Do you like solitary pursuits?

Do you get overwhelmed easily?

Do you hate small talk?

Even if you do, how do you know you are a highly sensitive person?

Traits Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Highly sensitive people get the sense at a young age that they are different. They don’t fit in. They are often not interested in the same things that other people are interested in. They are not motivated in the same way.

This profound sense of being different is lifelong. It does not go away and can cause pain when the sensitive person’s difference is treated badly by family, peers, and early authority figures.

There are many reasons that the highly sensitive person will get the message that they are different:

  • physical sensitivities like loud sounds, too much noise, light and tactile or touch sensitivity may cause discomfort or pain, which is not necessarily true for non-HSPs.
  • a sensitive person often needs time to themselves to rest after interacting with others. Non-HSPs may recharge by being with other people or in socially noisy environments. (Note: some sensitive people are extroverts.)
  • social interaction can be draining unless it is for a short time with a few people in a quiet setting. Non-HSPs (and some extroverted sensitive people) are comfortable with large noisy social engagements.
  • the sensitive person hates small talk, something that non-HSPs enjoy more and thrive on.
  • competition and sensitive people are often like oil and water.
  • highly sensitive people are sensitive to the feelings of others and some absorb the feelings of others which causes them much discomfort and unhappiness.
  • HSPs are known for their empathy. Empathy in sensitives is more than a feeling for others – it is an active way of knowing the world.
  • HSPs seem to have abilities often associated with being right-brained.
  • some sensitive people have strong psychic and intuitive abilities.
  • HSPs generally dislike pressure, which non-HSPs accept more easily.
  • many HSPs prefer egalitarian or communal social and work environments.
  • sensitive people do not like someone standing over them.
  • HSPs benefit from a simple lifestyle. Non-HSPs are more comfortable with busyness including multitasking.
  • HSPs need stillness. Non-HSPs often avoid stillness.
  • many highly sensitive people are introverts; about one-third are extroverts
  • HSPs often feel a deep connection with nature and all the creatures in it.
  • highly sensitive people can be deeply spiritual.
  • many HSPs will have physical conditions and allergies of one form or another.
  • some HSPs can form deep bonds with animals.
  • harm and abuse of all kinds are harder for highly sensitive people to heal.
  • many HSPs struggle with relationships and find them difficult because of differences in values, lifestyle and the sensitive person’s need for depth in a meaningful relationship.
  • a highly sensitive person belongs in occupations that bring out the best in them: healing and creative occupations are among the best for HSPs. Most importantly is working in an environment that shares their values and lets them pace themselves appropriately.
  • an HSP’s intuition and sensitivity cause them to have profound insights and has the potential over time to lead them to great wisdom.

Deciding That You Are A Highly Sensitive Person

Dr. Elaine Aron who pioneered the category of the highly sensitive person has written extensively about the highly sensitive trait. Her books are must reading for anyone wanting to know more about the trait. She estimates that 15-20% of people on the planet are highly sensitive. That is a huge number of people: more that 1 billion! Therefore it is highly likely that you may be sensitive or know someone who is.

There are many HSP quizzes online including the one on Dr. Aron’s site which you can take that can help you decide if you are highly sensitive.

However, in reading this list, you will notice how you feel around others: enhanced or drained, your relationship with nature and stillness, your values and attitude about competition and the type of environment that suits you the most. These are telltale signs that you are sensitive. If you are, you have an important journey ahead learning about yourself, and what you bring to the world.

Many see the highly sensitive person as vital to the changes we are making in the world, and I believe that it is true. The wisdom and empathy of HSPs is badly needed.

So although being highly sensitive has been treated as a curse, it is now starting to be seen as valuable as it should be. As our problems get worse and the need for wisdom and creativity rises, being a highly sensitive person will finally be welcomed in the world.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Patricia Likakis on February 17, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Hi, Maria and thanks for these posts. I have always been told that I am “too sensitive” and learned to deny my feelings which did more harm than good. Last year, during a time of multiple family crises, I came across a newsletter with the title “Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?”. I couldn’t believe someone had finally identified the personality and given it a name! Then I “happened” to come across Elaine Aron’s book at a book festival and now it seems blogs are showing up left and right with information. I now embrace my sensitivity and have learned to not feel guilty about setting my boundaries. We are each unique creations and when we learn to love and accept ourselves as we are, we will become more loving and accepting of each other. Looking forward to reading the newsletter and your posts.

    • Maria Hill on February 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Hi Patricia,

      Welcome! I am glad that you are enjoying the posts. It is wonderful that highly sensitive people are starting to feel safe enough to become more visible; most of us have felt so unwelcome in the world and still do a lot of the time. I think the world needs us now and so our emergence seems to be a healthy synchronicity. I am glad you are find self love and self acceptance. Dr. Aron has done us all a great favor with her work.

      All the best,

  2. Alison on February 22, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the post, I have happened upon on and off for awhile and everytime I read about it I know this is me. I believe it starts from a young age and due to not being recognised we go through hard time growing and developing. It is being recognised and I am glad. I always pass on this information when I find and know the someone will gain from it or know me better.

    Still I do not know enough and need more help with researching and understanding. I will look up the names you have given. Do you think that some people get diagnosed or misdiagnosed due to not knowing or accepting HSP’s?

    Thanks again,

    • Maria Hill on February 22, 2015 at 6:37 am

      Hi Alison,

      I think most of us have been mislabeled in one way or another and one of the results of Elaine Aron’s work is that a lot of relabeling will need to take place. That’s a good think because many people are suffering with labels that do not fit and do not help. Highly sensitive people need serious self care in order to function well so I hope you are giving that to yourself.

      All the best,

  3. Nicola Richardson on February 28, 2015 at 5:44 am

    I can not thank you enough.

    At last! Some understanding of why I am so sensitive.

    As a Medium and Reiki Master I am full aware of how I should be protecting myself. And people have been telling me I am not protecting myself properly.

    Yet my energies have been being totally and utterly fried and drained to a point I have nothing left to give for my family after work.

    As a Coach and Tutor teaching unemployed people with Disabilities, I have taken on so much that along with the office environment that I have no control over, the bright lights, the chaos, the noise and constant interruptions. I have just been to the doctors and had been signed off with stress and anxiety.

    I knew there was more to it and was questioning my spirituality and path of self development. But knew deep down this was the only thing I was certain about.

    Please can you tell me is this a recognised condition? If I go to my doctor and talk about this will I be taken seriously?

    As an only child happy in my own company – drawing, I always knew I was different.

    Although I have great strength and confidence I finally feel as though I know the real me!

    I have been longing to work from home and for myself for so long…… It was not just a want but a need – now I know why!

    Thank you so much x

    • Maria Hill on February 28, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Hi Nicola,

      It sounds like you have been through a lot and I am glad that you are taking time for some rest. I know the problem of doing too much and becoming exhausted – it is something I deal with also.

      Being highly sensitive is not actually a condition – it is a different nature based on having a nervous system that takes in everything around us. As a result if there is too much sensory activity around us we can become overwhelmed and drown in it. Obviously that does not feel good.

      Dr Elaine Aron wrote the book, The Highly Sensitive Person, which was published in 1996 and is making a movie, Sensitive, to introduce the trait to the world. So actually there is nothing wrong with you, you simply need good health care and a different way of pacing yourself than others do. There is a book, The Power Of Full Engagement, that explored how people work well. It is written by business people who have discovered that people who take frequent breaks to refresh themselves work more effectively. It is a useful book for talking with coworkers and employers about your need for a different pacing since it has been proven to be effective. It is available on Amazon.

      I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can do more!

      All the best,