Highly Sensitive Refuge
A scared highly sensitive person

The 13 Things That ‘Scare’ Highly Sensitive People the Most

From small talk to a last-minute change in plans, there are plenty of things that “scare” highly sensitive people — and not just on Halloween!

When you think “scary,” you probably think of haunted houses, horror movies, and unresolved crimes. By most people’s standards, these things are pretty terrifying.

For highly sensitive people (HSPs), these things are, of course, scary. But, if you’re an HSP like I am, you know there are also plenty of “scary” moments that happen in real life for us almost every day! Check out this list of 13 things that tend to scare HSPs the most.

13 Things That ‘Scare’ HSPs the Most

1. People who don’t stop talking

One of the scariest (and most overwhelming) things for an HSP is a person who doesn’t stop talking. Whew! As HSPs, we enjoy connecting deeply and having meaningful conversations. However, if we’re in a one-sided conversation where the other person is chatting away with no signs of stopping, we can begin to feel trapped, anxious, and completely overwhelmed. At least let us get a word in!

2. A busy day with no downtime

Ask any highly sensitive person what they dislike most, and I’ll bet a majority will tell you that a busy day with no downtime is one of the worst. When we’re moving from one thing to the next without a chance to breathe, we can quickly feel overstimulated and overwhelmed. Although busy days are sometimes inevitable (especially if you’re a parent!), we operate best when we can have breaks to decompress and reconnect to ourselves.

3. Being snuck up on

It never fails. Any time my husband sneaks up on me, I get spooked. If I’m deeply immersed in work and a coworker taps me on the shoulder, I almost always jump. It’s a visceral and immediate reaction that always gets my heart racing. For HSPs, being snuck up on, even when it’s totally harmless, is scary!

4. Getting stuck in a loud social situation

Okay, I said that HSPs probably dislike busy days the most… but being stuck in a loud social situation might take the cake. Imagine you rode to a party with a friend, you hardly know anyone there, it’s loud, and you can’t leave when you want to. Sounds scary, right? As highly sensitive people, we’re processing so much of our environment — the smells, sounds, lights, energy, and emotions. It can quickly become a lot! Especially if we don’t feel we have a way to escape it.

5. When someone yells or is rude

For many sensitive people, even overhearing someone yelling or being rude can be scary. Personally, I get an instant stomachache when I hear someone speaking rudely to a server at a restaurant. And don’t even get me started on people with road rage! 

Now, when the yelling or rudeness is directed at us… that’s even worse. As HSPs, we have sensitive nervous systems, which mean we will react more strongly than non-HSPs to these types of behaviors.

6. Small talk — about the weather, traffic, you name it

“So, how about this weather we’re having?” *Shudder*… Small talk can be quite brutal for HSPs. As sensitive souls, we tend to thrive on deep, meaningful conversations. Like, if we get on the topic of spirituality or our greatest fears in life, I’ll talk to you all day long. But, if our conversation is centered around the weather or traffic… I’m going to find a way out, quick.

7. Sleeping in an unfamiliar place

When it comes to my sleep, I’m incredibly particular and sensitive about it — and highly sensitive people need more sleep in general. I need a fan running, an eye mask on, and my earplugs in. I know I’m not the only HSP who’s like this. So, if I’m sleeping somewhere new — whether it’s a hotel room or a friend’s house — it can be a little anxiety-inducing. We HSPs might think things like: What is that weird noise? Ugh, it’s so cold in here. These sheets are itchy! Which may then keep us awake, which leads me to my next point…

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8. Being expected to function while exhausted

Sleep is critical for highly sensitive people. Since we tend to get overstimulated by the world around us, our bodies desperately need sleep to rest and recuperate after a long day. And when we don’t get the rest we need, it can be really tough on our sensitive systems, causing increased anxiety, stress, and illness. You certainly don’t want to be around us when we haven’t gotten enough sleep either — now that can get scary!

9. Someone watching over your shoulder as you work

Does anyone else perform poorly when someone’s watching over your shoulder? Yeah, that’s definitely an HSP thing. I can be totally proficient at a task, but as soon as I know someone’s eyes are on me, I get nervous and make mistakes I’d never make otherwise. Do us a favor and don’t watch us perform tasks — it freaks us out.

10. A last-minute change in plans

Most sensitive types appreciate having extra time to prepare and plan ahead. We like to know what we can expect when walking into a situation. So, when there’s a last-minute change in plans, we can easily feel overwhelmed and thrown off. Spontaneity isn’t usually our middle name, and that’s okay.

11. Being rushed, which will only make you more flustered

Do not, I repeat, do not rush an HSP. If there’s one thing that causes a sensitive person to feel flustered, it’s someone barking at them that they’ve gotta leave in one minute! For most of us HSPs, we need extra time to transition from one activity to the next. Whenever possible, we thrive when we have time buffers so we’re able to ease into new situations without rushing.

12. Loud, sudden noises

Whether it’s someone’s booming voice or the sound of sirens rushing by outside, a loud, sudden noise can cause an HSP to leap out of their seat. Again, with our finely tuned nervous systems, we simply react more strongly to stimuli in our environments. So loud noises can feel especially jarring for us.

13. Inauthentic people

We HSPs have a knack for sensing if someone is genuine or not thanks to our keen intuition. Since we tend to be very genuine, sincere people ourselves, we can easily sniff out if someone is acting fake and inauthentic. Some people say that HSPs are almost like human lie detectors — we always seem to know when someone is being dishonest. So, when we get the feeling that someone isn’t being real with us, it can be a little scary!

HSPs, what “scares” you most? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to reduce stress and thrive as a highly sensitive person? We recommend these online courses from psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland. Click here to learn more.

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