Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

What is ‘HSP, anyway?

Perhaps you are new to the term HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) or its scientific designation, Sensory Processing Sensitivity. Or maybe you heard about it some time ago and are reconnecting with that part of yourself. Our trait has been studied for over 30 years, but more recently is receiving world-wide attention. 

Dr. Elaine Aron is the leading researcher of what is believed to be a genetically inherited trait. Yes, we are born like this and no, it doesn’t go away. It isn’t a diagnosis, or a problem, or a disorder – you were created exactly as you are meant to be.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit her website and take a quick, online self test. Dr. Aron wrote the original book about the trait, ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’, as well as several other related books and a very informative blog. She recently created a full length documentary movie called ‘Sensitive, The Untold Story’. Following her lead, other researchers, counselors, authors and coaches have produced a TED talk, numerous books, websites, blogs, and variety of private HSP Facebook groups.

The research tells us…

It’s estimated that around 15-20% of humans are born with a brain and central nervous system that are more finely tuned to subtleties in their environment. Each day, all day long, we receive stimuli from our surroundings and sensitive people are like an antennae with a wide open frequency – we see, hear and sense so much more.

Sensitivity is a strength! Many HSPs are unusually talented, intelligent and creative individuals. Some may have been labeled ‘introverted’ or ‘shy’, but these labels are not the same as high sensitivity – about 30% of HSP’s are extroverts. 50% of all sensitive people are men, however our culture often rewards this trait in women and strongly discourages it in males. Sensitive men may find it particularly difficult to find others who understand and appreciate who they are. I have quite a few sensitive, male friends and may I say you are amazing!

Our trait goes all the way back to when we were highly sensitive children. Even then, we could see, hear and sense so much more. Some of us grew up in family environments that supported our sensitivity, but unfortunately many of us did not. So as adults, we may need to reframe past experiences, come into acceptance of who we are and learn to honor our sensitivity as a strength.

Sensitive people share four commonalities:

Depth of Processing

We process situations and information at a much deeper level, analyzing from a variety of viewpoints and possibilities. HSP’s utilize a ‘Pause to Check’ system, which allows us to stop and consider all angles before proceeding. We generally avoid ‘small talk’, instead preferring to dive into deeper conversations about topics that really matter to us personally or for the betterment of humankind.


We may be easily overwhelmed when in an over-stimulating environment for too long, and can become bombarded by sights, sounds and emotions until we are exhausted. Some sensitive people are triggered by crowds, deadlines, pressure, being the center of attention, bumper to bumper traffic, or other stimuli. What overstimulates you will likely be different than someone else, so knowing your specific ‘triggers’ can help to arrange your life to support your personal needs. HSP’s require more alone time than others to re-charge after stimulating activities.

Emotional Intensity

We feel and connect on a very deep level, especially when those around us are very emotional or are struggling with challenges. We can walk into a room and immediately sense the energy between people without even knowing what just took place. Art, theater, music, and movies allow HSP’s to deeply identify with the characters or the artist’s message. Some HSP’s have chosen to limit their exposure to media that sensationalizes the negative aspects of our society because it is too much to process emotionally.

Sensitivity to Subtleties

One of the greatest strengths of a highly sensitive person is our attention to the small nuances in the world around us. We notice everything, especially when something’s changed in our regular environment. How a co-worker or friend has a different tone to their voice or something was moved to a different location or 17 different shades of green in the park around us. These small things may go unnoticed by most people, but our sensitivity to subtleties allows us to enjoy the world in a very visceral, connected way.

Does this description fit you? The good news is that you are not alone!

Imagine, 1 out of every 5 people you meet is also a highly sensitive person; you’re in good company.

When I first learned about my sensitivity, I founded a local community to connect with other highly sensitive people. After leading over 30 group workshops about our trait, I felt called to create Sensitive Journey coaching experiences to inspire you to honor your unique gifts and talents.



‘Being Newly Sensitive can feel like being born out into the world a second time. Or perhaps the seventeenth time, if you’re already on a path of deep, inner personal development. Everything feels strange, confusing and a bit blurry. You’re just trying to get your bearings again, to find a foundation for understanding who you are through the lens of this new discovery.

I’ve yet to meet anyone whose life was not affected in some profound way by this new knowledge. Many things you thought you knew about yourself may now undergo a dramatic shift. Some of your discoveries will be joyous and uplifting, while others may take you on a journey into the shadow self — those parts where you’ve been holding onto shame or guilt or past wounds. Be gentle with yourself as you traverse this new terrain, and remember, there’s no deadline for your own exploration and healing.

In every program I’ve led for highly sensitive people, invariably someone always laments, ‘Why didn’t I find out about this trait sooner? My life would have been so different!’ Rest assured, this knowledge appeared to you at exactly the right time. Everything you’ve learned, experienced, struggled with and triumphed over prepared you to be right here, right now…’

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