Highly Sensitive Refuge
highly sensitive people problems

13 Problems Only Highly Sensitive People Will Understand

Sometimes life is just too much.

For highly sensitive people (HSPs), everyday life can sometimes be a real struggle. Little things that don’t bother other people have the power to completely overwhelm you. And what may be a minor irritation for some can easily send you into a panic or reduce you to tears.

Why is this the case? Because HSPs process every little stimulus quite deeply, due to a biological difference in their nervous system. They think about things deeply, feel deeply, and care deeply — and as a result, get overwhelmed more easily.

But being an HSP isn’t a malfunction or a disorder. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal way to be. According to Dr. Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, about 15-20 percent of the population are highly sensitive. That’s too many people for high sensitivity to be considered a disorder, but it’s also too few people for the trait to get the understanding and recognition it deserves.

Are you a highly sensitive person? If so, you can probably relate to these 13 problems.

Highly Sensitive Person Problems

1. A lack of volume control

Concerts, movie theaters, or even your neighbor’s late-night music can be loud. While no one likes having their ear drums blasted, for highly sensitive people, noise can feel like a full-on assault on their senses. The problem is made worse when you have no way to control the volume — and when other people don’t seem bothered by it at all, making you feel like the “difficult” one.

2. Little sleep = hell

Whether it’s being bombarded with noise and stimulation or just having a busy day at work, life can be exhausting for highly sensitive people. It’s not unusual for them to feel quite tired and mentally fatigued at the end of the day, and they may even need more sleep than others. When they don’t get that sleep, they miss their opportunity to rest and reset their senses. For the HSP, running on little sleep can feel like the very definition of hell — every little irritation is ratcheted up exponentially.

3. Frequent emotional exhaustion

Is your significant other stressed? Suddenly you’re feeling stressed, too. Is your best friend or child sad? You feel sad, too — even though your day was going fine. Many highly sensitive people absorb the emotions of others. Rather than just sensing what someone else is feeling, they actually start feeling it themselves. And what’s more emotionally exhausting than carrying the burden of your own feelings, plus those of someone else?

4. Having a strong, unexplainable reaction to both violence and beauty

No one loves violence and cruelty, but HSPs absolutely abhor it. Watching a very scary or gory movie may make them feel sick. Similarly, they may not be able to watch, read, or listen to shows, books, or podcasts about certain triggering topics (like animal cruelty or other similar brutal acts).

But the opposite is true as well. HSPs often have very strong positive reactions to thoughtful or inspiring movies, books, music, or art. It may move them to tears or simply leave them thinking about it for days. If you’re an HSP, you wonder why other people don’t react to beauty and emotion like you do. You often want to talk about your thoughts and reactions, but you don’t, because you know others won’t see it the same way you do — and this feels isolating.

5. Overanalyzing every little word and gesture

Highly sensitive people notice little things that others miss. A lot of little things, especially when it comes to other people. They notice when someone’s tone of voice doesn’t match their words. They notice when someone won’t meet their eyes when answering their question. And they often find themselves launching into an agonizing over-analysis after the interaction, especially if they suspect the other person wasn’t being honest or is upset with them.

6. Not socializing the way most people do

For many people, going to a bar or party, or simply hanging out with a large group of people, is just what you do for fun. But for highly sensitive people, spending a prolonged amount of time in a noisy, crowded environment can simply be too much. Especially in your college years or twenties, this can severely limit your options for socializing — and make you feel like the odd one out.

7. You can’t easily brush things off

When someone makes a disturbing or violent joke, and everyone else laughs, but you can’t. Even though it’s “just a joke,” you have a hard time brushing it off. For HSPs, injustice and cruelty are no laughing matters.

8. Vacations can be anything but relaxing

When your vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but little things, like sleeping in a different bed and being in a new environment, make you wish you were back home.

9. Getting really hangry

When you forget to eat and suddenly you get really, really irritable and unable to concentrate. According to Aron, HSPs tend to be more sensitive than others to dips and spikes in blood sugar levels.

10. When someone raises their voice at you

For highly sensitive people, words really matter. Tone of voice really matters. And there’s little worse than knowing someone is mad at you. When someone raises their voice at you — especially someone close to you — it can feel like a punch to the gut. Similarly, as a child, you may have cried the moment a parent or teacher scolded you. (Or in the classroom, you felt guilty even when the teacher scolded someone else and you had nothing to do with it!)

11. Time pressure causes serious anxiety

Having to do something quickly — or simply running late to an appointment — can leave you quite anxious and flustered. According to Aron, all types of stimulation, including time pressure, affect HSPs more than others.

12. Saying yes even when you want to say no

Highly empathetic and aware of the feelings of others, HSPs don’t want to let anyone down. They may compromise too easily or say yes to doing someone a favor even if it comes at a cost to them.

13. Even positive changes have their downside

Change can be hard for anyone, but it’s especially hard for HSPs, who tend to find comfort in routine (routine is far less stimulating than something new). So even good changes, like getting a job promotion or dating someone new, can cause them a great deal of stress. This may confuse their friends and family, who don’t understand why they aren’t riding the “high” of their newfound luck or success. But for HSPs, those feelings of excitement can be overstimulating in and of themselves! Highly sensitive people tend to need extra time to adjust to changes — even positive ones.

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