When you’re an HSP, sometimes “little things” are too much.
We all get overwhelmed sometimes, because, as 17-year-old Augustus Waters points out in The Fault in Our Stars, “The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
But if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), life can feel like it’s spinning out of control — fast. Seemingly “little” things that don’t bother other people sometimes completely overtake you. What may be a minor irritation to some might make your palms sweat, upset your stomach, or quickly zap your energy.
Why? Because HSPs process all forms of stimulation deeply due to a biological difference in their nervous systems; this includes what they see, touch, taste, think, and experience. As a result of that deep processing, they get mentally overloaded quicker than non-HSPs.
Although it comes with challenges, being an HSP isn’t a malfunction or disorder. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and healthy — and in some cases, advantageous. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, about 15-20 percent of the population are highly sensitive. Meaning, there are too many of us for high sensitivity to be considered “wrong”!
Are you a highly sensitive person? If so, you will relate on some level to these 13 problems.
Highly Sensitive Person Problems
1. Loud noises
Concerts, movie theaters, and even the music in your own headphones can be loud. While no one likes having their ear drums blasted, for highly sensitive people, loud noises 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, you feel like the “difficult” one.
2. Little sleep = hell
HSP or not, life can be tiring, and we all feel worn out from time to time. However, due to their depth of processing, HSPs may need more sleep than others. When they don’t get that sleep, they miss an important opportunity to rest and reset their ramped-up senses. For the HSP, running on little shut-eye can feel like the very definition of hell — every minor irritation and inconvenience is ratcheted up exponentially.
3. Emotional exhaustion
Is your spouse stressed? Suddenly you feel stressed, too. Is your best friend 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 is feeling, they actually feel it themselves. And what’s more emotionally exhausting than carrying your own feelings, plus those of others?
4. Having a strong, unexplainable reaction to both violence and beauty
No one loves violence and cruelty, but HSPs absolutely abhor it. Watching a scary or gory movie may make them feel physically sick. Similarly, they may not be able to watch or read shows or books 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 art. It may move them to tears and leave them thinking about the work for days. If you’re an HSP, you may wonder why other people don’t react to art and beauty like you do. You may want to talk about your 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 a question. And they may find themselves agonizing over the interaction afterward, especially if they suspect the other person wasn’t being completely honest, or worse, is upset with them.
6. Not socializing the way most people do
For many people, going to a bar, party, or hanging out with a large group of people is just what you do for fun. But for HSPs, spending a prolonged period of time in a noisy, crowded environment can simply be too much. Especially in your younger years, 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
Someone makes a disturbing or crude joke, and everyone laughs but you. Even though it’s “just a joke,” you may have a hard time brushing it off. For HSPs, injustice and cruelty are no laughing matters.
8. Vacations can be anything but relaxing
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right? For many people, they are, but for HSPs, sometimes “little” things — like sleeping in a different bed and navigating a new environment — make them wish they were home.
9. Getting really hangry
We all get “hangry” from time to time (hungry + angry), but for HSPs, this feeling of irritability can be even more extreme. According to Dr. Aron, HSPs tend to be more sensitive than non-HSPs 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 matters. And for them, there’s little worse than knowing someone is mad at them. If you’re an HSP, someone raising their voice at you — especially someone close to you — 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 when the teacher scolded other students, even though you had nothing to do with the problem!)
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11. Time pressure causes serious distress
Nobody likes rushing around; it makes us sloppy and creates stress. But for highly sensitive people, time pressure can cause serious anxiety. Having to do something quickly, like checking off a thousand things on a to-do list, or simply running late to an appointment, can leave HSPs quite flustered. According to Dr. Aron, all types of stimulation, including time pressure, affect HSPs more.
12. Saying yes when you want to say no
Highly empathetic and aware of the feelings of others, HSPs don’t want to let anyone down. Although this is admirable, sensitive people may fall into the trap of people-pleasing, compromising too quickly, or saying yes to a request even when it comes at a great cost to them.
13. Even positive changes have their downside
Change can be hard for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for HSPs who find great comfort in routine (routine is far less stimulating than something new). So even good changes, like a job promotion or new relationship, can cause them 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 usually need extra time to adjust to changes — even positive ones.
HSP, what would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.