Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity?

Photo by Gabriel on Unsplash

Are your numbing your sensitivity? I do sometimes.

As I stood in line waiting to order my cup of coffee, I reached for my phone in my purse. You know, just in case there were any new updates within the last 5 minutes since the last time I checked it.

I didn’t feel the need to check. I just did it. You might be thinking that yes, you do this, too. It’s like we are on autopilot sometimes. Or are we?

Avoiding Our Sensitivity

What if we aren’t? What if we know exactly what we are doing?

What if we are checking our phones—or eating when we’re not hungry, or watching another episode on Netflix, or {insert supposedly mindless activity here}—because feeling our sensitivity just feels like it’s too much?

Do you do this? Do you participate in little actions throughout your day to avoid your sensitive self-feeling too much, feeling life around you? You are numbing your sensitivity.

Why You Are Numbing Your Sensitivity

I get it. We HSPs know what it’s like to truly feel our way through life. It can get overwhelming. Eye contact with a stranger. Sitting too close to someone on the train. Returning a phone call we don’t want to make. Showing up to a stressful job. Meeting new people at a party. Heck, even being with our own families at a holiday gathering.

It can be a lot to handle. Because we feel life’s moments more intensely, the volume can feel like it’s turned up too high a lot of the time. Mere eye contact with a stranger can feel like it’s just too much to handle when you’ve already got an ongoing to-do list in your mind, plus you’re still dwelling on the conversation you had earlier with a friend that just didn’t sit well with you.

Because there’s already so much going on internally, numbing our sensitivity to the stimulation around us can feel like the most natural thing in the world to HSPs.

Sensitivity Does Not Have To Be A Trap

But what if that moment you’re missing is one that may change your life? What if you could have both—a lively inner world and a way to meet the stimulating present moment with courage and calm, at the same time?

It takes some heart to heart time with your intuition, regular practice, and compassion for yourself along the way, but it is possible. With practice, HSPs can slowly baby step their way out of numbing their sensitivity and begin looking at life around them with curiosity, offering it their attention even if it feels awkward. Even if it feels scary.

A nod to a stranger, a “How are you?” to your cashier at the supermarket, showing up to a networking event, not looking at your phone during time spent with a loved one—it may not seem like it, but these are all brave acts for the HSP.

They require us to feel multiple things at once. They ask us to get real with the world around us.

Checking our phones to avoid feeling the world around us is just one way we may be numbing our sensitivity. The ways are endless, and some much more destructive than others. Avoiding feeling too much by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, sleeping too much, eating too much, the list goes on.

Do you catch yourself numbing your sensitivity? If so, how do you do it? What is one small step you can take this week to connect to the world around you while still feeling safe and OK in your HSP skin?

About Kathryn Nulf

My passion is working with women* (*cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, genderqueer – I welcome you). I grew up emotionally sensitive and through therapy I learned tools that taught me how to move through the world in ways that embraced my sensitivity. I soon realized my sensitivity was actually my superpower. I love to help women feel this empowerment, too. I came to therapy through healing from chronic pain and depression and an infinite curiosity for human behavior and a love for the complexity of people. I get what it’s like to feel up and down with your emotions, to get depressed or anxious and not know what to do, or even feel unsure of who you are. I have taught yoga for more than 10 years, and enjoy teaching my client's tools to regulate their emotions, communicate in ways they can feel good about, manage stress more effectively, and move toward what they want to do in your life. I believe that people are doing the best they can and that we cannot shame ourselves into a better life. I love to introduce clients to how they can practice compassion for themselves and create more meaning in their lives. You can find my practice at Therapy for Women Center in Old City Philadelphia, or find me on Instagram @counselingwithkat.


  1. Lianne on April 10, 2017 at 10:18 am

    This article resonates deeply with me, especially reframing what I’m doing from avoiding to numbing is powerful. I do many things to numb – smoking, eating, TV, Facebook…I also have fibromyalgia and PTSD, so my central nervous system is constantly overactive. The point made about eye contact, and how threatening that can feel at times to an overwhelmed mind and body hit home. I feel I’m at a tipping point in my awareness…I see how these distractions are not serving me, yet feel somewhat powerless to change. The reminder to take baby steps is very helpful. Thank you for a great article!

    • Maria Hill on April 11, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Lianne,

      I am glad that the article helped. It is very important to take baby steps. You fully deserve to feel healthy and joyful in life and I know it can be a struggle sometimes. One thing to keep in mind is that when we try to make positive steps, there is a part of us that is afraid to give up the status quo. SO if you can develop a soothing practice for that part of you it may help you.

      All the best,

  2. Mia on March 16, 2018 at 11:02 am

    What an eye-opener. I became aware <3 and that is the first step for healing.

    I eat very often. Even when I'm not hungry. I emotionally eat.

    I often sit at the computer because I cannot stand to be in silence or alone.

    At work I force myself to speak even if I would like to be quiet. I also sit with my collegues even if I would like to go to a silent and calm place to breathe. To be alone.

    Thank you <3

    • Maria Hill on March 16, 2018 at 11:05 am

      We all do things to fit in some of the time. I am glad the article helped.


  3. Meg on January 28, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Dear Maria,

    Reading through this website and these comments I am just very impressed with your commitment to helping other HSPs, and how you respond to almost every single comment. How lucky are we? It’s so validating and comforting to feel heard and understood. So thank you, and know you are appreciated. <3

    • Maria Hill on January 28, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      How nice to hear from you, Meg! Thank you for your comments and feedback. It makes a big difference to me to know that what I am doing is helpful.

      All the best,