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Part 1: What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Have you ever been told you’re “too sensitive?” Even if no one else has given you that label, maybe you’ve often wondered, yourself, why things seem to get to you so much. You might have deep emotions, intense compassion, and intuitiveness.

While those aren’t bad things, they can be indicators that you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP).

Again, those characteristics aren’t negative in any way. But, there are other aspects of being an HSP that could potentially have a negative impact on your life. It’s important to know some of the common signs of being an HSP so you know how to manage your emotions without letting them overwhelm you.

So, what is a highly sensitive person?

The Signs of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs are considered neurodivergent, simply because their brains tend to feel more deeply. However, being highly sensitive is also often considered a personality trait.

As stated above, there are plenty of positives to being an HSP. You’re likely to be extremely empathetic. You’re likely generous, compassionate, and intuitive to people’s needs.

Unfortunately, there are also a few drawbacks. Highly sensitive people tend to feel different from everyone else. That’s difficult for anyone, but it can be especially problematic for an HSP, because they don’t respond well to criticism. HSPs also tend to overthink and worry about things, which can lead to anxiety. It can also cause you to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and burnt out.

What Triggers an HSP?

Highly sensitive people can be triggered by anything that might stir their emotions. So much so, that their triggers might seem “small” to someone who isn’t highly sensitive.

External stimuli are big factors when it comes to what triggers HSPs. Because it’s so easy for them to feel overwhelmed, things like loud noises, strong smells, or even intense lighting can feel like too much for them, causing them to feel even more anxious.

Because of these triggers, it’s common for highly sensitive people to withdraw from social settings and even public places. That can create a sort of vicious cycle, since isolation and loneliness often contribute to anxiety, depression, and even potential physical health issues.

How to Cope

The first step in coping with high sensitivity is to recognize your triggers. What things tend to fuel your emotions more than anything else? Maybe you’re more troubled by things like sounds and lights, or maybe it’s social settings that tend to make you feel overwhelmed.

When you have a better understanding of what triggers you, you can put strategies in place that will help to keep you calm. That might include things like noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, or earplugs when you’re in public places.

You should also have a safe, quiet place for yourself at home. Your home can — and should — be your sanctuary. Set up a quiet room that helps you feel relaxed and calm. Even when your emotions start to feel overwhelming, there’s comfort in knowing you can go somewhere to find peace.

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.

Being a highly sensitive person doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It simply means your brain processes emotions differently. A therapist can help you get to the bottom of that issue. They can help you learn where it stemmed from, and offer helpful coping mechanisms to make your everyday life easier to go through.

There are many strengths you can embrace when you’re an HSP. But, it’s difficult to focus on those strengths when the “cons” of the condition leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Consider reaching out and setting up an appointment soon, so you can establish greater control over your feelings and enjoy being empathetic without letting your emotions steer every curve in your life.

Think you might be a Highly Sensitive Person? Wondering what's next? Check out Part 2.


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.

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