  She suggests that between 15-20% of all people have the traits of an HSP.  You can take a self-diagnostic here.


They have often been thought of as pushovers and softies in today’s cut-throat society, but there is so much that is positive about being a sensitive soul.

Society is finally starting to recognize that the ability to empathize and connect has real value.  The struggles for them are real, and they often seem depressed or anxious, especially when they are unaware that they are part of that population of people with heightened sensitivity.


Here are the Top 10 signs you might be dealing with a highly sensitive person.

  1. They know when people are being less than honest.  They have an uncanny ability to sense when someone is not being genuine about their feelings.  Saying, “I’m fine” when you aren’t fine will not fool them for a second.  They have what I call extreme empathy and they don’t even need to think about it.  They just know.


  1. They cry more often and easily than the average person does.  When watching TV with a sensitive person, you might want to change the channel when the commercial for abused animals or starving children comes.  If you don’t they will have tears streaming down their face in no time flat.  It could be a movie, the singing of a National Anthem, or their child’s dance recital, if you see tears running down their face, they are probably of the sensitive nature.


  1. They are more sensitive to criticism, even the constructive type.  Because they have such a strong and natural desire to please, any disapproving type of comments easily upset them.  Performance reviews can be brutal for them.  It also takes them more time to process constructive criticism, but once given ample time, they are usually willing to make adjustments.


  1. Loud, chaotic environments make them very anxious.  Whether it is a hot new restaurant, a loud family gathering, or a chaotic work environment, a sensitive person is likely to avoid these places or leave as soon as possible.  It isn’t personal, they simply prefer more tranquil and serene spaces.


  1. They can be indecisive – even with seemingly simple decisions.  No matter what the options, sensitive people are more likely to be slow to choose.  They are busy scanning their environment, their own mind, other factors for clues to the best possible response – even when there is no right or wrong decision.


  1. They feel more deeply than their peers seem to.  The ways they process information and people’ reactions involves utilizing their very accurate intuition.  When in a stressful situation, they seem overwhelmed much more than others do.  They can also perceive other peoples’ emotions and often experience them as their own, which can lead to unexplained bouts of depression or anxiety.


  1. They need down time and enjoy being alone.  This is not to say they are anti-social or introverted.  In fact, Dr. Aron estimates that 30% of all HSPs are actually extroverted.  However, both introverts and extroverts do require an ample amount of time to themselves, they are quite introspective and they enjoy meditative or spiritual ritual.  Taking a walk alone seems like a treat.  They also have an appreciation for nature, whether it is a park, trail, or a beach.

In spiritual circles, there are people that align themselves with the traits of an HSP, but they refer to themselves as Empaths.  Empaths may also have the ability to actually feel the physical and emotional pain of others, perceive danger before it has happened (precognition), and even have forms of clairvoyance and clairsentience.  It is common in HSPs to have one or several of these lesser known or understood abilities, which contributes to the feelings that both HSPs and Empaths share of being different and sometimes called crazy.

Not all HSP’s have the more esoteric qualities of the Empaths, but almost all Empaths are also HSPs. The good news for them both is they are definitely not alone.  There has been an increase in awareness about being highly sensitive.  Dr. Aron’s documentary, Sensitive is in production now.  Its goal is to further the dialogue between HSPs and their families, friends, and doctors so HSPs may be better understood and life for those that identify themselves this way can be appreciated as a blessing instead of a curse.